Bemeficent Society: Chpt 8

   

SHIRLEY’S CASE

Shirley’s background was hardly auspicious.  She was still a child when her single-parent mother, Linda, was diagnosed with leukemia—a disease that rendered the poor woman unfit for a full time job.  However, as an experienced bookkeeper, she was able to pick up odd jobs that, with the aid of government programs, provided a meager living.  It hardly need be added that Shirley, looking back, could not remember the time when she was not kept occupied doing housework, washing dishes, running errands, and collecting vegetables from their vegetable patch that was maintained by their good-hearted neighbors  It was a hard childhood but an instructive one.  Shirley grew to be a plucky, self-sufficient girl with an inbred work ethic befitting someone many times her years.

HELP FOR A DESTITUTE FAMILY

In the preceding account, we learned that the government coupon system could enable Shirley and her mother to get along on little or no dollar outlay for food.  The question remains how they could procure shelter in a land in which neither homelessness nor public housing was known?  Which brings us to…

SHELTER COUPONS:

In a system that was analogous to its Food Coupon System, Newcapia’s government distributed an allowance of Shelter Coupons to every citizen.  And, as was the case with food coupons, shelter coupons had no intrinsic value but were required to match in number every dollar paid in rentals.  Since the government handed out the coupons at no charge, this would seem to be a pointless arrangement, but, as will be explained below, it served as the basis for a form of income distribution in which the wealthy were obliged to subsidize the housing needs of the poor.  Its workings are as follows.

Every month the government’s computers distributed a standard allowance of coupons to the bank account of every citizen in the land based solely on the age of the recipients without regard to their income level, sex, or location—the size of t;he allowance determined to be equal to the rental paid by a Newcapian family of average income.  Thus the typical Newcap couple obligated to spend $300 a month in rent could, in one simple transaction, simply advise their bank to withdraw $300 dollars from their joint bank account, attach to it their combined coupon allowances of $150 each, and send the package to their landlord.  In short, such an average couple, with no inconvenience on their part, would neither gain nor lose under the Shelter Coupon program.

The same could not be said of a wealthier family who had chosen more sumptuous accomodations costing $700 a month.  Their coupon allowances, being no higher than that of the average couple, would thus have to be supplemented by 400 coupons—this accomplished automatically by their bank on the dollar/coupon open-market and, charged, of course, to the family.  Hence their actual outlay would be $1,100 a month (700+700-300) and the asset value of the market increased by $400.

Returning to Shirley’s single mom, she was forced to settle for the cheapest rental she could find—a single room studio unit with a foldup bed—costing $70 a month.  Assuming she netted a 160 coupon allowance—150 for her and 10 for Shirley—she was left with a surplus of 90 (160-70) coupons which, when cashed in by her bank, provided enough cash to satisfy her landlord and yeild an extra $20 spending money besides.

From the above, it’s clear that any Newcap could, by taking in boarders or settling for makeshift spaces, could, like Shirley’s mother, have his or her rent paid by the state.  On the other hand, Newcapia’s regulations tended to reduce the number of these “freeloaders.”  .  For example, if physically able, they were subject to conscription by their neighborhood superintendent for help on street repairs, landscape work, or building maintenance, or any other odd jobs at the superintendent’s pleasure.

As mentioned in the economic section, only a small percentage of Newcaps owned their own homes.  This did not entitle them, however, to escape their responsibilities under the Shelter Coupon Program.  In their case, an independent appraiser determined an equivalent rental for the same accomodations and this used to establish the number of coupons due the government.

The advantages of the program were basically the same as those of the Food Coupon system:

  • It abolished homelessness.
  • It furnished a pool of cheap labor for neighborhood maintenance and improvements.
  • It discouraged ostentatious expenditures for mansions and surrounding grounds while, at the same time, encouraged thrift among the poor and middle classes.  A drive through Shirley’s neighborhood would appear to the observer much the same as a perusal of Tom’s Hamilton Park.  Were the tour to continue through one of the wealthier neighborhoods, the contrast between environs, while clearly noticeable, would not be nearly as great as between comparable surrounds in present day United States.  It would be an exaggeration to say that there was no class envy on Newcopia, but it was muted.
  • It accomplished these useful social services at little cost to the government.  Only a small number of employees were necessary to run the program and monitor compliance in the field.

 

NEWCAPIA’S HEALTHCARE SYSTEM:

 Shirley’s ultimate success in life would not have been possible without the guidance and encouragement of her sick mother, Linda, who devoted whatever strength she could muster to her daughter’s future.  It’s only proper, then, to turn our attention to the good woman struggling with leukemia—fortunately, one of the slower progressing types that allow a prognosis for her survival in years.

To keep a doctor’s appointment she had made on her previous  visit, Linda gets to the Adminicare cancer hospital well ahead of time.  Being late would have counted against her in the doctor’s appraisal of her conduct and she was anxious to keep her patient evaluation grade as high as possible.  One concern she did not have to fret about was the cost of her visit; Admincare’s services were free for everyone, rich and poor alike.

Adminicare’s receptionist took only a minute or two to bring up Linda’s medical record, her doctor’s report, and the hospital’s administrative form.  Note that Adminicare was not hobbled by the profusion of insurance companies, the supplemental insurance providers, the state and federal bureaucracies, the employer facilitators, and all our other information-demanding nodes that turn our current system into such an infernal, ungovernable, fraud-ridden, unaffordable mess.

As usual, Linda was well satisfied by care she was afforded.  Her physician was considerate and unhurried, her blood tests and medications were administered efficiently, and, once again, she was gently reminded that she would have to face a round of chemotherapy treatments in the near future.

At the same time, Linda was realistic enough to be aware that the day would come when leukemia would take its toll and she would fall gravely ill.  At that point, the limits imposed by Adminicare would take effect.  Humanitarian considerations aside, she could not expect the system to bear the excessive costs of life-preserving measures past the point the system considered them inefficacious.  Nor would heroic measures that might temporarily prolong her life be an option.  All she could expect would be transfer to a hospice or to be sent home.  In either case, assisted suicide including burial was offered free of charge as part of Adminicare’s cradle-to-the-grave devotion to their patients’ needs.

After Linda left his office, her doctor recorded the results of his professional examination in her file along with his subjective evaluation of her own participation in her regimen.  Were her complaints legitimate or exaggerated?  Did she lose weight as instructed?  Was there evidence she had taken her medication as prescribed?  Had she exercised as requested?  Had her attitude been positive?  Based on his subjective  observations, Linda’s doctor arrived at her grade for this visit which, when averaged with her earlier marks, would have a significant bearing on Adminicare’s bestowal of its fringe benefits.  “A” patients had the least delay in arranging doctors’ appointments , the best chance of seeing the doctor of their choice, the shortest waiting times in their offices, the best hospital-stay accommodations, and so on.  In short, Linda had every incentive to keep up her good grades.

Although the reader must have already assumed that, this being Newtopia, a private system parallel to government’s was open to those who could afford it.  And, indeed, Newcapia’s private system not only matched Adminicare’ s extensive services, but offered a variety of specialized measures designed to fill in the gaps that Adminicare could not afford handle.  Moreover, there was always a demand for posh surroundings and deferential personnel neither of which, of course, came cheaply.

 

NEWCAPIA’S EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

SHIRLEY’S FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL

We pick up Shirley’s tale with what she remembers as the first day of her new life—that is to say, her first day at school.  This being her first extended venture outside the immediate vicinity of her mother’s apartment, she was understandably excited and not a little apprehensive.  But once she was taken by the hand of her student guide and led around the school building, her nervousness was replaced by an eagerness to begin  satisfying her sense of curiosity about an outside world she barely knew.

At lunch, Shirley was introduced to a group of girls her age and welcomed into their noisy society.  The meal over, Shirley followed her new schoolmates example of returning her tray to the kitchen and wiping down the tabletop where she had eaten.  Then, returned to the custody of her student guide, she was conducted into what her guide called simply the “hall.”

What first captured Shirley’s attention in the brightly-lit, gymnasium-sized space were the six study areas.  Each of these was a circular arrangement of some twenty carrels radially disposed so that their five-foot backs faced outward and their other end opened to the inner area which was bare except for a centered tutor’s table.  Thus the study area’s tutor could circle around looking over the shoulders of the seated students to observe their work displayed on their computer screens mounted on the back wall.  Or, should the tutor choose, ask her students to swivel around, face inside the circle, and attend to her instructions.

When Shirley and her guide entered the study hall, scores of children were taking advantage of the last minutes of the lunch period to chase everywhere about the hall—round and round the circles’ preimeters, in and out of their inner spaces through gaps in the carrels, and up and down the central corridor that separated the circles, three to a side.  At the sound of the bell the children suddenly disappeared into their respective  study areas and set to work on their computer lessons.  Shirley, meanwhile, was introduced to her new tutor by the guide who excused himself before taking off to his own carrel down the hall.

Shirley then found herself seated across the table from Ms. Hilderbrand who outlined Newcapia’s educational system.  She explained that advances in computerized courses enabled modern education to replace the earlier emphasis on group instruction with attention to each child as an individual learner.  Hence the very notion of classes was abolished.  There was no classroom lectures, no grade levels, no group testing, and, indeed, no teachers as such.  Instead students proceeded independently at their own pace through a sequence of self-teaching, self-testing, computerized courses produced by the best qualified educators in the country.  In her first years, the sets of courses were standardized but, later on, her curriculums would be customized to suit her particular interests subject to input from her parents and tutors.  Available at this time were  specialized programs in such vaaried subjects as English composition, applied sciences, foreign languages, shop mechanics, and so on.  Elective course were available for extra credits or for auditing. At  each step along the way, quizzes and review modules ensured that students were cmpetent enough to move ahead.

On the bright side, Shirley was assured, there was no homework.  Students were encouraged to read at home for pleasure and for the pursuit of their special interests.  The school librarian was a big help in this regard.

If working on her own seemed at first a little daunting, Shirley was told that should she get stuck at any time, help was always at hand.  She need only turn on a light above her desk and, normally, a tutor would be at her side in a manner of minutes.  If not, a message would appear on her screen notifying her when she could expect help.

Shirley would be assigned a particular carrel in a study area made up of students approximately her own age.  She could, however, petition for reassignment to, say, a chum’s area and the school would do its best to accommodate her.  In any case, she should never feel trapped in her carrel.  She was free to take a break at any time but, she was cautioned not to abuse the privilege for her computer kept track of how long it had been inactive and relayed the information to the tutor’s desk .

School bells rang at the beginning and end of the school day, at lunch, and at recess.  On the other hand, the system was flexible enough to allow individual students to alter their schedules to better fit their particular situations.

ADVANTAGES FOR THE SCHOOL’S ADMINISTRATION:

  • Thanks to its built-in economies, education at all levels in Newcapia can be federally funded at affordable cost.  To begin with, public education (what we would call grades K-12) gets by on fewer than one-third the instruction personnel required by our schools.  Second, Newcapia schools are burdened by a just a fraction of the administrative overhead borne by comporable US institutions.  Third, Newcapia’s educational institutions operate year round.  And four, Newcapia employs a feedback system in which businesses and institutions of higher learning report their future plans both in terms of their number of anticipated hires and desired qualifications.  From these surveys, educators adjust their sylabi to meet the demand at a huge savings over our bloated systems.
  • More important than the dollar savings involved, Newcapia’s educational system affords a much more propitious social scene.  Qualified students can go on to university at no cost to themselves for tuition.  Mechanically-talented students (such as our friend Tom) find welcoming employers.  There are no widespread shortages of trained applicants, no surpluses of over-educated, disillusioned graduates stuck in low skill jobs.
  • Discipline is easier to maintain.  For one thing, students are aware that any disruptive behavior on their part would lead to the revocation of their Youth Stipend.  Lesser offenses can be countered by temporarily withdrawing a student’s access to his normal course material and substituting lectures on proper behavior.  Another helpful factor is when deprived of teachers to annoy and an audience of their peers to impress, problem students are less tempted to misbehave.
  • Tutors can do a better job of shepherding students through their coursework thanks to computerized compilations highlighting individual student problems.  Thus they can provide specialized assistance in a timely way helping their charges over whatever obstacles have been encountered.  Tutors are relieved of the tedious reporting chores that so detracted from teachers’ primary mission under the old system.  They can thus  devote their full time to doing what they enjoy—that is to say,  instructing children.

 

ADVANTAGES FOR THE INDIVIDUAL STUDENT:

  • Moreover, students at every level are motivated to forge ahead as fast as they can in order to qualify for the finite number of courses they most prefer before those slots are filled on a first-come, first-admitted basis.
  • For one, he gains flexibility.  On a day-to-day basis, he can adjust his free time to participate in sports; take on an outside, part-time job; join some enriching school activity such as instruction in a musical instrument.  In addition, each student can schedule his vacation time to mesh with that of his family.
  • As suggested above, students with inherent mathematical talent derive the excitement that comes with the discovery of advanced scientific areas.  Likewise, quick learners in liberal arts pursue courses that best prepare them for careers in law, business, political science, and so on.  In any case, they are relieved of the boredom of having to listen to the repetitive remedial instruction so characteristic of the old days.
  • Meanwhile, slower learners benefit as well.  Rather than being discouraged by headon comparison with their faster classmates, they are directed to vocational courses better fitted to their set of skills.  And since schooling in general is a more rewarding experience, few drop out.
  • Finally, it must be noted that not every student finds Newcapia’s educational a good fit for any number of reasons.  To accommodate them, Newcapia boasts a thriving, unregulated, for-profit, private educational system offering specialized instruction in all the countless niches a healthy society creates.

To round out Shirley’s story, skip ahead from her first day in public school to her last.  It will come as no surprise that she proved an exceptional student completing, in addition to her required schoolwork, a number of elective, college-level courses in science and math.  On account of these accomplishments, she was admitted to a top university where she   earned a doctorate in biomechanics—a field that afforded her a satisfying and remunerative career at a pharmaceutical house.

 

 

 

 

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