A Simple Question…

a simple question … “ could someone please count the list of names on a page at the end of the day so that data can be collected by a number instead of having to be counted in the moment of collection?”

Already I see the difference. If you are looking for data you find data. If you are looking for persons you find names. In systems that are full of forms and records and updates, the time to collect the numbers often gains priority over the persons the numbers are counting.

In our engagement with children and young people, this becomes a tragedy that is robust, growing and ongoing… quantify not qualify … count not name … time constraints not flexibility …

If knowledge is gleaned as data, then the data is the only aspect of the measured entity we know. It could be number of persons, misdemeanors, mistakes, ‘swears’, non-compliance … and so many many more.

Children learn the lists that are kept about them.

Sometimes the environment shows the numbers to other systems, to grant writers and fundraiser … , and so on… It is really easy to tell numbers instead of stories. It takes less time and requires no action except how we feel we should respond to the numbers. Is the number so high we feel guilty? Or is it so low we judge it not important? What does the number mean? Anything?

It is hard to imagine a social response to a number.

Social is complicated and complex. Numbers deliver the outcome of efficiency, less staff hours paid, almost the same as the move from industrial where we intimately know the elements we are using to create our products,  to technology which eliminates ‘feeling’ and physical contact, which can be messy as well, … AND quantifies ‘as quick as a wink’. If you are paying for it, which would you choose? Technology even has outcome indicators ‘wrapped in a heartbeat’.

What perspective do we choose as a mandated process to learn about the usefulness of the responses we offer to our young people for whom traditional strategies are not enough? How can data be useful? Once the dangers of data driven conclusions become recognized, how can we adapt to other perspectives which deliver better support and potential for their transitions to adult participation in our world?

Life is not rocket science. Children and young people need the humans in their lives to be their guide to ‘the who’ they can become. Maybe the data is not even framed around the right questions? Who gets to decide the questions? … and why are young people not part of the framing process instead of just the subjects to be impacted?

Life and change really are about “Are we asking the right questions?” Western society is deeply rehearsed as an ‘answers’ society. We tend to generalize science as answers rather than discovery. How can change happen when we settle for answers? Data delivers answers. How then do we generate the right questions?

Seeking is our strongest strategy to grow forward. Discovery is our goal.

We need to learn from children and young people instead of just viewing them as receptacles for our answers and our certainties. They are not data. They are stories that need to be understood as part of our ‘being human’ together. Together we build a stronger society.


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