Education: Sometimes a Matter of Life and Death

January 23, 2007

Today’s New York Times ran a story on a study recently published on the treatment of breast cancer (“All Breast Cancer Patients Are Not Treated the Same”). The study reports that low income women or women with low levels of education routinely get insufficient doses of chemotherapy compared to higher income, more educated women. The article suggests that one explanation for the difference is that doctors assume that these women will not understand the ordeal they’re about to experience, so the doctors cut doses in the hope that the women will stick with the long and unpleasant course of treatments.

No mention is made of actual differences in compliance with treatment regimens.

It is situations like this — in which decisions are made “on behalf” of members of lower social class women, apparently without even discussing the consequences of those decisions — that sharpen for me the urgency of educating poor and working class kids to stand up for themselves, to ask questions, to expect respect.

Sometimes, it is really a matter of life and death.

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