I will try in this post to get to The Point. I know many of my regular readers think I struggle with that. I meander, wander, and at times appear utterly lost. I get it. J.R.R. Tolkien noted in The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) that all may not be as appears:
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."
This, of course, does not mean I am not lost. It merely suggests that we not judge this old book by its his wanderings. Today, I wander into education, in search of The Point.
We have colleges. There are 4,360 in the United States, according to Reasearch.com
. That is significant. Many people are enrolled in college, between 19 and 21 million in recent years. There has been some wax and wane in the course of the Great Panic, and colleges have not been immune. People contemplating college largely say that a campus visit is the most important factor in decision-making. The second most important is a website. Note to self, get a website.
What influences students seeking education? "academic reputation and quality," "availability of their desired program" "job placement rate," "cost of attendance," and "location," In fairness, there are no real surprises there. From whatever motivation, a great many pursue college. Best Colleges
notes that "94 million, or 42%, of Americans ages 25 and over have a college degree of some type." That is impressive, even admitting that some may have come from less-than-stellar institutions or personal efforts. But, according to Learn.org
, "Degree programs are not available in workers' compensation." That is a sad punchline, at least in these old eyes.
There are a great many institutions that we label "college," which are not the brick-and-mortar destinations we might otherwise associate with the word. There is the College of Workers' Compensation Lawyers
, a collegial group of attorneys engaged in this community. There is the NAWCJ Judicial College
, a part of the annual WCI gathering in Orlando. There are multiple organizations like the American College of Surgeons
. In fairness, one might hang the "college" label on a variety of events, associations, or groups.
Recently, I began participating in a new webcast called "The Point." It stars Bob Wilson, a pundit and provocateur in the workers' compensation community for many years. The new webcast is hosted by WorkCompCollege.com, a new platform, which "went live" in November 2022. Only 400 words into this post (app.) and I finally got to The Point. Well, nominally at least.
The debut of The Point occurred November 30, 2022. It was a collegial and engaging interaction with Don Abrams
, Mark Pew
, and Bob Wilson
(alphabetically). This was not a shrinking violet show. Let's be fair, one of these has declared himself king (@workcompking) and another promoted himself to "RxProfessor" despite having no college (until more recently). To say that The Point featured some important people in the workers' compensation community is an understatement. To say that The Point is this meeting is important is likewise.
The Point, in this initial broadcast, was to shed some light on the efforts of these three anchors and the various Main Events and sideshows that they have brought together in what may yet be the Greatest Show in Comp (No offense intended to Barnum, Bailey
, Demille, or even Jimmy Stewart
). But, in the spirit of the old "herding cats" idiom, this is an intriguing story.
These three have constructed a college in the ether (no sticks and bricks campus) focused on Worker’s Compensation and the broad spectrum of issues that contributes to its complexity. The curriculum is multi-faceted, but the underlying theme is directed toward the injured worker. Is the worker more important than the employer? Let's remember that the entirety of workers' compensation is a "mutual renunciation" of rights. At its core, these systems must remember employers and employees.
In fairness, there is some egg/chicken
here. You do not need workers' compensation until there is an injury, which requires an employee, which requires an employer, etc. There has been much discussion of this topic in Worker’s Compensation circles over the last 20 years. Why the focus on the worker?
Bob Wilson coined the term “worker in recovery,“ and has championed a focus-shift away from "compensation" and other monetary labels. His contention is that these various state systems should be devoted to patient remediation, palliation, and restoration of functions. It is the employee that is injured, and who needs these three. Bob contends that the use of terminology may be helpful in renewing that patient-centric focus.
He is not alone. There have been many discussions of “advocacy-based claims,“ and “bio, psycho, social“ perspectives. There is an underlying theme of accepting various human faults and frailties, in facilitating recovery. The advocates of worker focus contend that more rapid, thorough care for the worker will shorten periods of temporary disability and minimize the extent of permanent disability. They urge us to adopt "total care" as a path to better outcomes and thus overall more efficient and inexpensive results. They contend that better worker care will result in lower employer costs, the proverbial "win/win."
Perhaps not everyone will agree. As a community, we bring many different perspectives to the debate of how systems should be balanced between the needs of workers, and costs to employers. There is room for significant discussion and debate. The "mutual" in mutual renunciation bears remembering in those discussions and should be persistently reinserted in the conversation in terms of mutual respect for perspectives and perceptions. There is benefit in the discussion of how workers' injury systems can persist and prevail.
The three impresarios (Ned, Lucky, and Dusty perhaps - The Three Amigos, 1986) have plowed under some corn and "built it" in the belief that "they will come." (Field of Dreams, 1989). They have recruited deans for the various departments within this College. The producers and deans have defined course requirements, established core and elective elements, recruited speakers/faculty, recorded class lectures, and deployed the process on the world wide web. They have rebutted the perception that "Degree programs are not available in workers' compensation." They are striving to face the "El Guapo" of professional education and enhancement.
Certainly, this program is not a bachelor's degree; admittedly, WorkCompCollege is not a university. But, it is a focused and specific education for those who would find a profession, a calling, in this the workers' compensation recovery community. I am proud to have been allowed to participate as an instructor, and I am hopeful that such education will benefit this community.
Mr. Pew mentioned on The Point that access through virtual learning is a democratization of knowledge. The community, it is hoped, will be exposed to thought leaders and new ideas. It is hoped they will bring their own analyses, energies, and innovation to this space. He noted that many critical decision-makers are never afforded the opportunity to travel to the kind of conferences and seminars that attract top speakers and deliver cutting-edge content. Through the web, opportunities for education to do the traveling are increasingly common.
So, as I wind down this post, I return to The Point. And, as I will hopefully reiterate as we proceed with those webinars: "what's The Point?" The Point(s) are clear:
- There is a need for introspection and analysis of how people's injuries are addressed.
- There is room for exceptional worker care and decreased employer costs to coexist.
- There is a need to deliver top-flight instruction and analysis to the community.
- There is a post-COVID acceptance of the benefits of virtual learning.
Into these steps Ned, Lucky, and Dusty with a vision of changing the community, if not the world. The Point is that interaction and introspection are critical to any community. The Point is that we need the next generation to step into the box and the recruitment and retention of talent will be daunting tasks. The Point is that no single effort may move the mountains that confront us, but each effort may "carry away a stone" or two (loosely appropriating Confucious).
In fairness, the College will not be for the faint of heart. There is a broad and deep spectrum of material that must be consumed and mastered. This will require time and commitment. Too often, we hear that "I don't have time." We hear it regarding classes, conferences, and even reading about this community. I close this post with a reminder from H. JAckson Brown, Jr. on time:
“Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
What will you do with the time you have? Thanks for following the winding road I have just meandered. Replay of The Point is here. I hope it is all I've described it as.
By Judge David Langham
Courtesy of Florida Workers' Comp