Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Recently the Washington Post featured an interesting article on Hylton High, a public high school in not too far off Woodbridge, Virginia. Apparently, the boy’s baseball field at Hylton has “a $50,000 press box, a posh locker room and a modern concession stand.” Big deal, you say, we have a very nice baseball facility at our very own Severna Park High and having nice facilities for scholar athletes is not a crime. The problem is that Hylton’s girl’s softball field is currently not quite up to the standards of the boy’s baseball facility. In fact, the field is in horrible shape and its facilities consist of nothing more than a faded wooden shed and a port-a-potty.

Thankfully, Hylton along with 47 other school systems throughout our nation is under investigation by federal officials for violation of Title IX, the groundbreaking 1972 federal law that requires any institution that receives federal funding to provide equal athletic opportunities and facilities for both sexes.

This is a good thing. I believe that Title IX, like the 1964 Civil Rights Act, has been critical to ensuring equal opportunity for millions of our nation’s citizens. I am old enough to remember when area high schools either did not offer women’s sports or treated the female athletes like second-class citizens. Looking back it is shameful that so many young women were unable to achieve their potential due to the sexist and archaic thinking of the time regarding women’s roles in society and on the athletic field

Today, any principal at an Anne Arundel County high school who would try to make the case that the male high school athletes of the school deserve better facilities than the females would be run out of town on a rail. Imagine Patrick Bathras, the currently principal of Severna Park informing Lil Shelton or Carin Peterson that due to the sex of the players on their championship teams they would be receiving far less in facilities and resources for their programs.

Title IX is proof that since the 1960’s most Americans have developed a strong antipathy to prejudice and injustice, particularly in the area of education. Our schools are symbols of our society’s faith in the future and the embodiment of the idea that every child be they male, female, Black, Red, Brown, Yellow or White should be treated fairly. We as a nation have come to believe that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This brings me to the subject of health care. Over the last few months, hordes of lobbyists have descended on Congress to “help” pass a comprehensive health care bill. The effort has stalled due to the usual scare tactics of the right. In addition, senior Democratic leaders seem hell bent on seeking the cooperation of the very people, namely the leaders of our nation’s health insurance industry, who got us into this mess in the first place.

In general, Americans are not big fans of what the right calls “class warfare.” Most of us do not care that our neighbor or brother in law has a nicer car or bigger house. The reason is that a Honda Civic will get you from here to there just as well as a Maserati and the roof of a tiny cottage will keep the rain off you just as well as that of a million dollar mansion. However, at the same time, for services that are vital to everyone like schools, roads and public safety institutions, we insist that everyone be treated equitably. The classrooms at Severna Park High are the same for both rich kids and poor ones. The fire truck that comes to the millionaire’s house is the same one that comes to an apartment building. The problem is that we as a people seem to insist on fairness when it comes to old age pensions, fire trucks and softball fields but many suddenly abandon this critical concept when it comes to health care.

With this in mind one wonders why the current administration has been so anxious to avoid promoting a single payer system. Every other modern industrialized nation in the world save for Turkey and Mexico has a plan where EVERYONE pays in and EVERYONE is covered. In most of the aforementioned nations, those who can afford higher levels of care can purchase it if they wish, but at the same time, they know that even if they should lose all of their money they would still be able to get quality care. In short, access to health care in most modern nations of the world is based not on where you work or how wealthy you are but on the fact that you are a citizen.

What then is the solution, I believe that Bernard F. Erlanger of New York, NY has the right idea. In a letter to the New York Times on 23 July, he brilliantly pointed out that:

We already have a successful federal health care program: Medicare. Even many physicians prefer it over the various programs sold by insurance companies. Why don’t we just gradually lower the age of eligibility until all Americans are covered? Or is that too easy?

I could not agree more.

Today Ontario turns out more automobiles than the state of Michigan; the reason is that they spend 2000 dollars less a vehicle because the Canadian government rather than the automobile companies in Canada provide for their workers health care. Ergo, universal care is not just a social justice issue, but an economic one as well. Common decency and fairness demand that we extend a Medicare like health care system to every American. Those who oppose such a plan are either too selfish or too clueless to understand what is at stake. Title IX is wonderful initiative because it ensures a level of fairness and equal treatment. We would do well as a nation to apply the same kind of thinking in solving our health care crisis.

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