The Spartans were on to something with their philosophy of “mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a healthy body). While there are many ways to interpret this phrase, to me it means a healthy physical and mental balance. The Spartans were actually quite progressive in their culture and government, even granting women more rights than other developed civilizations in the classical world.
Lest I sound like I suffer from a case of laconophilia, let me be clear; I do not believe in emulating the entire Spartan way of life, for they strongly valued physical strength and presence of mind in terms of creating a perfect specimen of man, not in terms of fostering creativity and thoughtfulness. I am, however, intrigued by the basic tenet of “mens sana in corpore sano” and how it relates to the inextricable link between our education and health care systems.
At first glance you might think education and health care are discrete. I argue that they are more intertwined than we realize. In fact, the United States had a cabinet level position of Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, the head of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) from 1953-1979. The former HEW was responsible for education and public health. Its oversight responsibilities included federal and federal-state programs in public health, education, and social and economic security. Hmmmm ... makes sense to me. A healthy body is able to learn. A healthy mind is able to work, pay taxes, and productively contribute to society in a whole host of ways. I want my sons to grow up in a country that values its citizens inside out. I want them to have access to affordable, quality healthcare and access to rigorous instruction in diverse, nurturing learning environments. The health of our schools and the health of our nation must become priorities on the radar of our leadership.
As both systems operate now, we see a wider gap among socioeconomic classes in our country. It is despicable that only the rich have access to good schools and good care. Only the rich are left with any choices at all. I wish for more for my sons. I wish for them to grow up in a community rich with diversity, complex thinking, and creativity. Critical, life changing illness can hit any of us, rich or otherwise. How we navigate that system depends on our resources, insurance, and the state of health care reform. I don’t want my sons to face the stressful weight of health expenses. Education and health care costs are rising at an astronomical rate, further widening the gap between the so-called haves and have-nots. I know not where my sons will fall, but I do know that I want them to have equal, fair access to a sound mind and sound body.
This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and what the other bloggers have to say, read Which Issue Is Most Important to Moms in the 2012 Election?
Image via Department of Health and Human Services