As a lot of you know, recently there was a kerfuffle on Facebook between POCA punks and licensed acupuncturists who feel that charging $25 for acupuncture devalues the profession. People got very indignant; punks were told, “you can’t say that!” I had all sorts of thoughts about the discussion, during and after, but one of the things I thought was, wow, that was relatively — tame, wasn’t it? And out of pure nostalgia I went back and re-read the Zang Fool’s FPD Haiku Competition.
Yeah, actually, compared with some of our exchanges with the acu-profession, that FB thing was like tea and cookies with the ladies in the Altar Society. It kind of made me miss the old days.
Anyway, that’s not what this blog post is about. As I was re-reading the Haiku Competition, I realized 1) Cris doesn’t make nearly as many potty jokes as she used to, and 2) we haven’t heard a word about the First Professional Doctorate itself for quite a while. There are probably a few reasons for that, and one of them was us and our naughty haikus. If nothing else, we successfully convinced the profession that there was a loud, committed opposition to the FPD. Another reason was timing. Pretty much at the exact same moment that we had to stop yelling profanities in order to catch our breath, it dawned on the rest of the country that there was a big problem in general with student loans and for-profit colleges. Suddenly there were lots and lots of people talking about colleges inflating tuition and lying about graduates’ prospects. I have to think that some of the people who had been yelling back at us about the inevitability of the FPD suddenly realized that it might not be the ideal time to draw attention to themselves and their shiny new degree. Finally, there was some spectacular in-fighting amongst our opponents, which I imagine must have dampened their spirits somewhat. As a result, the FPD is not such a hot topic in acu-land these days.
Which doesn’t mean it’s gone away, of course. We shouldn’t get complacent; plenty of people are still counting on it. But I think a lot of us have realized that we were wrong, in a way, during the FPD debate: it’s not that acupuncture school will become unsustainably expensive if we get an FPD; it’s unsustainably expensive NOW. The future we were worrying about is already here.
I had a lot of horrible public conversations during the FPD debate, but some of them were also very educational. A number of people who were trying to get us to stop yelling kept saying, “Just because there’s an FPD, doesn’t mean that the entry-level standard for education will change. The market decides. Schools will decide whether or not to offer a shorter Masters-level education or a longer FPD, and the market will determine which of them survives. The cost of tuition and the accessibility of acupuncture education are all about the market.” These statements, as you would expect, led to some more excellent poetry — and potty jokes — from our side.
On another level, though, that got us thinking. We are not unacquainted with the market. We’re social entrepreneurs; we claim to believe in social business. Snark is fun, but we can do better than snark. WWMYD? (What Would Muhammad Yunus Do?)
And we need to do better than snark, because if we don’t, we (and our patients) are permanently at the mercy of the alphabet orgs, especially the CCAOM and the ACAOM. They don’t care about former consumers of their educational products, no matter how loudly those consumers complain. They don’t care about employers. They definitely don’t care about patients. They care about schools. The cost of tuition and the accessibility of acupuncture education is all about the market, and the market, as far as the bureaucracy of the profession is concerned, is in the hands of the schools.
It was a lot of fun to write naughty haikus. It was kind of fun to yell at the acu-establishment — at least for a while, though a lot of us also got pretty tired of that. But haikus and snark are not a solution to an economic problem. Moral indignation isn’t much use, either. The bottom line is that we have to protect our patients’ long-term access to acupuncture, and apparently, there is only one way to do that. If the market is the name of the game, we have to play.
So let’s play.