Tag: White paper

Health, Education and buying shoes

Now,  this f**king (excuse my Cornish) Tory gov’t cannot see beyond its own ideology and its disappointing that ‘two brains’ Willets is caught up in this. Let’s be clear: students are not customers, ill people are not customers, health is not a commodity, Education is not a commodity. They are not shoes. Creating markets in health and education is not a good idea. The Economist recently argued similarly for health: see http://tinyurl.com/healthreforms and see this for what is happening in education http://tinyurl.com/educationreformss.  Now here is the point about markets in health and education:



“Most people aren’t qualified to determine which medical procedure/product is the optimal product to treat their ailment”. (from a comment by Heimdall) . In the same vein most students are not qualified to determine which University or course is the optimal product to further their careers. In  addition markets cannot serve health protection, education or the social determinants of health.

When you buy a car, you know roughly how much power you want, how much storage, etc. You can look to Consumer Reports to gather reliability data and dealer cost. You can negotiate with the dealer based on this information. Similar story with most consumer goods.

When you have a dread disease (one of a bazillion maladies, not a few dozen as with most purchasing decisions), there might be uncertainty among doctors whether it is indeed disease X, or maybe Y or Z.

Once you (kinda maybe) know what the problem is, which treatment is best? Even among doctors who agree on the disease, they may think that treatment A, B, or C is most effective based on their research, year of graduation, etc.

Thus, even if all doctors and practitioners were equally adept, you would still need to navigate the diagnosis/treatment thicket. But they’re not equally adept, and there’s no Consumer Reports to provide data on reliability, outcomes per thousand operations with doctor X in hospital Y.

In short, consumers are ill-equipped to treat medical care as if it was any “normal” market. We just don’t have the expertise to do it. And thus we are even more susceptible to the recommendations of the “experts” as to what to do than we are with a pair of sneakers.


‘Students at the heart of the system’

The recent gov’t white paper (http://tinyurl.com/heartofsystem) of course contains some sentiments that on the face of it few would find hard to disagree with and it seems churlish to knee jerk with negativity. Given that the view is now firmly entrenched (by many in HE it must be said) that HE’s role is primarily to produce a workforce that can compete in a global market, and that students are now consumers of a product, the statements make sense in that context. However, and you knew this would come, this does nothing to address the challenges faced by critical disciplines in the humanities and social sciences whose raison d’etre, as disciplines, does not fit this intrumentalist model of HE. I really fear that only the very well off will now spend £27,000 + to study what may be seen as esoteric subjects that are not immediately aligned to well paid employment. And don’t give me the guff about not paying that back until a threshold of earnings has been reached, as students will clearly see this as investment they have to make for payback in a career.

This is the continuing triumph of neoliberal philosophy applied to HE, my only hope is that students may see through this and that I am worrying needlessly because of an ideological position I am taking. As an afterthought, how did C Wright Mills gain employment in Columbia given the instrumentalist and often private nature of US HE? Anyone know? His ‘star status’ now may gain him entry into Grayling et al’s New College?

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