Most acupuncture schools encourage prospective students to apply. POCA Tech does the opposite. Please carefully read the list below to understand why you probably should NOT apply to our school. This isn’t a sales pitch, it’s a warning. Also you will be required to sign this agreement with the school. Also, we need you to read this book before enrolling.
1) Practitioners of Liberation Acupuncture don’t make a lot of money or have a lot of material security. If those things are important to you, you’ll be miserable here. Do your homework about what community acupuncturists earn. * The POCA Co-op has a survey with this information and you seriously need to read it. (requires POCA membership and login)
*Also, we strongly recommend that you do some research on what acupuncturists, any acupuncturists, earn. It’s harder to get data about non-POCA acupuncturists, but you can find some here. Let’s just say the statistics are sobering and should be a wake up call for anyone who thinks it’s easy to make a living as an acupuncturist.
2) 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. Another way of saying this is that being in the POCAverse will mess with your head (and possibly with your relationship to other parts of our consumer society). 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) 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) The practice of Liberation Acupuncture, and even attending POCA Tech, will bring you face to face with the fragility of everything good. As a community acupunk, a large part of your job will be accompanying your patients through loss. You’ll witness people going through debilitating and terminal illnesses (their own and their loved ones’), people losing jobs they can’t afford to lose, people losing babies and relationships and independence. You’ll also experience first hand the lack of security that goes along with creating things for marginalized people to use, whether it’s a community acupuncture clinic or POCA Tech itself. Like many POCA clinics, the school is made out of goodwill and cooperative agreements and run on a shoestring, which means it’s vulnerable to forces that can take co-ops apart. Enrolling at POCA Tech will always represent a personal risk. If you can stand that, you might have what it takes be a POCA acupunk. (Check your tolerance for heartbreak.)
5) 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.
6) 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 you’re thinking of POCA Tech as just one option alongside other acupuncture schools, you should rethink applying here at all. If Liberation Acupuncture’s not your calling, it will only make you unhappy. If you can do something else that’s less demanding, you probably should. 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. Also: our school is not going to cater to you, and a lot of people don’t like us.
Still interested? Please watch this video about the best and the hardest parts of punking.
Go ahead and apply -- if you must -- but don’t say we didn’t try to talk you out of it.