David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
The Doctor Will See You . . . Next Semester

September 13, 2013:  The Doctor Will See You . . . Next Semester


I have been exasperated this week with the joys of our health care system, waiting for a doctor, a pharmacy and an insurance provider to make a decision about a prescription.  I am of course the one in the dark, the one not really involved in the conversation about something related to my health.  And that nightmare has had me speculate about a potential future where higher education is a bureaucratic nightmare similar to our health care system.

In a galaxy far, far away into the future (let’s say, 2020):

{Our hero, Jane Student, is in line at FeeNext University, wanting to register for classes.  She finally gets to the front of the line and speaks to a clerk through bullet-proof glass.}

Jane Student:  Hi, I need to see Dr. Twindleshower to sign up for classes.

Dour Clerk:  What is your birthday?

Jane Student {whispering} 4/12/85.

Dour Clerk: What was that, hon?  Speak up.

Jane Student:  {Louder} Uh, 4/12/85.  But do we have to proclaim it so loudly?  I feel a bit out of place as a college student.

Dour Clerk: {Typing Away and distracted} Uh-huh.  Do you have a picture i.d. and your proof of coverage?

Jane Student:  Here’s my driver’s license.  What is my proof of coverage?

Dour Clerk:  {Sighing Heavily}  You need to go to the Financial Aid office and get proof that you will be able to pay for these classes.

Jane Student:  {Sighing Heavily} And where is Financial Aid?

Dour Clerk:  See that line over there (points towards long line to the right).

Jane Student:  When I am done there, can I jump the line here and come right back to you.

{Dour Clerk stares over the rim of her rhinestone-framed glasses.  Jane walks away, cursing under her breath.  Two hours later, she returns to Dour Clerk.}

Jane Student:  Here is my proof of coverage.

Dour Clerk:  {Scans form}  O.k., and you want to make an appointment with who?

Jane Student:  Shouldn't that be "whom?"

Dour Clerk:  What?

Jane Student:  {Mutters under her breath}  Heal thyself.

Jane Student: {Louder} Dr. Twindleshower.

Dour Clerk:  O.k., I have an appointment next Tuesday at 3:38 pm.

Jane Student:  Next Tuesday?  Nothing sooner?

Dour Clerk:  No, I also have one next Friday at 8:05 am.

Jane Student:  I’ll take the Tuesday one.

Dour Clerk:  O.k., here is the appointment confirmation.

Jane Student:  Can't you just send it to my Outlook Calendar?

{Dour Clerk stares over the rim of her rhinestone-framed glasses.  Jane walks away, cursing under her breath.}

{The following Tuesday}

Jane Student {to new dour clerk}:  I have a 3:38 appointment with Dr. Twindleshower.

Dour Clerk II:  Yes.  You must be Jane.

Jane Student: I am.

Dour Clerk II:  Can I see your i.d. and proof of coverage?  {Scans them as Jane hands them to her.} In the meantime, would you please fill this form out?

Jane Student:  Why?

Dour Clerk:  We just need some of your history.  Where you went to school?  Extra-curricular activities?  That kind of stuff.

Jane Student:  I filled all that out when your admissions person first came to my house.

Dour Clerk:  That's filed somewhere else. Go ahead. It won't take you very long.

Jane Student:  I can retrieve it from my cell phone.  Is there an email I can forward it to?

{Dour Clerk stares over the rim of her catwoman glasses.  Jane walks away, cursing under her breath.}

Jane Student {a few minutes later}:  Here you go.

Dour Clerk:  Thanks, hon.  There is a $92 co-pay.

Jane Student:  WHAT!!

Dour Clerk:  It's part of your coverage plan.

Jane Student:  But, I haven't even gotten any classes yet.

Dour Clerk:  There is a possibility the cost will be deducted from your overall bill once you sign up for classes.

Jane Student:  Oh, crimminy.  Here is my credit card.

Dour Clerk:  I will need to see a picture i.d. with that.

Jane Student:  You're kidding, aren't you?

{Dour Clerk stares over the rim of her catwoman glasses.  Jane walks away, cursing under her breath.}

{After processing, Jane is sent to wait for Dr. Twindleshower.  The waiting room is filled with sad and exhausted people. While waiting a half hour, three people exit from Dr. Twindleshower’s office.}

First exiting student {crying and lamenting to man she is with}:  I didn’t expect to be told that I would need to have a terminal degree.  What are we going to do?  We have three kids at home.

Man with first exiting student:  It's o.k., dear. The kids and I will be fine.  Right now, we just need to think about you.

Second exiting student {face red with anger, screaming to the waiting room}:  A complete change in my plan.  Do these people even have a clue as to what they are doing?

Woman in waiting room:  What do you mean?

Second exiting student: I was told I could pursue the nursing degree.  Now I find out I don’t have all the pre-reqs.  They are recommending I now pursue a medical assisting degree.

Third exiting student {holding hands with older person, probably her mother}:  What do you think I should do?  That program has not been approved by the American College Accreditation Association.  Do you think it will be safe?

Woman with student:  Oh, honey, it will be fine. I am sure Doctor Twindleshower would not have recommended it, if it wasn’t safe.  As he said, people in Europe are using that program all the time.

{Finally, Jane Student is called into Dr. Twindleshower’s office}

Dr. Twindleshower:  Hi, Jane.  So, it says that you want to get a Humanities Degree?

Jane Student:  Yes, I do, Dr. Twindleshower.

Dr. Twindleshower:  What are your test results?

Jane Student: What test results?

Dr. Twindleshower:  You haven’t done any tests, yet?  Tsk, Tsk. They shouldn’t even send you to me until they make sure you have your tests done.

Jane Student:  What tests?

Dr. Twindleshower:  Your reading test, your writing test, your math test, your preparedness test, your learning styles test, your personality test, your ability-to-work-in-groups test, your test-taking test.

Jane Student:  Holy cow, that’s a lot of tests.  Can they do them all at once?

Dr. Twindleshower: Oh, good God, no.  {He writes a script and hands it to her}  Go back to the front window, give the person there this and tell them you need to schedule all of these tests.  I will see you when all the results are in.

{Jane walks away, cursing under her breath.  6 weeks later, she is back in Twindleshower’s office.}

Dr. Twindleshower:  O.k., all the tests are done and you want to major in the Humanities.  Are you really sure you want to do that?  You realize that jobs are impossible to find.

Jane Student:  It’s what I feel in my heart, Dr. Twindleshower.  I either pursue it or we have to find something that makes that feeling in my heart go away.

Dr. Twindleshower: Well, let’s see what we can do.  What specific subjects do you want to study in the Humanities?

Jane Student:  I really would love to minor in American Government.

Dr. Twindleshower:  American Government?  We may never get that approved through your coverage.

Jane Student:  Really? I would hope that it was seen as a foundational course.

Dr. Twindleshower:  Nah. Now that the American Government has shown that they really don’t care to understand students, colleges have determined that students really don’t need to understand American Government.  Anyway, I will make the recommendation.  We’ll see what your coverage says. What else?

Jane Student:  A good World Literature course.

Dr. Twindleshower:  Wow.  Can you be more specific?  I see codes for American Lit, English Lit, German Lit, African-American Lit, Third World Lit, Native American Lit, Liechtenstein Lit.  Nothing for World Lit.

Jane Student:  But, I want to get a big world view.

Dr. Twindleshower: Hah, not in today’s higher education.  Everything is specialized to death.  If you want, I can set up an appointment for you with Dr. Tschueller to get into Liechtenstein Lit.  I see there will be a few seats open in that.

Jane Student:  Let’s try World History.  Can I get signed up for that?

Dr. Twindleshower:  Same problems there, hon.  American History, French History, Australian History, Mayan History . . .

Jane Student:  Mayan History!  That sounds cool.

Dr. Twindleshower: Oh wait, that has a waiting list of 10 students. That damn class has been really popular since that end of the world stuff a decade or so ago.  Do you want me to put you on that wait list?

Jane Student:  What will that mean?

Dr. Twindleshower:  You might get a call from someone if a seat opens up. I can’t guarantee anything.  Or you might go on the first day and beg the instructor to let you in the class.

Jane Student: Let’s make this easier. What courses can I take and get into right now?

Dr. Twindleshower:  Hard to say.  We will need to run all of them through the coverage provider.

Jane Student: Oh, for good grief, I am going to go back to my job at McDonald’s.


The more I think about it, the more I think we are already living in this dystopia.