Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Dog Ate My Homework

Well no, actually. I did complete my homework assignment as requested - in a million words or less, and handed it in via email. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, since I've been known to rattle out 1,000 words in half an hour when I'm on a deadline. So...phew.

Now we just have Lema's homework to complete. And hers is somewhat different. Since she's going to be doing Careers in Health this semester, she apparently needs a TB test - and presumably, since I doubt very much she has any immunity to it, a TB shot. At least that's what I'm assuming, as the paper doesn't make it very clear if they just want to make sure they don't HAVE TB or whether they are supposed to be immunized AGAINST TB. Yummy, eh wot? And the yummiest thing is that the doctor she's been going to since we moved here to Buckley has now retired from the group practice we used to go to. Where she went I have no clue, since the clinic doesn't appear to know either. So we have to take her to a new doctor - who naturally won't have a record of her immunizations and will have to request it from the old clinic who have no doctors who are accepting new patients. Brilliant, huh?

She asked me about the TB test, and the immunization, since she knows I had it in school - as did all Brits of my age group. What I didn't realize was that she didn't want to hear the truth about it...she wanted me to tell her it didn't hurt. Silly me. From what I remember it hurts plenty. The tine test is like a stapler with lots of needles in a circle. They punch your forearm with it, and then leave you for a week to see if anything develops. I guess mine didn't develop the way it was supposed to, since along with most of my classmates, I had to have the TB jab too. And that was not yummy in the slightest bit, since the vaccination, kind of like a smallpox immunization, has to be scratched into the skin with a hooky needle. It's not just a straight in and out jab like most of them.

So here I am, waxing lyrically about TB tests and TB jabs, and not noticing that Lema is looking very pale by this point. Oops.

There are certain things about England that I really miss. One of them is healthcare. To me, it makes so much more sense, if you want people immunized, to do it as part of a school thing. When we reached the age of 15, all kids were routinely tested for TB as part of the school day. We were taken by class to the nurse's office, where a county health doctor administered the tests in an assembly line kind of way. The girls also had to have a rubella immunization, since the MMR was years away from production, and they didn't want us all having babies later that would have the chance to be deformed courtesy of us girls getting german measles. So whether you'd had the disease previously or not, you were immunized against it at 15. Naturally this made all of us hate all the boys who only had to endure the TB tine test, and didn't have to get the rubella jab also.

But because it was part of the school day, there wasn't the fear or the anticipation that there would have been if we had all had to go and get it done at our family physician's office. Obviously you don't want to appear to be a wuss in front of your classmates, so you're so busy thinking about that, that by the time it's your turn for the test, it's over before you realize it.

All kids had free dentist exams and free eyeglasses if they needed them. Oh, and free prescriptions and doctor visits. In fact, adults received free doctor visits also, although they had to pay a nominal amount for prescriptions. And contraception was free. To everybody. I don't understand a society which doesn't want abortions, but doesn't make contraception free. When I first came over here, I was astounded that Boeing's health insurance (arguably one of the best in the country at the time) didn't cover the cost of the contraception pill, but did cover the cost of an abortion. Is it me or is that a majorly screwed up way of looking at the problem??

The downside to the National Health Service was that you might have to wait for a while for surgery which wasn't an emergency. The upside was that you would never been turned away from a doctor's office or a hospital because you didn't have the money to pay for it. I took all of that for granted until I moved here and saw people having to make the choice between seeing a doctor and eating. For a country which thinks of itself as being the most civilized in the world, and proclaims it at every opportunity, that's something of a disgrace. Yeah, there's Medicare and Medicaid, but what if you make too much money to qualify for it? And trust me...you don't have to be rolling in money to not qualify for Medicaid. Their maximum allowable income is scandalously low, low enough to make it a joke considering the cost of just keeping a roof over your head and the lights turned on. Sometimes earning enough to just provide those simple necessities of life can disqualify you from Medicaid.

I also miss my family allowance. In England, every child is given an allowance (at the time I left, it was about $30 a week), in a coupon book redeemable at the post office and payable to the parents. It doesn't sound much, but it helped me out a tremendous amount when it came to purchasing things like shoes and winter coats. You just saved up your family allowance for a month or so, and then went down and cashed the whole thing and purchased what you needed for the child.

Oh, and school supplies? Provided by the school. My sister, who was a teacher before she burned out and went off to be an educational psychologist, was scandalized at the school supply list we had for the children to go back to school with. Even now, the bulk of that is provided by the educational department in England. They don't do the 3 ring binder and loose paper until they reach the equivalent of a junior in high school - our 6th form. Prior to that, the kids use workbooks which are provided by the school. Basically the only thing the parents are responsible for purchasing are pens, pencils, markers and colored pencils.

I know, there's a lot of people who will moan about the fact that schools can't afford it. Well that's the way it's been set up here. Despite the fact that parents are responsible for purchasing all of the supplies, and financing most of the rest of the activities which take place in school, the end result is still an education which will not give them a direct place in a British University. American students who want a University education in England, generally have to do a year or two in a community college first to get them up to the level that native British children are at when they leave the 6th form, the equivalent of high school here. By the time Brits enter the 6th form, they are usually focusing on three or four academic subjects, and these are the ones they will take their examinations in. You take an examination in each subject at the end of the two years of the 6th form, and the results of these exams will determine what kind of University will accept you. It's not just a blanket high school diploma based on credits, the way it is here. So for acceptance into a British University, an American high school graduate would have to go to a lesser college and complete an intensive course in whatever they wish to major in at University, just to bring them up to the required level for entrance. Which is pretty sad, when you consider again, that the US is supposed to be the most advanced nation in the world.

And now...catch me...for I am stepping down from my soapbox.


Blogger 'Lema said...

*sniff* England *sniff* I want it :'(


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