Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Drowning in the issues": Integrated Unit on Health Care (day 1)

The "families" eye each other nervously across the lobby, wondering at the disruption of normal routine. A slip of paper had, at one stroke, thrown them together in unusual combinations across grades and genders and left them sitting, bored, in a makeshift waiting room where 70s easy-listening music only made the situation worse. 

Reads one sheet: "You are the single parent father in a home with 2 children. Your annual household income is $30,000 and you have only basic health insurance. Currently, you have $294 in checking and $1045 in savings." 

The unhelpful office assistant shoves a stack of forms at each family.  "Fill these out ... No, I don't know your insurance information. Figure it out yourself." 

Then the bad news starts to hit.   
A wife & mother has multiple sclerosis. A father has serious heart failure. Another is in full kidney failure. A young girl suffers from sickle cell anemia.  The son of an illegal immigrant has a cancerous tumor.  An elderly father is battling Alzheimer's and his grown son doesn't know how to take care of him.
There are others....

After a few engagements with Web MD, Google, local nurses and pharmacists, and some medical textbooks, the economic and social realities begin to sink into the minds of the "families." 
"We can't afford this." 
"I have insurance, but my kid isn't covered for this disease."
"Medicare will cover only half the cost of this hospitalization." 
"We're looking at an unpayable medical debt." 


Influenced by our educational philosophy and Covenant College degrees, we NCS faculty like kicking off the high school year with a problem-based, integrated unit that challenges us and our students with a real-world problem. 

So often education cuts life into little, neat,  flour-dusted pieces that never seem to connect.  Problem-based units bring everything back to the center, drawing on the integrated knowledge and skills across disciplines that all humans rely on. 

This year's integrated unit for the high school focuses on the national health care crisis and its effects on our own state and county.   Our student "families" experienced a shadow this morning of the crushing horror that strikes so many lower- and middle-class families in America who don't have enough money or health insurance to deal with a life-changing illness. 

Today:  Eye-opening realities.
Tomorrow:  Does either McCain or Obama offer any solution that could help these families? What about Canada -- isn't it supposed to be the model health care system?  

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