Braiding usually involves taking three strands of hair, three ribbons, three pieces of string, weaving them into a single thread. Some years ago I became intrigued when a workshop presenter talked about composting ideas. This morning I found myself thinking about health care, public education, and baby boomers and realized I was braiding.
With increasing frequency – twice over the past few days – I’ve heard people bemoan the fact that going to the doctor now feels so impersonal, like being a small cog in someone’s out-of-control machine. From personal experience in public education I know many teachers feel oppressed by a system which has turned them into data collection portals. And boomers? Just yesterday in a large planning group Gen Xers bemoaned what they described as an outdated boomer-driven mindsets about economic development.
Then I read a wonderful NY Times opinionator piece about the value and importance of doctors’ stories to round out what can be gleaned from data, and how the trend has been to squeeze the art out of its science. This was the first thread in my braid. Next I thought about how much teachers would appreciate an invitation to add their stories to the vast student information databases, and to have these stories valued along with the numbers. This was the second thread. And finally, I thought about who seems to have been most responsible for shifting medicine and education away from admittedly incomplete anecdotal stories toward technology-facilitated numbers – not the boomers, but Gen-X. (Of course those of us who are boomers must take some responsibility for having raised our Gen-X children.) But I contend, we are not the ones defining public policy, other than by virtue of our sheer numbers.
So my idea braid suggests that there is a real benefit to finding ways to capture and add vignettes to our public policy data sets; and that we would benefit from spending more time thinking about how the different generations’ dispositions inform our past, present and future, rather than dismissing valuable perspectives and experiences. Sounds so 60’s doesn’t it? Makes sense since Peter D. Kramer (b. 1948), author of the article, and I (b.1949) are both boomers.