Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Sense of Place

This week I went to an annual meeting for work. One of the speakers was Scott Russell Sanders who from my quick Google search is the author of several books and is a professor at Indiana University. He teaches English, but a lot of his work centers around the practice of community or a sense of place. There has been a lot of discussion in Columbus recently about a sense of place, who we are and where we are heading. Task forces have been formed to stop the Columbus brain drain and retain our young professionals. Columbus blogs are debating it and the local media is finding it interesting enough to report on.

Part of the argument of why people are leaving is because Columbus lacks a sense of place. It's been there said there is no easily recognizable symbol or perception of Columbus. You know what you're getting into when you fly to Boston, visit New York, drive to Chicago and vacation in Miami. Not so much with Columbus. In my line of work, what I hear repeated over and over again is people telling me they never knew Columbus would be so hip, so fun, so diverse or even so clean.

Columbus may be where I grew up, but it is also where I now choose to live. My sense of place is a Columbus that was with me for my partying early 20s, has a good business climate as I'm now furthering my career and will grow with me as we start a family in the next several years. Columbus is diverse enough that it doesn't need to be the same thing to all people all the time.

This topic won't be going away anytime soon and it will be interesting to see how it evolves and what comes of it. I'll keep you updated...

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

Hi Amy, I know what you're talking about, but this brain drain you're mentioning isn't just from Columbus-- it's a nationwide issue. IOW, there's a brain drain not just from places like Columbus to New York, but from New York to Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Portugal and France.

As a professional myself who's been working in the computer industry for years, it's not hard to see why-- the US is very hostile to educated, skilled workers who want to start families. If you're a new parent, God help you if you want to stay home even for a few days to take care of your children, and especially if you are "unfortunate" enough to have to take your child to a clinic, or pick them up from daycare or preschool. The United States ranks near the bottom among industrialized countries in allowing professional couples to care for kids. (Australia and the UK seem to be even worse than the US in this respect.)

When you add in other ridiculous expenses-- crumbling roads and terrible public transportation that require many hour-long commutes in cities, run-down public schools, ultra-expensive tuition at private institutions and universities-- you come to realize the painful fact, that it's just too expensive to have and raise kids almost anywhere in the USA these days.

A summary of what's gone so wrong:

In fact, the only solution for a good number of my professional colleagues has been to learn a new language like French, German, Italian for example, and emigrate to an EU country. If you're an educated, skilled worker and you want to start a family-- or have enough breathing room to start a new business, rather than being forced into 80-hour workweeks just to stay afloat-- it's much better to do so in Europe, they're much more family-friendly there.

In Austria, France and Germany for example, Moms as well as Dads get months off to care for newborn kids, and they're never frowned upon for taking off a day or two to care for their kids. Unlike in the US, where you lose pay and often your job if your kids have to care for a child who's ill! The fact that we spend so much on our military here, while failing to provide even basic support for new parents, verges on criminal!