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or more precisely, Finnish Lessons:  What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?, is simply put the one must read to begin to understand how Finland has built perhaps the world's most successful educational system over the past few decades.

The author,Pasi Sahlberg, is currently Director General of CIMO (in the Ministry of Education) in Helsinki, Finland.  He has been a teacher, a teacher educator, lived in the US while working at the World Bank.  He is also on the Board of Directors of the Association for Supervision and  Curriculum Development, one of the premier professional organizations in education (disclosure, I am a member).

This will be an extensive examination of the book, in conjunction with additional commentary about Finland and what we can and cannot learn from their experience in education.

I disclose up front that I have met Sahlberg and am in contact with him electronically.   I also disclose that as a professional teacher I start with a bias -  that Finland takes teaching far more seriously than does the nation in which I live and teach.

I hope to persuade you that this is a very important book, that if you care about education, you should read it.

Please keep reading.

For a long time no one paid any attention to what was happening in education in Finland.  Then the 2000 results for PISA -  Programme for International Student Assessment - an assessment of 15-year olds produced every 3 years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD.  Finland ranked as the #1 country in the world, a position it maintained in the results for 2003, and 2006.  In 2009 the city of Shanghai held the number 1 spot, closely followed by Korea and then Finland.  

The 2000 results probably should not have shocked, as Finland had also performed very well on the IEA Reading Literacy Study for 1988-1994.

In recent years there has been a lot of interest in what Finland has achieved, with some touting the results while others dismiss them.  let's examine a few of these, while offering some of the relevant material from the book in response.

Some argue that Finland is a small, very non-diverse country as compared to the US.   The size argument bears some validity, given that current population

today is 5.5 million.  It is about the population of Minnesota in the United States or Victoria in Australia, and just slightly more than the size of Alberta Canada or Nod-Pas de Calais in France.  Indeed, about 30 states of the United States have a population close to or less than Finland.  (p. 8).

Yet the argument on diversity is less accurate.  Earlier on the same page we read that Finland is a trilingual nation (Finnish, Swedish and Sami are all official languages), and that its 3 largest ethnic-language minorities are Russian, Estonian and Somali!   Further, one requirement for graduation from high school.  The population has been becoming increasingly more diverse:  foreign born citizens and residents numbered only 12, 853 in 1980 but 248,135 in 2010, with the number of residents being issued citizenship increasing from 621 to 4334 over the same period (p. 68).  Further, in what we would consider middle school, students either take an average track with one foreign language or an advanced track with two foreign languages, and all students are expected to complete school with competency in two of the three national languages.  It is worth noting that students in heavily Swedish-speaking areas are instructed in that language:  compare that to how we treat our students for whom Spanish is their first language.

Others will argue that the overall performance of Finland is due to its relatively low level of childhood poverty.  This is true, but an incomplete representation.  

According to the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 3.4% of children in Finland live in poverty.  This is the smallest child poverty rate after Denmark (2.4%).  In the United States 21.7% and in Canada 13.6% of children live in poverty  (p. 69)
 Some will point out that when scores are adjusted for percentage of poverty the US scores about as well as Finland.  But we need to remember that in Finland it is not just the low degree of poverty.  It is also the range of income inequality.  Finland ranks relatively low on measures like the GINI coefficient while the US, which is showing increasing signs of inequality over the past decade, has a coefficient more in common with third world countries, not other industrialized nations.

In part the difference in Finland is cultural, which is one reason one cannot hope to immediately clone what the Finns have done in the United States.  After all, we have strong resistance against any national educational policy.  Yet in theory, absent federal mandates, individual states COULD use Finland as a model, especially given how many are roughly the same size or smaller than Finland.

But first we would have to significantly change how we recruit, train and support teachers.  Only then might the teaching profession in the US begin to have the stature that it does in Finland.   Consider:

Finnish males viewed a as the most desirable spouse, rated just ahead of a nurse, medical doctor, or architect.  Women, in turn, identified only a medical doctor and a veterinarian ahead of a teacher as a desirable profession for their ideal husband.  (p. 73)

For positions of teaching above Kindergarten teachers are REQUIRED to have an MA before getting their own classroom (p. 81)

Teachers, at about 41,000/year,  earn slightly more than the national average salary  (although in Korea teachers make substantially more, with the average being 55,000 compared to 44,000 in the US).  All pay is based on qualifications and experience, and there is no "merit pay."  (p. 76).

But the true Finnish difference is that teachers in Finland may exercise their professional knowledge and judgment both widely and freely in their schools.  They control curriculum, student assessment, school improvement, and community involvement (p. 7).

Principals have to be qualified to teach in the schools they lead, to have successfully completed academic studies in educational administration and leadership from a Finnish university, and many also teach a small number of classes each week (p. 92).   Here I note this truly fulfills the full title, which was derived from Principal Teacher.

Admission to teacher education programs is highly competitive:  

Annually, only about 1 of every ten applicants will be accepted to prepare to become a teacher in Finnish primary schools.
 In some universities, for example Helsinki, the rate of acceptance is as low as 5%, one in 20  (pp. 75-76)

All education in Finland, including through doctoral degrees for those who seek them, is tuition free to the student.

I cannot cover all of the material Sahlberg offers in the book.   One of its strengths is that it is so thorough on so many topics.  Two key points that he offers are critical to understanding why Finland is successful.  First, it does not follow the common pattern that he calls the Global Educational Reform Movement, or GERM, whose characteristics are clearly evident in the thrust of educational policy in the United States.  The second is that most of what Finland is doing they did not invent, but took from other nations, most specifically our own.  Let me at least briefly explore each of these ideas.

GERM is "not a formal global policy program but rather an unofficial policy agenda that relies on a certain set of policy assumptions to improve educational system" (p. 99).  It is "promoted through the strategies and interests of international development agencies, bilateral donors, and private consultants through their interventions in national educational reforms and policy making processes" (ibid.).  Sahlberg identifies five key features of the GERM approach:

1.  standardization in education
2.  increased focus on cores subjects such as literacy and numeracy
3.  teaching with prescribed curriculum:  "searching for safe and low-risk ways to reach predetermined learning goals" (p.101)
4. transfer of models from the corporate world "often supported by private corporations, consultant firms, and private venture philosophy" (ibid.)
5. adoption of high-stakes accountability policies for schools

Those who are critical of these kinds of approaches - and I am definitely in that camp - will find that Sahlberg is precise on the implications and impact they have.  For example, for the fourth point he notes

Faith in educational change that depends upon innovations brought from outside the educational system undermines two important elements of successful educational improvement.  First, it often limits the role of national policy development and the enhancement of an educational system's own capability to maintain renewal. . . . Perhaps more important, it paralyzes teachers' and schools' attempts to learn from the past and to learn from each other.   Or, it prevents lateral professional development in the system that is the main source of energy needed for sustained educational improvements (ibid.).

Sahlberg notes that the Canadian scholar Michael Fullan, who has extensively studied educational reform in the U. S. and Australia, describe choices of drivers of chance such as  being wrong, noting of such wrong drivers that they

include accountability (vs. professionalism). individual teacher quality (vs. collegiality), technology (vs. pedagogy), and fragmented strategies (vs. systems thinking). (p. 102)
  He quotes Fullan as writing that "No successful system has ever led with these drivers" (ibid.).   Sahlberg then provides a concise summary of the differences between the GERM approach and the Finnish approach in a chart appearing on p. 103.  Let me summarize the contrast by first listing the GERM characteristic in Italics followed by the corresponding Finnish approach in bold:

Standardized teaching and learning vs Customizing teaching and learning

Focus on literacy and numeracy vs Focus on creative learning

Teaching prescribed curriculum vs Encouraging risk-taking

Borrowing market-oriented reform ideas vs Learning from the past and owning innovations

Test-based accountability and control vs Shared responsibility and trust

GERM depends upon focusing on basics and explicit learning target with emphasis on key skills of reading, writing and mathematical and scientific literacy (for the latter two think of our recent emphasis on STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and assumes competition is "the most productive way to raise the quality of education."  By contrast, Finland places a strong emphasis in trust of principals and teachers "regarding the curriculum, assessment, organization of teaching, and inspection of the work of the school."  It encourages "making school a creative and inspiring place to teach and learn." (p. 105)

Sahlberg has labeled this alternative to the GERM approach The Finnish Way, that "grows from the bottom, steers from the top, and provides support and pressure from the sides." (ibid..

It is worth noting that besides the much lesser level of economic inequity in Finland versus the U.S. two additional factors.  First, Finnish children do not begin formal instruction until age 7.  Second, it is presumed that children will begin that formal instruction already knowing how to read.  That clearly provides a different culture in which to operate, one that does not face all of the problems we do in the U. S.

There are many other key differences.  High School students take only four courses at a time.  Finnish teachers instruct for only about 600 hours a year (versus well over 1,000 for American teachers), and have time during the day to consult regularly with their peers.  As might not be surprising for anyone who has paid attention to other aspects of Finnish culture, where minimalism is a predominant theme, in education the Finns believe strongly that less is more.  Contrast that to those in the United States who argue that if we are to be competitive as a nation we need to lengthen instruction - a longer school day, and/or year-round schooling are two common suggestions for improving our competitiveness.  That is why it is perhaps noteworthy to consider this, as Sahlberg points out:  

In 1998, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Finland as 15th in its global competitiveness index.  By 2001 Finland had climbed to the pole position in this influential ranking that covers more than 130 economies in the world" (p. 107).
 Finland devotes a far larger percentage of its workforce to research and development as a part of its push towards a knowledge economy than do most countries, with 22 per thousand devoted to such tasks, more than 3 times the OECD average.

Finland based its approach to reforms, especially in teaching, on the work of influential scholars from other nations, especially those in the United States.  As Sahlberg writes on p. 35,

Work by David Berliner in educational psychology, Lind Darling-Hammond in teacher education, and Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan in educational change have been closely studied and implemented in developing Finnish education since the 1970s.  The secret of the successful influence of these educational ideas from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada is that there was fruitful ground in Finnish schools for such pragmatic models of change.

For all of their success in education, the Finns recognize that there are changes they will have to make.  In a country which already offers the equivalent of special education services to a majority of its students when they are in elementary school because it believes that "early recognition of learning difficulties and social and behavioral problems" should be provided as early as possible in order "to help and support students by giving them equal opportunities to complete school in accordance with their abilities and alongside their peers" (pp. 46-47), it is interesting that the first of the four changes Sahlberg believes need to be implemented as part of changing finish schools to keep them superb the the development of a personal road map for learning.  He adds to this less classroom-based teaching; development of interpersonal skills and problem-solving, and engagement and creativity as pointers of success (pp. 140-142).

In the forward to the book, Andy Hargreaves notes that

There are unresolved questions ion Anglo-American educational reform that pumped-up steroidal reform strategies and the "lemming" Race to the Top will never be able to answer but that Sahlberg;s work profoundly can. (p. xx)
 

Even before the focus on Finland because of its performance on international comparisons, there were those who recognized what was going on.  American expert Seymour Sarason visited Finland in 1995, studying the schools, the curriculum and more,  At the end of the visit, as Sahlberg notes, when he asked Sarason to summarize his finding, the American asked

"Why did you bring me here?  Your school system to me looks very close to what John  Dewey had in mind and what I have been writing about for the last three decades." (p/ 144)
 Sahlberg follows this with a paragraph in which he notes that the Finnish approach  is shaped by ideas of Dewey "flavored with the Finnish principles of  practicality, creativity and common sense." (p. 144)

There are two and half paragraphs after that in the book.  I will close this overview of the book with those words of Sahlberg, because they explain both the purpose and the use of this book.  

There has been much written in recent years about Finland.  This book is written by a Finn who is well versed in educational approaches around the world, both as a scholar and from his time at the World Bank.  He understands America and the American approach.  The book is well documented, and organized in a way that helps the reader grasp the material in a useful way.   For anyone concerned about what is happening to U. S. educational policy, I can think of few works more useful to prepare one to engage in the process, to point out the evidence that there is a different way, one which has already been shown to work, and in a time of limited resources, that costs less per student than does our own approach.

But let me allow Sahlberg the honor of the final words, from pages 144-145:  

what the world can learn from educational change in Finland is that accomplishing the dream of a good and equitable education system for all children is possible.  But it takes the right mix of ingenuity, time, patience, and determination.
     The Finnish Way of educational change should be encouraging to those who have found the path of competition, choice, test-based accountability, and performance-based pay to be a dead end.  The future of Finnish education described above can moreover offer an alternative means to customized learning.  For the Finns, personalization is not about having students work independently at computer terminals.  The Finnish Way is to tailor the needs of each child with flexible arrangements and different learning paths.  Technology is not a substitute but merely a tool to complement interaction with teachers and fellow students.
     As a countervailing force against the global educational reform movement driving school systems around the world, the Finnish Way reveals that creative curricula, autonomous teachers, courageous leadership and high performance go together.  The Finnish Way furthermore makes plain that collaboration, not conflict, with teachers unions leads to to better results.  The evidence is clear and so should be the road ahead.

Originally posted to teacherken on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 02:47 AM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives, Teachers Lounge, and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I would appreciate some visibility on this (8+ / 0-)

    because I believe it is a very important book

    Wrote as thoroughly as I did to make that clear

    thanks for whatever you can do

    peace

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 03:06:44 AM PST

  •  Must rebuild institutions like Education (8+ / 0-)

    If the USA is going to change the course in the race to the bottom, it will have to take seriously the rebuilding of institutions and this includes the educational system.

    Everywhere we look systems are in trouble. Cookie cutter solutions, like finding a magic test to solve the "education" have failed. The search for magic numbers has gone hand in hand with the change in our society to making things and doing things, to playing with numbers as seen in the financial arena.

    I have read a lot about Finland and their approach. It is part of their whole society which includes a strong welfare system. When I was there last summer, the children at the school yard near the hotel were having a great time playing outside.

    It should be obvious that humans are not numbers and cannot be led to develop in management by spread sheet and power point slides.

    Work like this book and teacherken's columns provide experience and insights for what is needed. Need the broad realization of the need for change and the creativity to bring about the changes.

    •  thanks Don (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      palantir, Puddytat, doingbusinessas

      I was hoping for more traffic on this post, because I think the book is that important.  I have tweeted it, emailed the link, and put it on several Facebook pages.

      I've specifically emailed the link to a number of policy makers and their staff members in the hopes that at least a few will consider the lesson that can be learned from the book.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 03:49:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Aside from how this sort of approach (8+ / 0-)

    would lead to greater success, I see two other important benefits.  First, this approach would help build better citizens, something that used to be a fundamental goal of the educational system, before the rise of neoliberalism in education policy.  Second, such an approach would make school far more interesting for students themselves.  

    I recognize some will argue that we can't afford to do this.  I think we cab't afford not to.

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. @DavidKaib

    by David Kaib on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 04:40:13 AM PST

    •  Education in Citizenship has been my theme (4+ / 0-)

      This is essential. I realized this during the Kerry campaign in 2004.

      Participation in politics and institution building, coupled with the concepts of a republic and a democracy is needed.

      I am trying to find a way to pull this off.

      •  related to this - (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        doingbusinessas

        Finns ranked at the top of the OECD table on Civic Knowledge in the 2009 International Civics and Citizenship Education Study.  You can download the preliminary report (PDF) here.  It tied with Denmark with 576 points.  The US did not participate in this study, but separate studies have shown a very poor level of civic knowledge in the US.  And as you know, we have been eliminating social studies, which is not tested under NCLB, in favor of test preparation for reading and math, especially in lower grades. That is one reason why Sandra Day O'Connor has been on a campaign to improve civic knowledge and to increase its instruction in our schools.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 06:33:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Agree with your (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, doingbusinessas

        emphasis on the need for education in citizenship.

    •  Citizenship is absolutely crucial (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, Puddytat, doingbusinessas

      especially at the middle school level.  Students long for that sort of instruction and very rarely get it.  Middle school is the best time for giving kids practical experience in citizenship, but yet we are so lacking in that area (at least in my experience).

      I completely agree with the statement that we can't afford not to teach citizenship.  Unfortunately, we aren't teaching it, in far too many places.

  •   I get hand me down issues of Smithsonian Magazine (4+ / 0-)

    September 2011 issue Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?

    The money shot.

    There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town.

    "Nonviolent in the face of police brutality." Scott Olsen's email signature

    by BOHICA on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 04:56:21 AM PST

    •  test at end of high school for college admission (4+ / 0-)

      and can be retaken several times.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 05:02:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  As a product of both systems... my two cents (4+ / 0-)

        There is a problem for students coming out of high school to University, because they are not just competing against their graduating peers, but those retaking the test.

        I made it on my second year...

        I went to High School in US in very good schools, but these didn't prepare me to take the entrance exam. So I had to study math and physics on my own to make it.

        Having had my own and watched my children in both school systems. I wouldn't put down US schools. My experience is that in US teachers are very dedicated and involved in their pupils education. One big difference is that the teachers in Finland have masters degrees and are quite well educated, though in US in high school many of my teachers had Phd. degrees.

        One big difference is that in US reading and writing seems to take huge amount of work even though children start learning it year or two earlier than in Finland. This takes away from subjects that are require a lot of repetition to learn, especially math, so in the beginning of High School students in US are year or two behind Finns.

        US schools that I've run across have very good overall variety of education. Emphasis on reports, presentations and debate are something I think Finnish schools should really learn from US. US is also ahead of Finns in soft subjects like music and other arts. World needs more engineers that can sing and dance... ;)

    •  Just remember, that Finnish final is (7+ / 0-)

      Very difficult.  Finnish kids are expected to know everything they were taught and that expectation has been drilled into them since grade one.  Finnish kids don't bother asking "do I hafta learn this?" or "will this be on the test?" because the answer is always YES.

      Furthermore, while the Finns don't waste a lot of time on standardized testing, the tests they do take are quite difficult.  I had a Finnish exchange student in my home who asked what he liked best about his American high school.  Without blinking an eye he said, "Multiple choice tests."  He was 18 and had never taken one before.

      So while there are many superficial differences between Finland's high performance schools and our laughable competition, the biggest difference is that Finnish kids live in a culture where folks are actually expected to know something when they finish their educations and this makes all the difference.

    •  I saw that Smithsonian article as well. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken

      It alerted me to the 'Finnish Way'. I talked about it with many people who have kids.....but no one was very interested. Americans don't readily consider that other countries may offer solutions to some of our problems.

  •  Wow, I had no idea - Thank you! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution, inevitable." - President John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963)

    by LamontCranston on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 05:09:10 AM PST

  •  for some additional resources on Finnish Education (4+ / 0-)

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 05:21:36 AM PST

    •  RELATIVE teacher pay. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mariken
      Finnish teacher compensation seems about average for the US (which is to say considerably more generous than some states, considerably less generous than others). The relative salary is higher because other professionals such as lawyers and doctors earn less in Finland than do their US equivalents.

      http://thinkprogress.org/...

      This likely contributes to the ability of the Finnish teacher profession to attract more of the top college grads.

      Implication for USA: we need to make our teacher pay more closely resemble what our doctors and lawyers make.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 06:09:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it is not just pay (7+ / 0-)

        there are nations where teacher pay is higher within the range of occupations in the country - S. Korea for example.

        The pay is decent.

        Teachers do not enter the profession with debts from their education, since all education through a doctorate is free.  

        Teachers are treated as professionals.

        Teachers have a fair amount of control over how they teach.

        The profession is greatly respected.

        You are unlikely in Finland to hear variants of those who can do, those who can't teach.  

        Working conditions are far better than they are in most American public schools.

        Administrators have to be qualified to teach in the schools they run, and many still teach part-time.

        Teachers and their unions are not targeted by outside forces the way they are here.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 06:37:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  All that plus... (0+ / 0-)

          Sure. All that is important; I certainly don't disagree. But I don't think we can rule out paying people more as a way to attract better people, either.

          That's not at all a slam at current US teachers. My family is full of current and retired elementary, middle, and high school teachers. But counting on altruism to attract enough of the best and brightest is not a plan that's likely to work on a large scale.

          Completely coincidentally, I ran across this great graph a few minutes ago, showing a strong correlation between teacher pay and student performance. The correlation is not 1-to-1 because (a) it omits all those other factors you cite, and (b) because it omits the relative-pay factor I cited. But even so, the correlation is pretty strong:
          http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/...

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 09:56:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  NBA salaries (0+ / 0-)
        Top point guard salaries: 1. Jason Kidd, Dallas, $21.37million. 2. Stephen Marbury, N.Y. Knicks, $20.8million, 3. Mike Bibby, Atlanta, $14.98million, 4. Gilbert Arenas, Washington, $14.65million. 5. Steve Nash, Phoenix, $12.25million.

        Top shooting guard salaries: 1. Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers, $21.26million. 2. Allen Iverson, Detroit, $20.84million. 3. Tracy McGrady, $20.37million. 4. Ray Allen, Boston, $18.39million. 5. Joe Johnson, Atlanta, $14.23million. Charlotte Observer

        Read more: http://www.insidehoops.com/...

    •  Sahlberg (0+ / 0-)

      What is the approximate average total annual teaching time in 60-minute hours of lower secondary school teachers in Finland?

      ~1800 ?
      ~1600 ?
      ~1450 ?
      ~1150 ?
      ~ 950 ?
      ~ 725 ?

      see page 26 for the answer

      Applicants to primary school teacher education 2001-10

      What percentage of them got accepted?

      ~35% ?
      ~26% ?
      ~18% ?
      ~10% ?

      see page 36 for the answer

  •  Thanks TK (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    For this very informative diary. As the leader of a parent led organization in support of public education, I will share it widely. We must change course in our country and sharing this information widely may help us achieve this. I encourage all those who are interested in this topic to consider posting this diary. I also plan on emailing this to my State officials who are the Chair's of the Education Committee in their respective chambers.

    " The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams"-Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Lh1695 on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 05:46:29 AM PST

  •  we have a culture of ignorance (0+ / 0-)

    no amount of tinkering with the system can overcome that.

    how can we reverse decades of bashing of teachers?

    i'm not sure.

    but high schools don't even teach history past WWII.  

    imagine if we had stopped our history lessons at 1900?

    we are an ignorant bunch.  truly ignorant.

    Donate to Occupy Wall Street here: http://nycga.cc/donate/

    by BlueDragon on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 06:44:52 AM PST

    •  not true (0+ / 0-)

      high schools may not get up to the full present in American history, but usually get at least to Reagan Revolution, and often through Clinton.  Problem is that in states with statewide tests the amount of material that needs to be covered is simply too much.

      I graduated from hs in '63.  I took regular US history in 11th and AP in 12th.  Neither time did we get past 1st Eisenhower administration.  Interesting to note that we have more than an additional half century of history from 1956, and almost a half century from 1963.   We cannot cover all we learned and still leave time and room for important things since -  Great Society, Reagan "revolution", Vietnam War, Watergate, etc. etc. etc.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 06:57:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  augh! obligatory Grammar Nazi comment (0+ / 0-)

    "Teaching proscribed curriculum vs Encouraging risk-taking"

    lege recte: Teaching prescribed curriculum....

    "Proscribed" means "forbidden."

    p.s. about the "Grammar Nazi" metaphor: In WWII Finland, the Nazis were the good guys, under the general principle,"Finland is weird." There were even a couple of Jewish officers who were offered German combat medals (they declined).

  •  And we get Arne Duncan and corporate schools. Ugh. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    Lessons of the value of great secular public education abound, Finland, the current DKOS diaries on Germany.

    The US gets posers like Duncan for Sec. of Education and gimmicks like "Race to the Top" and "No Child Left Behind" and treating education like a "business" and pushing corporate for profit schools.

    You just know the debates between Obama and Romney will be to see who can shill the corporate for profit "education" the most vs. shifting US resources from Obama Australian military bases and pointless games like "Race" and "No Child"  to US funding US schools and more teachers.

  •  Onneksi olkoon! Hyvää työtä with this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mariken, teacherken, NMRed, congenitalefty

    article. You have hit the nail on the head.  I have been promoting the Finnish way in education for some time now.  Last year I sent an article about Finnish education to the chairman of the education committee as well as other representatives and senators in my state (Michigan) with a letter asking them to take away from Finland what would work here. Only one replied.

    My grandparents came to America at the turn of the century from Finland. I have relatives in Finland that I regularly converse with. They're beginning to wonder what the heck is going on over here.

    Liberal (from Webster's Dictionary): tolerant of views differing from one's own; broad-minded

    by 50sbaby on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 08:25:12 AM PST

  •  Finland was also the first country (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Randtntx, BeeDeeS

    To make internet access a basic civil right.

    It happens that my boss and several colleagues are Finns and I'm Shanghainese, so we have had some interesting discussions regarding educational systems and traditions, as well as needs (for example, one reason Asians cram is to attain basic literacy in a written language that requires a fair amount of rote memorization).

    What we seem to have in common is the functional need to be multilingual, a tradition of scholarship (teachers are held in high regard in both cultures) and a belief in the value of higher education as a key to success in life. The major difference Finns have is, I think, a more advanced and holistic approach, but Shanghai is one place in China where there is now a greater focus on promoting socialization and independent reasoning, and greater choice of elective subject studies.

    The philosophy of education is important to me as the parent of a 4 year old in her first year of kindergarten.

    My little student contemplates change:

    Photobucket

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 10:47:50 AM PST

  •  This country has had education (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Randtntx

    ass backward for 30 years, at least.  Localities siphon off money from schools, pay teachers poorly, allow school infrastructure to rot, fail to keep up with with technological advances (how many schools don't have computers or have old machines), and blame teachers for everything.   On top of that, they think the solution is testing and private/charter schools.

    We fail to look back to the golden age of education when we had a good system during the 50s and 60s.  The parents of the baby boomers demanded excellent education for their children.  Schools were built, teaching was a well paid and highly respected profession, and many children went to college (we highly subsidized state universities then, too).  

    Since then the Taxes Are Bad crowd have had their way.  Parents of baby boomers cried for tax relief after they had used the system to educate their children.  Teachers started to be treated as "employees" rather than highly trained professionals so it was easy to fail to keep salaries and benefits up and stop listening to professional opinions.

    On top of that, the end to discrimination against women which had forced the best and brightest into teaching and nursing when they were essentially prevented from other career choices, left teaching with lesser qualified applicants.

    In addition, the since Reagan, most mothers have been forced into the workforce for economic reasons.  This has left a generation of latch key children with little oversight of homework and school activities.  

    Teachers themselves have been blamed for the ill effects which have been out of their control.  Now, the profit motive from private schools that are all too anxious to take tax dollars (along with the ability to "buy" the necessary legislation in our Pay to Play political system) which has added those voices to the demeaning of our public school system.

    We need to spend more on our educational system (including state universities and technical colleges), fix crumbling schools, ensure that our schools have all of the equipment, books, and supplies that they need, ensure that teaching attracts the best and brightest by improving salaries, benefits, and community respect, and stop "teaching to the test".  

    That will only happen, as it did in the 50s and 60s, when people value their childrens education more than lower tax rates.  It needs to be viewed as investing in the future.

    There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

    by Puddytat on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 11:04:37 AM PST

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