If there is such a thing as a "normal" acupuncture school, POCA Tech isn't it. (Please watch this video about us!) Most acupuncture schools encourage prospective students to apply. POCA Tech encourages you to think twice and do your research.
Here's a list of things you should think about.
1) Is this education going to be a good investment for you -- of your resources, your time, your energy, your attention?
Here's a beautiful blog post by Pam Chang of Sarana Community Acupuncture about the social dividends of running a community clinic for 10 years. Please read it.
However, practitioners of Liberation Acupuncture typically don’t make a lot of money or have a lot of material security. Please do your homework about what community acupuncturists earn. The POCA Co-op has a survey with this information (requires POCA membership and login).
Also, we strongly recommend that you do some research on what acupuncturists, any acupuncturists, earn. Understand that most acupuncturists are self-employed small business owners, and this is an uncertain, demanding path. When people quote "salaries" for acupuncturists, this can be very misleading because some 90% of acupuncturists don't have salaries, they have self-employment earnings which are 1) not guaranteed and 2) taxed at twice the rate of regular employment.
2) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and work hard?
POCA Tech is no place for consumers, and we’ve all been socialized to be consumers. POCA Tech is a project of the POCA Cooperative, and it reflects a cooperative mindset, which can be a real shock to your system. Down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass, out of the matrix -- however people describe it, it’s radically different here. Some people love that about the POCAverse, some people hate it.
One of POCA’s unofficial rules is, “If you’ve got a problem, congratulations, you’ve got a job” -- and the school, the co-op, and the POCAverse itself all have plenty of problems. If you’re looking for a situation where you can pay your tuition and be a passive consumer of your education, this absolutely isn’t it. The school and the co-op were built by communities of (imperfect) people who put in everything they had, and they’ll expect you to reciprocate. Co-ops are hard, and guaranteed to push you out of your comfort zone. If you have some experience with collectives -- anything from other cooperatives to volunteering with church groups -- you’ll have a better idea of what you’d be getting into.
3) Are you ready to think about difficult topics?
Many white people who are drawn to the study of acupuncture are unfortunately influenced by Orientalism (please read more here) and a kind of romantic racism, in which a career as an acupuncturist somehow represents a magical escape from ordinary life. We’ve heard people describe going to acupuncture school as the equivalent of “going to Hogwarts” (wizard school). The reality is that the Chinese immigrants who first practiced acupuncture in the West suffered real-world oppression and violence; they weren’t wizards living magical lives, they were people taking care of their own marginalized communities under difficult conditions.
Being an acupuncturist will bring you face to face with all the problems of our society: unequal access to healthcare, the physical and mental effects of oppression, the structural violence of capitalism, your own relative privilege. (If you’re thinking of going to acupuncture school, by definition you have more privilege than a lot of community acupuncture patients do.) POCA Tech won’t romanticize any of that. If you’re looking for an escape, this isn’t it. On the other hand, if you really can’t be happy without engaging those kinds of problems, this might be the right place for you.
4) Are you ready to make a commitment?
Many people are drawn to the study of acupuncture because it seems to offer a way to keep their options open. It’s alternative; it’s outside the mainstream; it offers the promise of owning your own business, setting your own schedule, etc. These things are true about acupuncture but they’re a long way from the whole story and an even longer way from what POCA Tech is about. We’re looking for people who are ready to make a genuine commitment --and commitment isn’t compatible with keeping your options open. A metaphor that we use is that being an acupunk is like running a program on your computer that takes up tons of space on your hard drive. If you’re going to do it, you’ll have to give up other things because there simply isn’t room for them. If you have room in your life for a big, demanding commitment, POCA Tech might be good for you. Please do your research, talk to some POCA acupunks, ask them about what it’s really like.
5) And finally -- the program itself is hard. It’s possible to fail it. It will probably change you.
tl;dr: Beware! POCA Tech is not a bargain acupuncture education. The core of the POCA Tech program is a commitment to solidarity with marginalized and suffering people, and that means risk and discomfort, for you. Liberation Acupuncture is a vocation, not one option among many options. If Liberation Acupuncture’s not your calling, it will only make you unhappy. Some people who are interested in acupuncture school are looking for a magical escape, material security, and a way to keep their options open -- but we don’t offer any of those things.
Still interested? Please watch this video about the best and the hardest parts of punking.