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Over the last twelve years, I've taught in a college preparatory alternative school run by the county office of education, a charter arts and business school which I helped to plan and found, and a second charter arts and business school before landing at my current post.  My career trajectory has been an intentional downward arc which has finally settled me into a place where I am working with the students who could not, or would not, be successful in other schools.

I like it here.  

The job is not without its difficulties and it isn't a place where many teachers would want to be because much of our time and energy is spent on matters that are not directly related to the inculcation of knowledge, skills and ideas.   Instead, the balance of our days are spent on management, discipline, coaching, cheerleading, comforting, counseling, and herding and if you've been following this blog for a while, you've probably noticed that these "non-teaching" roles are the ones to which I am the most attached.  Whether it be with Marvin, Donald, Serena, Sally, Roberto, Jorge, Laura, Walteror Jerry, the things that catch my attention are not curricular, but social because so much of what is wrong with our educational system is unrelated to the curriculum (though the curriculum blows, too).  Our educational system suffers from a social disease.

This was highlighted recently in a
Recent Wall Street Journal Article on Finnish Education which explored why Finnish schools are the best in the world even though:

High-school students here rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night. They have no school uniforms, no honor societies, no valedictorians, no tardy bells and no classes for the gifted. There is little standardized testing, few parents agonize over college and kids don't start school until age 7.

How, the article asks, can a system that discourages competition, offers no gifted classes, and puts few limits on student behavior be so amazingly successful?  

They don't pay their teachers more and they don't spend much more per capita on education than we do.

It must be because they're homogeneous.  The article tells us that:

Despite the apparent simplicity of Finnish education, it would be tough to replicate in the U.S. With a largely homogeneous population, teachers have few students who don't speak Finnish. In the U.S., about 8% of students are learning English, according to the Education Department. There are fewer disparities in education and income levels among Finns. Finland separates students for the last three years of high school based on grades; 53% go to high school and the rest enter vocational school. (All 15-year-old students took the PISA test.) Finland has a high-school dropout rate of about 4% -- or 10% at vocational schools -- compared with roughly 25% in the U.S., according to their respective education departments.

This is almost always the answer I hear when people start talking about why another country's schools are better than ours:  If we were all the same like they are, we would be able to be just as good.  It's the fact that we aren't all white or asian (yes, that's what they are saying, don't deny it) that is holding us back.

Bullshit.

What's holding us back is the fact that large parts of our country really do believe that competition, stratification, and limitations on freedom are a prescription for helping foster a learning environment.

What's holding us back is a dedicated and powerful minority in this country that believes that universal public education is a mistake.

What's holding us back is a nationwide shared delusion that tells us that education is merely a product of schools and teachers, absenting the rest of our society from any responsibility for what happens to other people's children.

What's holding us back is a belief that even our most provincial municipalities should wield near complete control over their schools' curriculum.

But mainly what is holding us back is the fact that our country is divided not just by race,religion and culture, but by class.  

Finland, being stupidly socialist, has little to offer in the way of income disparity and so also has little to offer in the way of bad neighborhoods, chronic social unrest, childhood malnutrition and obesity, obscenely high crime rates, or high concentrations of desperate people.

Finland also never refused to educate entire portions of its population because they were different and lesser.

Finland also never believed that separate could be equal.

Finland also never allowed it's cities and townships to control its most vital natural resource, thereby preventing provincial prejudice from derailing national interests.

Finland also decided to not let its people starve in the streets.

We have done it to ourselves and, at least here in California, we are going to make it worse with deep cuts in the very social programs that allow kids to come to school even marginally able to learn.  And then we're going to cut education even further.

And yet each day, 300,000 teachers go to work in this country.  We go to try and mitigate the damage, to try and scrape out another few success stories, to try and inspire kids to look beyond their cirucmstances, to try to make things a little more less-worse.

Originally posted to Eminently Credulant Musings on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:26 PM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives, Barriers and Bridges, and Community Spotlight.

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    Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

    by xajaxsingerx on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:26:01 PM PST

  •  This (72+ / 0-)

    "What's holding us back is a dedicated and powerful minority in this country that believes that universal public education is a mistake."

    When I saw that Santorum accused Pres Obama for being elitist for encouraging every student to get a college education, I wanted to strangle him. (Lil Ricky)

    After the Great Depression most people realized that with an educated populace, many of society's problems could be avoided....and the great push to educate everyone began. Education was recognized as the Great Equalizer...it afforded every person an opportunity at making a successful life, whatever that was to each person.  When the schools became integrated with, gasp, minorities, the enthusiasm diminished, and the white flight to private schools began. Now, corporations want the people just educated enough to be good workers, non-thinkers, non-planners, non-complainers. After all, dontyaknow, we have to have a populace that knows its place...and its place is to serve the rich elite....in all those service jobs that make the rich more comfortable and...elite.

    This whole world's wild at heart and weird on top....Lula

    by anninla on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:59:00 PM PST

  •  Informative. I'm sorry I can't (17+ / 0-)

    cogently comment on the troubles in today's schools.

    I'm older and when I was in school it seemed to me we were getting a good education, and perhaps it was because, at that time, we more homogeneous than we are now.  1940's and 50's.  

    No one was really rich where I went to school, but we had some kids who were poor and I recall that they seemed to have  more problems.  I didn't think about it much as a child, except that I was friends with some of them and visited their homes...where I quickly learned how well off I was...even tho we lived in a one BR duplex and my parents often struggled.

    I respect teachers and what they do.  several of mine inspired me to expand my mind and to reach for things that I might have otherwise thought to be out of my grasp.

    The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." Mark Twain

    by Persiflage on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:59:27 PM PST

  •  WSJ wrong on homogeneity (81+ / 0-)

    Pasi Sahlberg writes in Finnish Lessons, which I reviewed here, notes the following points

    1.  Finland has three national languages, including Swedish and Sami -  a chunk of their students are instructed primarily in Swedish

    2.  The three most common minority ethnic/language groups are Estonian, Russian and Somali -  note the last

    Further, Sahlberg points out that most of what Finland is doing comes from the work of North American writers/thinkers on education, including John Dewey.

    There is a LOT we can learn from Finland, if only we were willing to be serious about it.

    "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 Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:10:58 PM PST

    •  Dewey and the Russians... (25+ / 0-)

      like Leontev and Vygotsky are, I believe, where we will find the answer to much of what ails us in American Public Education.  I spent the first nine years of my career in constructivist, project-based, environments and, although the implementation was far from perfect and the results oftentimes far from laudible, the long-term success of those students has outpaced the long-term successes of my equivalent students from more traditional schools.

      Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

      by xajaxsingerx on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:24:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Former education prof here (37+ / 0-)

        and I agree completely on Dewey and Vygotsky (perhaps the only good thing to come out of soviet communism).

        However, there's something else going on in Finland, and in most of western Europe, that is different from the way we do things here (no, I'm not teacher bashing here. I'm education school bashing).

        To wit: they demand that teacher education be rigorous. You basically aren't allowed to teach even 1st grade in Finland until you know how to conduct educational research in those classes. Beginning European teachers have the equivalent of what would pass for a master's degree here. There, teachers are highly respected members of society.

        Here, it sometimes seems that we allow people into "education" classes (which I used to teach) if they can sign their names. Although the teachers who last tend to overcome it (if you want to learn something, teach it), they usually start at a much, much lower educational level than their counterparts in Europe and in virtually every other subject area here. That isn't their fault. It's ours, in the university system and in our society, which simply does not value education. We say we do, but we don't.

        I've been out of the game for a long time, so I don't know what it's like now, but years ago in California we had what was called a "fifth year" program for student teachers. You had to have a bachelor's degree in some content area before you were even allowed to sign up for teacher education. We wouldn't let experienced teachers from other states (except, sometimes, New York) to teach in California without taking at least some of our courses. I had no idea there was such as thing as an "education major" until I shipped out to an eastern state to start work on my advanced degrees.

        Teachers perform miracles every day in this country. The least we could do is see to it that they are better prepared.

        I hope this little rant doesn't offend anyone. It's the result of my experience.

        Enjoy the San Diego Zoo's panda cam!

        by Fonsia on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 11:28:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Caveat: (24+ / 0-)

          Well shoot, my comment looks like it's bashing my poor long-suffering former colleagues in the ed depts.

          Not their fault either. They are heroic.

          But they are kept in the basement and treated like the poor relatives from the wrong side of the track by their universities, their state legislatures, and the public.

          As I said, we do not value education in this country. We say we do but we don't.

          And that's the real cause of the problem(s).

          Enjoy the San Diego Zoo's panda cam!

          by Fonsia on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 12:47:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Your experience mirrors mine (18+ / 0-)
            That isn't their fault. It's ours, in the university system and in our society, which simply does not value education. We say we do, but we don't.

            I wish I could rec this many times.

            I used to teach in a College English Dept. My courses were required for prospective high school English teachers, and everything you said (from both posts) rings true to me.

            I now teach high school English myself (although in a private school). I try to find time for collaborative work, but mostly rely on Socratic seminars to foster deeper discussions. I pepper in a few traditional lectures when necessary, but I find the balance can be tricky to maintain at times.  

            •  One of my college roommates (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Focusmarker

              Was an education major at a formerly-respectable teacher's college. I was stunned at the crap she was taught was "important" for teaching.

              Really, I understand that laminating your materials so they can be re-used is a helpful way to save money over the long haul, but it isn't a critical element of what an ed student should be learning. It was 25% of her grade in one class. If the lamination had air bubbles, she either had to remake the item, or take a poor grade.

              Helpful money-saving tips & techniques are NOT rubrics! They have nothing to do with ensuring these students will be able to teach their students effectively in the future.

              That's not the only example of inane "education" teaching, it's just the one that really stuck in my craw. This very capable young woman was being forced to pointlessly re-do materials that met the intended educational purpose, when she (and the rest of her classmates) could have been learning additional ways to teach students. But if she wanted to keep her GPA up to the level required by her scholarship, she had to redo them.

        •  What you describe is like the (6+ / 0-)

          University of Chicago's MAT program. It took two years but about half that time you were in a classroom, at first as an observer with a master teacher.

          One of the best books on education was/is Charles Silberman's "Crisis in the Classroom, The Remaking of American EducationYou can apparently get it on eGoogle books but I know nothing of their service.

          From a brief review that didn't cover it too well:

          The way for a teacher to cultivate a good self-concept in a child is through the application and continuous flow of encouragement. Praise focuses on the person, yet on the other hand, encouragement focuses on the act itself and on what the individual achieved. Part of developing self-esteem has to do with the manner in which the teacher handles misbehavior. If disruptive behavior is handled gently and positively (employing punitive measures as a last resort), the discouraged student will understandmore clearly that he isn’t bad, yet what he did is unacceptable. This type of treatment from teachers will guard against a poor self-concept.

          An important responsibility of American schools is in creating and maintaining a humane atmosphere. According to Silberman, there must be mutual respect between students and teachers. Not only must the student recognize teacher’s qualities as being a person only human, teachers must realize students’ individual qualities and rights also. As the saying goes, “Kids are people too” and should be treated as such -- intelligent individuals capable of responsibility, freedom within limits, and human emotions.
          Teachers and administrators are often unable to distinguish between “authority” and “power.” Thus, many students aren’t permitted to be respectfully honest with teachers and those in authority, as teachers view such openness as disrespect. Those teachers who elicit truthfulness about feelings in the classroom are viewed by most authoritarians as permissive.

          The reviewer doesn't mention Silberman's recommendation; ignore/disband the teachers education programs and start afresh. I think he said put it in the Humanities School.

          Sad that we are still talking about the very same things. His book was published in 1971 if I recall correctly.

          I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

          by samddobermann on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:33:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, that kind of thing provided lots of (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bmcphail, radical simplicity

            ammunition to the right-wingers to attack the educational system and move it in the opposite direction--the whole "self-esteem" movement that was so roundly disparaged.

            Even though, obviously, treating students with respect ought to be a given. I haven't read that (although I may have encountered it somewhere in my studies). I will say that it isn't all that terrible to discipline students as long as you don't demean them. Children actually want guidance from their parents and teachers.

            I will also say that in a more open classroom, where learning is happening, you will have two things: lots of noise, and no real discipline problems.

            Eliot Wigginton's work, which draws strongly on the aforementioned Dewey and Vygotsky (experiential, practical, hands-on group work) deserves far more attention, I think. He created the Foxfire program. His book, Sometimes a Shining Moment ought to be required for all school board members before they're allowed to attend their first meeting.

            (Although Wiggington himself was convicted of child abuse--just before I was scheduled to take a class from him. Still, his work stands.)

            Enjoy the San Diego Zoo's panda cam!

            by Fonsia on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 11:27:57 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  What about culture? (10+ / 0-)

          As you note, our society does not value education.   I wonder to what extent are out problems the result of the rampant anti-intellectualism in American culture. If students come in the door thinking the learning is stupid that's got to make things a lot harder.   I wonder if the issue is that our education system would work just fine, except that the problem is that we are trying to teach Americans.

          Since there are a zillion experienced teachers on this thread, I am curious what you think.   Ive taught at the university level but that's an unrepresentative sample

          •  The anti-intellectualism is kinda what I mean by (5+ / 0-)

            "we don't value education."

            That comes from the parents. Any teacher out there in the trenches will tell you that dealing with parents is the worst part of the job.

            Parents have an enormous influence on their kiddies. What the parents value, their children will value. When parents read, their kids read. When parents scoff at education and don't have books in the house, the kids develop the same attitude.

            Great teachers absolutely can overcome negative influences from parents. That takes time, however, and it takes the ability to innovate in the classroom (think Dewey and Vygotsky again). Our "educational reforms" don't allow teachers to do much of that.

            I was supervising student teachers in Massachusetts when their "reforms" kicked in. In a great little school, they forced all the teachers to take the learning centers out of their classrooms and switch to a steady diet of skill, drill and kill.

            After a few more years of that I left the business. So did my neighbor, a fantastic teacher for many decades. She retired early because she wasn't allowed to teach anymore.

            In Europe, yes, there's a whole different attitude. There they revere education. I'm not too crazy about their tracking systems, but for the most part, it's far better than here, and it's mostly free, too. No student loans to cripple college grads.

            Enjoy the San Diego Zoo's panda cam!

            by Fonsia on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 11:14:31 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  On Swedish and Finnish (6+ / 0-)

        Keep in mind that Swedish and Finnish have no common language tree. 5% of all Finns are ethnic Swedes; culture and ethnicity.

        Finns all learn at least 2 (not always Sami, depends on the area) and then, they must choose a 3rd. Most commonly chosen are French, Russian, English and Hungarian (Hungarian is closely related to Finnish). My family spoke Hungarian and Finnish (Karelian finnish).

        Finns are predominantly Lutheran. 95% of the population is Lutheran and there is a state church. But they aren't over the top evangelical. They're also very vested in unions and most Finns who came to the states in the early 1900's like my grandfather, were trade-unionists.

        I love my Finnish ancestry (half Finnish here), but I wouldn't say Finns are homogeneous, they just tend to look that way to outsiders. Might I also mention, worldwide, there are about 5 million Finnish speakers. The entire country's school system is probably about the size Washington DC's school system.

        The US isn't Finland. We've made distinctly different choices, some good, some bad, but all in all, very different. Personally, I like that. Finnish family reunions for me are awkward and boring. Most everyone speaks in hushed tones, when they speak at all. It's horrible, really, really horrible.

        •  Well.. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          radical simplicity
          Keep in mind that Swedish and Finnish have no common language tree.

          On an aside: Finnish does have very many borrowed words from Swedish, though.

          5% of all Finns are ethnic Swedes; culture and ethnicity.

          That's a bit of a tricky subject (depends a lot on who you ask). Sociologically Finland-Swedes are a distinct ethnic group, but they don't all identify as such. In terms of nationality they're unequivocally Finnish, and proud of it. Their culture is a bit distinct from that of rikssvenskar, as they call Swedes-from-Sweden. A Swede who moves to Finland and gains citizenship is still considered a Swede, not a Finland-Swede. (Nor are Ålanders usually considered to be Finland-Swedes)

          English is really mandatory for most Finnish students. Swedish is de-facto optional for Finnish speakers these days, because it's no longer included on the matriculation exams.

          •  All good points (0+ / 0-)

            We still have family back in Viitasaari, but no one in school. They're all old, so my info is a little dated. On the Swede vs Finn thing, yep, there are borrowed words. But Finns are still very different from Scandinavians. Growing up, the swedes I knew told Finn jokes, cause all Finns were like the big oaf Olaf. We didn't hang out with the Swedish kids, not even at church (which I didn't go to for very long).

            It's funny looking back now. For a group of people who looked so similar and with a similar religious background, swedes were always off limits for us. Tribal prejudice runs deep, even after you emigrate from the homeland.

    •  it is easier to blame it on diversity than to (23+ / 0-)

      actually address the problems in US education.  We can thank a quarter century of winger radio for the misconception that diversity leads to losses in educational achievement

    •  Reminds me of Charlton Heston in Bowling4Columbine (7+ / 0-)

      When asked about America's gun violence, he cited more mixed ethnicity here than in other countries.  Maybe Murdoch and his underlings are of a similar mindset.

      There are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. -Thoreau

      by Frameshift on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:41:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's the mindset of the entire American right.. (10+ / 0-)

        Veiled racism, sometimes subconscious, and a very cartoonish view of the world. Bring up the successes of any Nordic social democracy, and you'll always end up with the blanket "But they're ethnically homogeneous" bulls--t, without any explanation of why that'd be relevant.

        Nor any explanation why the people in those countries don't feel that their ethnic homogeneity is the key to their success, or why there are so many homogeneous but unsuccessful countries, or successful heterogeneous ones. (e..g Albania is European, homogeneous and dirt-poor. Singapore is an Asian former-colony that's heterogeneous and quite well-off) Nor any rationale why Finland is doing better (in education terms) than Sweden or Norway, for that matter. Or why, if you compare them to US states with fairly homogeneous populations (say, Minnesota), most of the differences remain.

        Nor any explanation why nobody in US domestic politics is arguing for more ethnic segregation, then, to solve all these issues ostensibly caused by segregation.

        It's just a lazy, racist, catch-all. They're different, end of story.

        It's actually doubly racist, since it also builds on a stereotyped and incorrect view of the Nordic countries as some kind of Nazi's wet dream - full of blue-eyed tall blondes. They're in fact a lot more ethnically mixed these days than most Americans tend to think.

        Not to mention: Finland's actually a full-fledged bilingual country.

    •  Maybe, but most of the people (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GoGoGoEverton, MixedContent

      are approximately the same color, I'm sure that's what the  WSJ meant . . .

      •  Which of course (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, Andhakari

        has little to do with anything.

        "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

        by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:24:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You think? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GoGoGoEverton

          Did you happen to miss Rick Santorum's "Blah people" episode?

          Methinks that's pretty good evidence that in today's America, color still has everything to do with everything

          •  For some (0+ / 0-)

            yes.  But what I stated is that the pigmentation of one's skin has nothing to do with anything - as it pertains to education and the ability to be educated etc etc.  Not that there are people who believe it does.

            "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

            by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:06:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You have completely conflated two issues (0+ / 0-)

              on an individual level, it is (obviously, it really should go without saying) that the color of one's skin has nothing to do with one's ability to be educated.

              At a larger level, however, it has a whole lot to do with one's ability to be educated, insofar as society provides resources or does not provide resources, that are conducive to education based on the color of skin.

              Either that, or some aggregate groups of people simply are better or worse at education based on their skin color.  And I don't think anyone wants to go there, which very well might lead down a slipperly slope to silliness such as "white men can't jump"

        •  Really? Really? REALLY? REALLY? nt (0+ / 0-)

          Today, strive to be the person you want to be.

          by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:48:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Are you suggesting (0+ / 0-)

            that one's ability to learn is related to pigmentation of skin?

            I didn't think so... so yes - really.  Skin color has nothing to do with ability in education.

            "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

            by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:07:39 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I thought you were suggesting that (0+ / 0-)

              stark differences in the racial background of students would/could not affect the learning environment.

              If I was mistaken, my apologies for the emotional reaction.

              Today, strive to be the person you want to be.

              by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:36:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  The Samis are pretty dark skinned. (0+ / 0-)

        They do look different from Finns in the south.

        I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

        by samddobermann on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:41:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  ? (0+ / 0-)

          That is not my impression.  As I understand it the same are of the same ethnic family as the Finns Estonans Samoyed, and more distantly the Hungarians.   Can't say I've met many, but from photos and film (have you see Pathfinder, 1987?  All in Sami, and fabulous) it seems that they're close cousins.  Just a side note I suppose

          •  Ethnicity != language (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mindful Nature

            You're describing linguistic groups, not ethnic groups. New languages can wash over a community with only small intrusions in population.

            While language is a major component in ethnic self-identification, it has little to do with long term genetic trends.

            (You may or may be right with regards to the Saami in particular; I'm only addressing the broader point that expects genetic similarities in Finno-Ugric speakers that well could be absent)

            Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

            by Robobagpiper on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:54:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Definitely true (0+ / 0-)

              And well worth remembering.  That's part of what makes anthropology so damned awesome I think

              I wonder about the genetics.  However my understanding here is that all these groups migrated from central Asia in a series of waves for bear the Alta Mountains, first the Sami and Samoyed, then the Finns and Estonians (who settled further south around 1000BCE and then the Magyar (Hungarians).  Now it's been a while since I've looked at this, so my memory may indeed be faulty.  (oh and the reason why I know anything?  I am half Estonian, so it's my peeps)

              This being dailykos, there is certain to be an expert on human genetic studies of Eurasian migrations along any moment now!

              •  The languages migrated; not necessarily the (0+ / 0-)

                groups. If Britain is any guide, one notes that there have been surprisingly few changes to the island's genetics overall from the Neolithic, despite intrusions and linguistic overlay by Normans, Danes, Anglo-Saxons (why do the Jutes get no love?), Celts, and God who knows how many unremarked groups bearing new tongues before that.

                Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

                by Robobagpiper on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 10:30:33 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Dude! (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Robobagpiper

                  well, you made me do some actual research (well, it piqued my curiosity) and I did find a population genetics thesis from Spain looking at the genetics of these groups, and it seems that the general story from the archaeology that there were successive waves of migration from Asia is roughly born out  (see my other comment in the thread)  I suppose that actually the finding that the Saami have included more markers typical of Western Eurasia might be read as also consistent with a longer presence in the west (as opposed to the Magyar who were the last of the waves of migration, I believe (Remember Attilla?))

                  One of my favorite vignettes along these lines was from a woman in North Carolina (?) who knew she was mostly of Scottish ancestry.  When she sent in a sample to one of the projects like the Ancestry project it came back with a number of circumpolar markers (think eskimo).  The thought was that there had been Saami among the vikings who invaded, and then settled Scotland.  Just a hypothesis of course, but yet another interesting quirk for sure.

              •  Ah, Estonia... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Mindful Nature
          •  It's true though (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cville townie

            Although I wouldn't say so much darker-skinned as darker-haired, and with just some different features But they do look different. Finns also look different from Swedes, although that's more subtle.

            As Robobagpiper said, languages don't really say much about genetic relationships. Finnish isn't more closely related to Sami or Hungarian than English is to Greek or Russian. (and certainly you can tell the difference between someone who looks English and someone who looks Greek?)

            For instance, counting to four in Northern Sami, Finnish and Hungarian:

            okta, guokte, golbma, njeallje
            yksi, kaksi, kolme, neljä
            egy, kettö, három, négy

            In other words, they're vaguely reminiscent in the same way that Russian "odin, dva, tri" is reminiscent of "one, two, three". But they're not mutually intelligible languages, and quite distinct ethnicities.

          •  sami people look like all finns (0+ / 0-)

            Finns are 2 types generally.   The nordic tall blondes and the shorter dark haired slavic.  They each can be found in all regions save for say Turku theold capital which isquite swedish.  My husband has a sami name and he is a 6 foot 3 inch blonde hockey player.   Rene Zewelliger is a norwegian sami by one parent.  Finnish is from the same language group as hungarian and estonian..estonian is close, hungarian is not.

    •  Heh (0+ / 0-)

      It almost sounds like Sahlberg is saying that there is a LOT we can learn from ourselves if only we were willing to listen to us.

      "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

      by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:20:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The role of America as a pioneer in mass education (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      newfie, peregrine kate, roadbear

      and the importance of this contribution to civilization is ignored only by Americans.

      And it's ignored a LOT.

    •  They all speak Finnish and almost all speak (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood

      English, and the schools that are teaching in Swedish do so because ::surprise:: those communities speak Swedish (though they all will have working knowledge of Finnish, as well.)

      Your "three most common" stat is also skewed by not including Swedes and Sami's in those states, which ARE a minority in relation to the Finns.

      What do you think?

      Today, strive to be the person you want to be.

      by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:50:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  18 states in the US are more homogenous... (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux, Linda Wood, redlum jak, kurt, Chi, Matt Z

      ...than the population of Finland.  

      The so-called "homogeneity" argument used mostly by conservatives (and thus parroted by some others) is hardly more than a racist dog whistle.  

      Finland not only has the languages you mention, but there are many other varieties as well.  There are ultra rich.  There are the people who would be in poverty were it not for the safety net.  There are doctors, lawyers, professors, and CEOs, and there are also plumbers, car mechanics, and people who clean out septic tanks for a living.   There are Chrisitans (Orthodox, protestant, and others), Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and a bunch of Atheists.   There are sophisticated urban dwellers, and there are rural rednecks who drive pickups and shoot reindeer to eat.  

      This list of contrasts go on and on.  So I can't really think of how Finland is "homogenous."  Except one area: 90+ percent of them are white.  

      I completely disagree with the homogeneity argument.  Finland is not homogenous, is in fact more mixed than 18 US states.  

      It's just a sly way of saying "They don't have any of those people over there [wink, wink, nudge, nudge]...."    

    •  Finland's school are indeed excellent (3+ / 0-)

      And I happen to have a bunch of Finnish friends who are prime example of how good their schools are.  But I must say, these goofy suggestions for why Finnish schools work so well are wildly off the mark.  Based on my experience, the Finns are well-educated because:
      1) They live in a society where everyone who is anyone is well-educated.  Whether it is TV announcers, editorial writers, politicians, etc., NO ONE would last 5 seconds in public if they said stupid stuff like Wolf Blitzer or Rick Perry (and 10,000 other examples).
      2) In USA, I can walk into a room full of teachers who will spend considerable time defending ignorance.  Not long ago, I suggested to a bunch of teachers that perhaps Obama might not be so confused about world affairs if he actually knew that Auschwitz was in Poland.  I was met with, "C'mon, nobody knows that Auschwitz is in Poland."  When teachers don't know even the basics, why should their students know anything?  Finnish teachers at least have the decency to be embarrassed when they don't know something simple.
      3) The Finns may not waste a bunch of time doing a lot of standardized tests, but the tests they do give are KILLERS.  No multiple-guess.  And the one they must take to graduate from high school tests everything they were supposed to learn in their entire school experience.  Passing this test means you actually learned something and they have a whole society of such people.  BTW, I would bet serious money that a Harvard valedictorian could not pass the test a Finnish kid must pass to get out of high school.

      •  absolutely dead on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        techno

        A short story:  my husband spent a year in the US in high school.  Not surpisingly he was ahead in math and science.  And spoke 3 and 1/2 languages by 16 (finnish, swedish, english and fairly good german.  The kicker was:  he scored the highest grade in American history.

        •  My best friend in high school was from Finland (0+ / 0-)

          He could barely speak English when he first arrived but it only took a few seconds for me to realize he was educated to a level that even those of us in "advanced placement" classes could barely comprehend.  He was scary-smart and was easily the highlight of my senior year.  

          He is now a full professor nearing retirement at the University of Helsinki.  But what was so astonishing was when I finally got to visit him in Finland, judging by his friends, this guy was pretty normal—there were LOTS of folks that well informed.  And when it came to important subjects like Finland's relationship to Russia, cabdrivers and doormen knew FAR more about USSR than any USA Secretary of State in my lifetime.

  •  Thanks for this - I've been pushing the (18+ / 0-)

    "Finland Phenomenon" for over a year and I keep hearing that homogeneous, socialist argument too.  In the meantime, we keep dropping programs such as art, music, business, foreign language, band, home economics, shop, build a house etc... all those things which enriched student lives, or gave them usable skills and we push everyone into a college prep curriculum. And of course, we fail to acknowledge the socio-economic problems of the homes they come from and push them to perform on state tests as the end-all of their education.  If I were in charge..... things would be drastically different; alas, President Obama and Arni Duncan have not responded to my numerous emails and letters.

    "George Washington: "The power under the Constitution will always be in the people.... and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can, and undoubtedly will, be recalled." 1787

    by moose67 on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:14:26 PM PST

  •  But, there's the matter of Finnish grammar... (25+ / 0-)

    ...which has to be a terrible distraction, having 16 cases and all.

    The joke goes that the Finnish parliment spends 11 months of the year debating grammar, and for one month, at the end of the term, they all agree to speak Swedish and get all of their work done.

    Just kidding...

    This is a great and thoughtful diary.   Thanks for it.

  •  here is an example where a 16 year old evidently (6+ / 0-)

    bullied a Muslim student because of her headcovering but then hid her action behind the excuse that she observed the Muslim student did not rise for the Pledge of Allegiance.
     http://www.tampabay.com/...
    BS like this illustrates not only why our schools are not competitive but also why the US has a developing reputation as an international bully

  •  i agree in large part except (50+ / 0-)

    Finland is not a socialist country.  It is a parliamentary democracy which follow the social welfare school of public policy.  Its present ruling party is the social democrats.  They are fully capitalist economy in most areas! See for example Nokia.  But they put "the commons " as an equal right for all.  Hence universal health care. See free public education thru university.  Yes they are in large measure homogenous, though for example there has always been a swedish minority amd a small international pool.  But putting it down to homogeny is wrong.  

    Oh and they do pay teachers quite well. Teachers must have a masters degree and be paid accordingly.  Teachers also have substantial autonomy over teaching methods.

    It is not hard to understand.  It is a national committment to children.  They hire the best, pay them well, respect them.   They also emphasize the basics, do not rely on lazy standard testing, have very involved parents who have the time to be involved, and make education fun.

    And i know this as I am married to a Finn, lived there, taught in their university system for a while training international lawyers (could not practice there).

    So while some aspects of their social policy may be socialist, it is no more a socialist state than we are.

    •  yes... (5+ / 0-)

      You are right -- Finland is a social democracy and has a flourishing free market.  My point was more hyperbolic than actual.

      But Finland pays their teachers considerably less than we do.  

      Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

      by xajaxsingerx on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:38:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think reliance on (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tobendaro, kmbaya, gramofsam1, Chi

      standardized testing is due to laziness.  I think it is due to obsessively trying to prove or appear as better.  So much of our educational efforts go to trying to figure out how we compare to some other entity.  That somehow these comparisons are what help us be better.  And the longer and harder we chase it the further we seem to get from it.  

      "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

      by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:34:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Standardized tests are described so (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zett

        casually at Daily Kos. Teachers and students know what they consist of, but parents and community members really don't. So I don't know whether they're well designed or not. But I doubt the motive for them is to compare us with other countries. I think the motive is to see if our kids are learning to read and do math and to know basic vital information because there is some question about that. State colleges and universities are having to provide remedial reading and math courses for incoming students increasingly over the last 2 decades. And it is from that perspective in part that the demand for standardized testing has come, I think, along with parents noticing their children can't read easily by the 4th grade or can't do basic math by the 5th.

        •  You may find my description (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt, Chi, Linda Wood, zett

          as casual - I tend to do that.  But if you talk to educators you will find that we are in a period that is obsessed with comparative standardized testing that does little to aid students and is mostly aimed at meeting comparative levels in order to retain funding.  It is my personal belief that you can give students as many standardized tests that you want and what you end up knowing is which kids are good at taking standardized tests. And in the process of that pursuit you diminish the education process.

          I believe what you say has a grain of truth.  The original intent may well have been to provide some gauge in order to improve education.  Now - not so much but it is what many still believe.  Teachers (and students) that I know do not see it that way.

          If you really want to improve education levels in the places in the US where they are sub-standard then work on reducing poverty.

          "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

          by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 01:05:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I appreciate what you're saying, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            newfie

            especially about the tests themselves and the current motive for using them. I believe you, and I hear this from teachers and read it from them in places like Daily Kos and elsewhere consistently.

            At the same time, assessing where kids are with respect to their skills and understanding is logical and useful, if that's what's actually happening. No one seems to dispute the validity of tests that establish that there is an Achievement Gap. Yet, there is a complaint that testing is pointless in the drive to close that Gap. Maybe I'm misrepresenting the viewpoint of teachers when I say that.

            I do believe what teachers say, because I put nothing behind the power structure in this country, and I can believe testing is badly designed or insidiously designed to show whatever the power structure wants it to show. Even if the testing is just too often or too obtuse to prepare for, or both, I do believe it's questionable. But in principle it should be useful.

            •  I believe (0+ / 0-)

              that there are multiple factors that impact achievement gaps starting with poverty.  work to resolve the poverty problem and, I believe, you will set the table for handling achievement gaps.  The major problem is that the problem is a generational (or multi-generational) resolution.  We need to take steps now to see some improvement for the next future generation and perhaps not significantly until the generation after that.  Not only are we not prepared to look that far into the future but we have a body of people who adamantly opposed to the solution.

              "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

              by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:43:32 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I agree with you that we have a body (0+ / 0-)

                of people who are adamantly opposed to the solution. But I think the only part of the poverty solution puzzle that our schools can provide is an excellent education. I personally believe skillful classroom teaching, especially in the earliest grades, providing strong basic skills in reading and math, is the key puzzle piece that is missing in American education, and I believe it is the lynchpin to everything else the schools can provide.

                I think the solution to the Achievement Gap is in better reading and math instruction in the earliest grades, especially systematic direct instruction of phonics in reading and a return to the teaching of traditional skills in math.

                I have posted several times at Daily Kos that the self-directed and project-based teaching in the Finnish schools comes in the upper grades after a good foundation in the basics:

                http://www.ncee.org/....
                ... we hasten to add that self-directed problem- and project-based learning can easily turn into a poor substitute for deep mastery of the underlying subjects in the curriculum. When the student lacks a firm command of the nuances of the core subjects in the curriculum, project- and problem-based curricula often result in very shallow knowledge gained in the classroom. What makes it work in Finland is the fact that these pedagogies and learning methods rest on top of solid mastery of the core subjects in the curriculum, acquired by Finnish students in the lower grades...

                Finland has dedicated itself to many kinds of solutions to poverty and injustice, but they have had the consensus to do so because their children are equipped to confront challenges with tools that combine skill, knowledge and insight.

    •  You ought to publish this (0+ / 0-)

      comment in the WSJ comments on their article.

      Their readers need to hear this.

      I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

      by samddobermann on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:48:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Homogenaity actually IS a huge advantage (17+ / 0-)

    ..for the Fins. Most particularly, class homogenaity. The fact that they don't have half their kids coming to school hungry or from massively under-resourced homes makes a huge fucking difference. Which is another compliment to their system.

    And it's frankly untrue that second-language issues don't hugely challenge US teachers in the classroom, especially in my state.

    However, Finland would just pay to meet that challenge. They wouldn't put 35 kids of vastly different levels of English proficiency (and different first languages) with an already overwhelmed teacher. And they wouldn't call the teacher a failure if said students didn't get "x" score on a standardized test.

    If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people. --Tony Benn

    by rhetoricus on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:34:52 PM PST

  •  Sami? (0+ / 0-)

    Is that how you spell the name of the people formerly known as the "Laplanders"

    Do Sami kids beat up other Sami kids who are trying to study for "acting Finnish"?

  •  You know what they really mean? (18+ / 0-)

    Its not because it is easier to teach a homogenous group of children...lack of diversity means that the Finnish populace isn't running around screaming that some brown people are taking their hard earned tax dollars and wasting it on education.

    In other words, their lack of diversity is really people in the U.S. saying that Finnish people aren't bigoted assholes.  Or in other words, if the U.S. was all white, we would start really investing in education.

    :p

    #Occupy Wallstreet - Politicians will not support the movement until it is too big to fail.

    by Sychotic1 on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:49:11 PM PST

  •  the problem... (25+ / 0-)

    ... with not being Finland is that in the US, we are willing to tolerate children living in poverty.

    You said it well when you said that many believe that universal public education is a mistake -- implicitly, many believe that investing in all children is a waste.

    Thank you for working to prove those people wrong!

    Oh, and one quibble with the WSJ article -- they claim that teachers are not paid more in Finland. This NYT article provides statistics to show that relative to other college graduates, US teachers are much more poorly paid:

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    •  Yes indeed, there's really nothing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      newfie, congenitalefty, lam2b2g

      wrong with public education in the USA - that idea is straight from the RW frameshop.

      The problem is with poverty - heck, if a kid hasn't had breakfast and is really hungry, is he/she going to learn anything that day?  And if most days are like that . . . .

      •  I wouldn't go so far as say there is nothing wrong (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy, congenitalefty

        but I agree - we do not have a failed public education system.  That is a red herring.  The Right wing blames public education and then goes about setting up a course to destroy it.  Because it masks the true problem - poverty.

        "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

        by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:45:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, *that* was a bit of an overstatement (4+ / 0-)

          but the point remains that in areas with adequate median household incomes, public education is rarely awful.

          And places where it is often (or at least sometimes) spend as much $$s as the more privileged areas do, but the money is more or less wasted (because if a kid is from a hopeless fucked up family situation, 30 hours a week of school isn't going to change that, no matter what).  But it seems we more or less agree on that.

          •  Right. (0+ / 0-)

            I think because the money spent on schooling has a great deal less effect on the prevailing issues that impede education. I am afraid we won't get where we need to be in the US.  We have far too many willingly buying into the meme that public education is broken.  I have no idea whether inner city public schools are broken.  I don't think you can tell until you deal with the overriding issue of poverty.

            I say this because the meme is very ingrained. People where I live are insulated from what truly ails our students at risk. But still I can walk down this street and house after house, Dems and Rebs will repeat the same thing - our education system is broken.  Really?  It is only if you think that our public schools are solely responsible for creating poverty.

            "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

            by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:16:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  But if one were to start making a list, I'd (4+ / 0-)
      •  That's why Obama added (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ms Citizen, kurt

        breakfasts to the free school lunch program. And in some areas they have gotten grants to provide dinners!

        The kids weren't getting any at home.

        I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

        by samddobermann on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:55:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  when teachers.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linda Wood

        ... in suburban districts can earn $20-$30k per year more than teachers in high-poverty schools, and the turnover of teachers from year to year is twice or three times as high as in suburban districts, I do believe we have some symptoms of a problem. In many cases, teachers in high-poverty schools have a tougher job to do, but are paid less and don't get the quality of support from administrators that they need to do well.

        Many suburban districts provide high-quality education, and some urban districts do as well.... but in most urban districts, the drop-out rate alone is an indication of a significant problem.  We could make a significant dent in that problem by eliminating child poverty, but I don't believe we could solve the whole problem.

        There's a middle ground between the overwrought claim that our schools are broken and the argument that our schools cannot continue to improve because

      •  Nothing to eat (0+ / 0-)

        and either 90 F or 60F...

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 09:48:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  A sad commentary on US education (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spoc42

    is how many tellers  can't make change for a five even when the register tells them how much change is due.
    I see it more often than I care to.
    But here we teach to a test instead of teaching children how to think.
    It's one reason we have so many Americans whose ideas come from FoxNoise. They don't think.

    A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by MA Liberal on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 10:24:31 PM PST

    •  I have never seen that. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      decembersue, Chi

      Ever. I do not know what you are talking about, and I doubt whether this complaint has any significance or relevance to the debate about education, even if you HAD seen it.

      This is RW propaganda thinking. Take an anecdote, blow it up into a "story," claim that it is "everywhere," and then indict America. Why do you people hate America?

      Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

      by OregonOak on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 03:08:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Me either... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        decembersue, Chi

        ... and I live in the South.  The only time I've ever gotten the wrong change back it was an honest mistake on the part of the teller.  That was one time.  Once, in my entire thirty two years.  

        Keep your religion out of my government.

        by catwho on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 04:47:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Many people stumble (0+ / 0-)

        over simple math.  But if someone does it in a capacity that fits a preconceived notion then it is seized upon as support for their notion.

        "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

        by newfie on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:49:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I would add, making change is a specialized skill (0+ / 0-)

        It's something you have to do very quickly, very accurately, with lots of distractions around you, while guarding the money, and you have to get all the money in its slots and you have to be very adept with pulling out the most conventional combinations of cash.

        I can solve the heat equation for a spherical chicken, but even I had to learn how to be good at making change... on a hot, frenetic day working a snow-cone booth. It's a skill I use once every couple of years, and it's always a bit dusty when I have to start again. Any retail checker would clean my clock at it.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 09:54:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  so-called "competition" is destroying the USA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi

    but because of the "survival of the fittest" we stumble forward.  Darwin never said Survival of the fittest.  He was said to have said that' but he did not.

    80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP!

    by Churchill on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 11:19:58 PM PST

    •  Competition (11+ / 0-)

      I remember reading about a school board investigating why asiatic children were doing so much better than the white children in school.

      They discovered that the white children did their homework alone, struggling to understand, while the asiatic children did their homework together, the better ones helping those who were having problems with the problems and solutions.

      One of the school board, a white woman, exclaimed: "That's cheating!"

      Whereupon the mother of one of the asiatic children, who was supervising their homework, replied: "Funny, we call it cooperation."

      Says it all, really . . .

      FOSI: Full Of Shit Information - Both my sister and I are trivia freaks...

      by Spoc42 on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:46:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •   WW2 soldiers Fin & USA5-8, now Fins 6-1 USA 5-9 (3+ / 0-)

    80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP!

    by Churchill on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 11:23:22 PM PST

  •  that's how much better nutrition Fins have (3+ / 0-)

    80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP!

    by Churchill on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 11:23:41 PM PST

  •  Finish women now 5-9, USA men now 5-9 (4+ / 0-)

    better nutrition, better parenting.

    80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP!

    by Churchill on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 11:24:15 PM PST

    •  It's not veganism that's making them that tall (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Churchill, Chi

      you know....

      Today, strive to be the person you want to be.

      by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:52:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  All of the nordic countries are tall. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi, marsanges

      Iceland was the first place I've ever been where I could blend into a crowd.

    •  life expectany same as ours (0+ / 0-)

      I researched Finnish achievements for a conference presentation I did and found that their life expectancy is almost identical to ours. So I'm not sure their nutrition is that much better. But what they pay for health care is ever so much less!

      •  the life expectancy (0+ / 0-)

        Is a bit skewd by the high suicide rate in nordics due to the winter dark.  They eat much better.  Big breakfasts. Medium mid meal.  Lite at nite.  And do they love the outdoors.  Everyone walks, bikes, skates.  My husband used to ski to school.  His army service (mandatory as a general rule) was skiing the russian border.

        He gained weight living in US.  I lost it living there.

        More than that they believe in exercising the mind and the soul as well.  Hence, sauna

  •  The underlying vision that drives conservatives (13+ / 0-)

    in America is that they look at our urban ghettos and point to black culture and say "that doesn't work, black culture doesn't work."

    They think they've proven some sort of point about black culture (and by association urban culture and liberal culture, etc) by impoverishing blacks (and/or latinos, take your pick) and then watching poverty unfold. But as anyone with the emotional intelligence of a 14 year old liberal could tell you, it's the poverty, not the color of the skin which is to blame (see any rural white impoverished area and the meth labs/teen pregnancy rates, etc). This is the underlying idea that fuels each of the GOP presidential candidates, the Tea Party, in fact all of modern conservative thought in America: that American exceptionalism is synonymous with white supremacy.

    They think the 20th Century proves America is the best, and they believe it was uniquely because whites ran the country. This is the subtext of every Glenn Beck speech and every Mitt Romney speech: that American white culture is the master-race and we need to get back to a time when they were solely in charge and everyone else had to blend in with their values or face irrelevance.

    They look at the banality of the American suburbs that they live in, and since it suits their banal intellects and their banal interests, they assume it must be a better model. And since they attribute the banality of those suburbs to the Ward Cleaver America they've mythologized into some sort of archetype of "white culture," this is what they envision as the only path forward. What the hell is "white culture" even supposed to be? I understand Italian-American culture or Irish-American culture, but "white culture?" They think they know.

    But really, it's the same thing it's always been: Aryanism. It's a masked form of Aryanism that accepts that genocide is a bummer at the dinner table. So the message is that it's the "culture" of white Christians that must be the model, since of course we can't genetically purge non-white non-Christian DNA. It's the culture. Black culture is their problem in their mind. Non-Christian culture is the problem in their mind. It's Aryanism, just a more sophisticated brand that is successfully marketing itself to modern Americans.

    America's fundamental failing in the early 21st Century is that it lacks the courage to call the new conservative movement what it really is post 911:

    It is an Aryan movement, first and foremost. I have no doubt they'll do whatever they can to mask this by using tokens or making other panders via individual minorities, but the underlying bedrock is that white Christian culture (as they define it, at their convenience) is the ONLY acceptable model for America.

    Education is just one sphere where we see white Americans fighting to make the schools their kids attend as white as possible.

    •  Good comment. (8+ / 0-)

      Funny how they exclude blacks from the neighborhoods for most of the 20th century and then refer to the suburbs as "white culture". lol

      A lot of blacks I know have nearly the same "culture" as southern white people. I work with a guy who is the descendant of southerners rather than the descendant of 20th century white immigrants like most others around Cleveland. We have a banter that we know very well. "If he comes over here again, I'll snatch him bald!" and such euphemisms we know. He tells me about his father making him get a willow switch for his own discipline and things like that. That's a southern thang, for sure. My gma used to threaten us the same way. He describes the menu plans at his family gatherings. It's the same stuff that would be at a black family reunion.

      Divide and conquer. Makes us believe we're different from each other and keep us divided. Call poor people a "culture" and blame them for their own poverty.

      Blacks and Latinos, something's always wrong with our "culture", isn't it? Anybody with African blood is tainted in the eyes of bigots and that word "culture" is just another way of saying "n*gger".

      The world is a trip.

      "It's not enough to acknowledge privilege. You have to resist." -soothsayer

      by GenXangster on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:47:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even Evanston, Wyoming had one (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linda Wood, GenXangster

        We used to have "Japantown" or "Chinatown".

        These weren't set up so we would know where the good dim sum was.  Asians had to live there and couldn't live near whites.

        And we sent Chinese-Americans to die planting explosive charges to build the transcontinental railroad and we sent Japanese-Americans to concentration camps.  And our cops don't care when Koreans' grocery stores are robbed.

        Now, Asian-Americans have higher test score than whites.

  •  So 8% of US students study English (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linda Wood, samddobermann

    And better than 50% of Finnish students study English.

    That must be it.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 02:17:18 AM PST

  •  The interesting bit (12+ / 0-)

    was the split that occurs in high school. 53% on an academic track and 47% on a vocational track. IMHO we needway more vocational training, and respect for 'the trades' in this county and a lot less kids saddling themselves with meaningless debt to get degrees that arent making them more employable.

    Newt Gingrich: Believes marriage is between one man and a series of ever younger women. Wife #1 born ~ 1936, divorced when in her mid-40s...Wife #2 born ~1947, divorced when in her mid-40s...Wife #3 born ~1966.

    by trillian on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 02:22:13 AM PST

    •  Exactly (6+ / 0-)

      You can't outsource plumbing, you can't outsource your mechanic.  My nephew is a car fanatic, went to trade school, and had shops competing for him when he graduated.  19, and doing very very well.

      •  Good for him (6+ / 0-)

        sounds like he is much better off making a living at what he enjoys than incurring 40 k in debt and being forced to write papers on Anna Karenina just to wind up with a generic degree.

        We will seve such kids well if in addition to their vocational training they have had some basic business and  business
        law classes, business accounting classes and computer classes. How to read a basic contract for home purchase, car purchase, credit card etc should be taught.

        Newt Gingrich: Believes marriage is between one man and a series of ever younger women. Wife #1 born ~ 1936, divorced when in her mid-40s...Wife #2 born ~1947, divorced when in her mid-40s...Wife #3 born ~1966.

        by trillian on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:26:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  absolutely true. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      congenitalefty, highacidity

      We used to have vocational training in high schools and if we are ever going to bring it back, we are going to have to tear down the massive bulwark the for-profit-career-destroyers have built up against it.  

      Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

      by xajaxsingerx on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:26:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It works (8+ / 0-)

      Here in Switzerland, vocational training and apprenticeships are the norm. Both my cousins went through apprenticeships (cook and pharmacist), and at the end had a diploma, training in their respective careers, practical experience on the job, plus a general business education in running a business. Their foster brother also went through an apprenticeship as tiler, continued his education, and is now a master tiler, allowed to train others in the career.

      I believe that various countries (specifically USA and UK) could benefit from instituting such systems. Apprenticeship diplomas are considered as equivalent to degrees, with practical experience.

      FOSI: Full Of Shit Information - Both my sister and I are trivia freaks...

      by Spoc42 on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:49:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I live in Norway (11+ / 0-)

      and nearly everyone is a certified professional at something, be it secretarial work, plumbing or doctoring. And everyone earns a pretty good living wage, with benefits an American executive would die for.
      And no one is losing the farm to the bankers because health care, education and retirement is already taken care of. What you make after taxes just goes to making your life a little cozier, not to keep the wolves from the door.

      "As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities." ~ Voltaire

      by Andhakari on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:09:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Norway's a bad example, with its oil wealth, (0+ / 0-)

        mind you.  :)

        •  Not so. (0+ / 0-)

          Norway invests all of its State controlled oil money for the future - much of it in the US. You point is mis-aimed.

          "As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities." ~ Voltaire

          by Andhakari on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 12:53:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not really. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling

            Norway spends 4% of its sovereign wealth fund every year (due to the handlingsregelen).  At ~$550b, that'd be $22B. For 4,6 million people, that's $5k per person per year.  And they've actually been spending more than 4% recently due to the economic crisis, although they plan to go back to it.  Beyond that, the oil industry provides a huge employment and salary edge.  As of 2010, Norway was #4 in the world, at $51.959 per capita.  Compare to Sweden (#15) at $38.204, Denmark (#17) at $36.443, Finland (#22) at $34.918, and Iceland (#16) at $36.730.

            I assume you realize that's not a coincidence.  The reality is that Norway is a wealthy nation due to its oil.

            •  The US is a wealthy nation. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              too many people, Andhakari

              But the wealth is not in the hands of the people. It's how you USE that wealth that matters.

              "The Democrats are the lesser evil and that has to count for something. Good and evil aren't binary states. All of us are both good and evil. Being less evil is the trajectory of morality." --SC

              by tb92 on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 03:50:39 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not disputing that :) (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                elfling

                And the US isn't as wealthy as Norway, but more than the other Nordic countries.  But yeah, you don't have to tell me that.  I'm taking a salary cut in order to move to Iceland.  :)

                •  Oil is not the only form of wealth. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Linda Wood

                  Norway has little in the way of agricultural resources (3% arable) and every transportation project is expensive. For 500 years it was under the thumb of Denmark and Sweden. The suggestion that Norway can only do what i does because it gains some small percentage of immediate benefit from it's oil business is stretching what you actually know.
                  America gives its wealth to speculators. Other countries exploit their human and natural wealth for the benefit of a very few. Britain sucks wealth out of the financial markets, and feeds its class warfare with the proceeds. Iceland sought to get rich with a giant Ponzi scheme and is struggling to get it's own back.
                  But Norway has invested what it has for its people and its future and it is wealthy because of that, and that is the lesson the rest of the world could learn something from. Throwing out 'it's got oil money' as a logic bomb doesn't enhance the conversation.

                  "As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities." ~ Voltaire

                  by Andhakari on Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 12:01:33 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Of course oil is not the only form of wealth. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Linda Wood

                    But if my home just happened to be sitting on a massive near-surface deposit of gold nuggets, would you really tell me, "Gold is not the only form of wealth"?  The reality is that Norway is unusually gifted in terms of the readily extractable value of its natural resources.  All countries are not created equal in terms of readily commercializeable natural resources per capita.

                    Oil isn't the reason for the relatively equitable distribution of wealth, of course.  :)  As many middle eastern nations prove by counterexample, where there is likewise huge oil income but still large poor populations (with an absurdly wealthy leadership).

    •  Ya think if the Newt looses (0+ / 0-)

      this he will cut her loose by 2016? Or keep her around for another run? There are always young intense campaign workers around..........

      Be a shame to break a pattern. Maybe he will change to Orthodox Judaism. Men can get divorces fairly easily but a wife can't get a divorce without her husbands permission.  He probably will be needing a nurse and will want to keep her around.

      I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

      by samddobermann on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 10:58:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My mother is Finnish (28+ / 0-)

    My cousins still live there.  We have daughters the same age.  My daughter was born with a heart defect, my cousin's daughter was a twin, born early when her sister died in the womb.

    My cousin got two years off of work at full pay to care for her daughter, and a nurse visited her house three times a week for the first 6 months.

    I got the generous opportunity to take leave without pay while my daughter was having her heart operation, but had to be back at work a week later.  And then I was let go a few months later, in a TOTALLY UNRELATED THEY SWEAR work action.

    No, I'm not bitter.

    Oh wait, yes I am.

  •  I was in Sweden visiting relatives once (16+ / 0-)

    And my cousin and I started talking about education. I mentioned how a lot of parents in my area were upset with the educational system because the local school district had recently made a radical curriculum change, switching to a new program requiring very frequent standardized tests.

    Meanwhile, my Swedish cousin just nodded and said, "Oh, I know exactly what you mean. All the parents here are furious with the government. Do you know they're thinking of giving GRADES to children under 14?"

    •  Lol, that reminds me so much of Iceland. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raincrow

      The sort of stuff they complain about there is sometimes almost funny.  They think they have horrible crime rates, a horrible educational system, a horrible obesity problem, etc, and always complain about them when they're not even in the same ballpark as the US.

      But, IMHO, it's a good thing that nobody's content about the state of government affairs.  Almost everyone is politically active and there's an 85% voter turnout rate.

      •  Remember that Iceland has less than half (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        too many people

        the population of metropolitan Nashville. I couldn't conveniently find the number of voting-age Icelanders, so let's just say it's 50% -- that would be about 156,000 people.

        I can't prove it, but I would argue that it's a WHOLE lot easier to motivate 156,000 voting-age people to help determine the priorities of their 40,000 sq-mi nation than to do the same with 235 million voting-age people in a nation that covers 3.7 million sq-mi.

  •  I went to a good, very diverse school (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    samddobermann

    Our diversity was a strength, not a weakness.  The big difference was that all our students wanted to be there.  

    Keep your religion out of my government.

    by catwho on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 04:46:06 AM PST

  •  Just got back from Finland on Friday. (11+ / 0-)

    I'll be getting married there this August to my fiancee who is studying education with an emphasis on English. Once she has her master's degree she'll be teaching full time.

    Returning to the US from Finland is always hard, and not just because I have to leave my fiancee behind. The country is truly a great place to visit and to live. It isn't perfect, some things annoy me, but I have never once felt unsafe.

    I agree with you that the defense that the US isn't homogenous is utter bullshit. Especially when our diversity is so often held up as an example for other nations, that it is a positive thing. But then it is used as an excuse why we choose not to provide for each other?

    What a load of paska.

  •  Finland Finland Finland... (14+ / 0-)

    There was a diary just a week or so ago, and the usual.........Um....Ill try to behave.  

    SOME commenters said that it would be impossible to implement anything like that in the US. And some got quite snarky about it.

    Bottom line, either you care about all kids, or you don't.  
    Finland has gotten it more right than wrong.

    Fuddle Duddle--- Pierre Trudeau.... Canadian politics at......A Creative Revolution

    by pale cold on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:53:18 AM PST

  •  Yup. Every word. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GenXangster, leolabeth

    Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

    by expatjourno on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:30:30 AM PST

  •  Finland training children for Finland. USA trainin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linda Wood

    kids for the USA. In that respect, it's probably spot-on in terms of how they are taught, tested and dealt with. Pushing for more funding is the good fight and will lead to better education available to all, but it won't change the attitude or priorities of the lesson plans.

    Today, strive to be the person you want to be.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:54:09 AM PST

  •  25% dropout rate? Universal education is bad? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow

    I liked your diary, but some of these facts seem a bit curious to me.  The 25% dropout rate for example:

    Finland has a high-school dropout rate of about 4% -- or 10% at vocational schools -- compared with roughly 25% in the U.S., according to their respective education departments.
    I know that's the WSJ's stat, not yours, but according to the ed.gov website it was 8% in 2009.  I can scarcely imagine 1 in 4 members of my high school class dropping out.  

    Aside from that, I'm curious why you think universal education is bad.  

    What's holding us back is a dedicated and powerful minority in this country that believes that universal public education is a mistake.
     Do you think we should stick to strictly private education, or maybe that only the 'smart people' should go to high school?  It's an unusual statement, so I'm curious.

    "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." - Isaac Asimov

    by Aramis Wyler on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:25:07 AM PST

    •  I don't read that the way you do apparently (6+ / 0-)

      From what you've quoted, and the way I read the original post, it's the "dedicated and powerful minority" that "think universal education is bad."

      Your questions after the quote seem to reflect the opposite conclusions of what the OP has stated.

      The entire diary is a call for better universal education in the U. S., in part from what we can learn from the Finnish model.

      "It's not like lightning or earthquakes. We've got a bad thing made by men, and by God that's something we can change." John Steinbeck

      by Snarky McAngus on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:58:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  that rate is exaggerated (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tb92, AllisonInSeattle

      the dropout rate is usually based on 4 year completion of high school. Even some of the toughest schools in this country have a 80-90% completion rates over a 6 year period. There is a high school here in MN which has a 49% 4 year graduation rate has a 90+% 6 year rate (with 25% special ed!)

      I don't understand, for the life of me, why we have decided high school must be 4 years for rich kids AND 4 years for poor kids who have to work.

      High school services should be available for up to 6 years and students should track at the speed that makes sense for them.

      If we had less poverty, 4 years would be more realistic, but kids have even more school/state course requirements today than they did 30 years ago, so expecting the same 4 year time period to work seems silly to me.

    •  Considering that drop out rate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ms Citizen, AllisonInSeattle
      I can scarcely imagine 1 in 4 members of my high school class dropping out.  
      That was your high school class. It presumably counteracted data from schools that did much worse. Our urban district has been reporting a 56% non-completion rate.

      As to who thinks universal public education is a mistake, it is definitely NOT the diarist.

      from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

      by Catte Nappe on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 08:55:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Indeed, I know that my SW PA class (0+ / 0-)

        was very fortunate to have a 1% dropout rate - 3 out of 254 in class of '93 dropped out due to pregnancy.  3 more graduated in '94, but did not drop out.

        That's why I looked up the dropout rated in ed.gov, to preclude comments like that one.  It reported 8%.

        Though I suspect you're comparing a non-completion rate, which (here) includes people who don't complete in the recommended time but do continue to attend, to the dropout rate, which is people who actually drop out and stop attending.

        "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." - Isaac Asimov

        by Aramis Wyler on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 10:09:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Oh yeah! Teach! (0+ / 0-)

    you hit the nail right on the head, teacher!

    It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

    by sayitaintso on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 07:37:23 AM PST

  •  Finland does NOT have NCLB or Race ttTop (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mahakali overdrive

    Foolish, destructive, policies that advance the privatization and thought control of our schools.

  •  Finland has no private schools (0+ / 0-)

    that's why they do so well. They have emphasized equality in their schools and they don't allow anyone to opt out. It's pretty simple, really.

    •  They do, actually.. (0+ / 0-)

      But not very many (here's a list). I count 53 of them, equivalent to 1 per 100,000 people.

      Most of them have a specific profile, either being Christian schools, Waldorf schools, Swedish-speaking schools in areas without Swedish-speaking public schools, foreign language schools, etc.  

      So while they do have private schools, they're not really considered a substitute for the public school system as much as occupying a whole separate niche for people with particular religious, philosophical or lingual preferences.

  •  Whoa there! (0+ / 0-)
    What's holding us back is the fact that large parts of our country really do believe that competition, stratification, and limitations on freedom are a prescription for helping foster a learning environment.

    But...

    Finland separates students for the last three years of high school based on grades; 53% go to high school and the rest enter vocational school. (All 15-year-old students took the PISA test.)

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 08:30:04 AM PST

    •  There is a difference between (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood, Deep Harm

      choices in the last three years of high school and tracking in the US which begins in 2nd Grade.  I am a firm believer that students should have alternatives as they reach an age where they can practice self-determination.  My understanding, and I may be wrong about this, is that the PISA is not the sole determinant for placement.

      Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

      by xajaxsingerx on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 10:53:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  vocational schools are quite different (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aramis Wyler

      than here.  It leads to thr commercial.collleges (business, accounting)  or the tech schhols (nursing, computers) just not the liberal arts, engineering "yliopisto" which is the 6 year M.A.  the others are 2-4 years post HS

  •  You blame a "belief"?? The facts don't back up (0+ / 0-)

    your statement:

    What's holding us back is a dedicated and powerful minority in this country that believes that universal public education is a mistake.

    A belief is holding us back?  A belief?

    Yes, there are a lot of idiots who do believe that.

    But, fortunately, policy and practice in this country for the last several decades has not been based on that belief.  Communities around the country have contributed more and more tax revenues to education despite that minority belief.  The federal government has increased spending on public education.

    But.. you, as an educator, cannot believe your system is a failure.. so you must search for some factor to blame.. a belief by a minority that has not influenced funding or practice.

    If this is the kind of critical thinking you teach, I pity your poor students.
    .........
    And one more thing.. homogeneity doesn't necessarily mean "race".  Homogeneity can also refer to values and attitudes throughout the populace.  Personal values and attitudes toward eduction.

    Public policy requires a certain amount of homogeneity in political values and goals.  Even with the knuckledraggers who don't believe in public education, we have enough consensus in this country to fund education.

    What we do not have is the homogeneity of values in parents that see the importance of education.  Whatever the reason for that - poverty, racism, parents too busy for their kids, etc. etc. - there lies a big part of the problem.  Until that is resolved, no amount of money will fix our education problems.

    •  data? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xajaxsingerx, raincrow

      Do you have data to support the assertion you made that communities around the country have contributed more and more tax revenues to education?

      Because in California, that's not the case. Significant additional investments in class size reduction for early grades were made in the late 90s, but over the last decade, and especially since 2008, many of those additional investments have been rolled back.

      Source: A Decade of Disinvestment, report by the California Budget Project. (PDF)

      •  Thank you for responding... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raincrow

        I wasn't sure my critical thinking skills were up to it.

        Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

        by xajaxsingerx on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 04:42:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Even if budgets were stagnant (0+ / 0-)

        the diarist's contention is, well, stupid.

        Once again.. he/she said:

        What's holding us back is a dedicated and powerful minority in this country that believes that universal public education is a mistake.

        That belief has not affected public education budgets.  It is up to you to prove me wrong.  Show me where school budgets have declined significantly and have a coresponding affect on educational goals.

        •  It's absolutely affected public education budgets (0+ / 0-)

          California is a clear example. There was an opportunity to put a measure on the ballot last year that would give voters the option to raise taxes to restore funds cut from education. It required a 2/3 vote of the legislature to put it on the ballot. Republicans (afraid that it would pass because they can read the polls), who make up slightly more than 1/3 of the legislature, blocked it.

          And as a result, California has seriously talked about scaling back the mandatory minimum school year by 12 days, from 180 to 168. This year they're cutting home to school transportation funding, meaning rural districts may not have the money to get kids to school in the first place and still provide classroom services. Kids in one school in my county are in K/1 combined classes with 32 kids each.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 10:06:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good lord.. anectdotal local stories are (0+ / 0-)

            meaningless..

            Once again.  The diarist's contention was:

            What's holding us back is a dedicated and powerful minority in this country that believes that universal public education is a mistake.

            He/she talks of class but fails to correlate any national funding trends to performance.  It is simply bullshit.  There is no correlation.

            Even your example shows no correlation.  You assume cut backs in school year will have an affect, yet you cite no proof.

        •  I didn't disagree with you (0+ / 0-)

          on the assertion you made that the diarist's whole argument was unconvincing. That's a matter of judgment, not a matter of fact.

          I just asked you to back up the assertion you made that communities around the country have paid more and more in tax revenues to support education. That's a matter of fact. Maybe it's a fact in Maryland, but not in California. Do you have any data that documents that it is true in another state?

          If you want to concede that school budgets may have declined, but that has not had a corresponding effect on educational attainment, then that's a discussion we could have.

          But if you don't have data do back up your assertion of fact, and you're not willing to concede the point, then... I don't think it's worth continuing to exchange comments.

  •  My daughter spent time in Finland... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541, Deep Harm, raincrow, Linda Wood

    studying abroad for a semester in college. She is a Social Worker... she was so impressed by the compassion given toward the citizens. I wish we were more like them....I wish we valued ALL our people!

    Eric Cantor can kiss my big old Missouri butt!

    by cyncynical on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 10:12:37 AM PST

  •  Thank you for this diary and for saying, (0+ / 0-)
    so much of what is wrong with our educational system is unrelated to the curriculum (though the curriculum blows, too).

    The curriculum blows too.

    So this is something the schools can work on changing, right?

    http://www.ncee.org/....
    ... we hasten to add that self-directed problem- and project-based learning can easily turn into a poor substitute for deep mastery of the underlying subjects in the curriculum. When the student lacks a firm command of the nuances of the core subjects in the curriculum, project- and problem-based curricula often result in very shallow knowledge gained in the classroom. What makes it work in Finland is the fact that these pedagogies and learning methods rest on top of solid mastery of the core subjects in the curriculum, acquired by Finnish students in the lower grades...
    •  Yes. Especially elementary science (0+ / 0-)

      curriculum. It's very uneven across states.

      Better education for prospective elementary school teachers in how to teach math could probably be improved as well.

      In my (admittedly limited) experience, elementary school teachers seem generally well trained in how to teach reading and writing.

  •  I saw a recent article that compared (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deep Harm, raincrow, AllisonInSeattle

    Norway to Sweden. Statistically, almost identical. Education performance, Sweden kicks Norway's butt. Why? Norway has been implementing the market based BS they are trying here. Sweden has worked on a equitable educational system. The difference is providing a great education to everyone, not a system where the rich get what they can and screw the rest of you.

    You usually get what you paid for.

    by IowaMike on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 10:37:36 AM PST

  •  Finland succeeds because (5+ / 0-)

    People in Finland think Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers. How's a 10% admission rate to teaching programs sound? That's what they have (http://www.time.com/...). Teachers in Finland stay with their students for years; Finnish teachers are far better educated and generally far better qualified than their American counterparts.

    There are a great many issues with public education in the United States; I agree that many children live in environments that make it difficult for them to learn, but you can't blame the whole package on that. Our treatment of education as a packaged program that does not require an exceptional leader is a fundamental issue.

    That is the approach we have chosen. Is that because we refuse to consider the teaching profession in the same breath as we consider a doctor or an engineer? Possibly. What is clear is that a teacher in Finland is not the same as a teacher in the US.

    •  Did you happen to see Fareed Zakaria's (0+ / 0-)

      special on education this weekend? They looked at Finland and South Korea.

      The Finnish approach seemed much healthier to me and you can't argue with the results. They're No. 1 in math and No. 2 in science in the world (or vice versa).

      You're absolutely correct that much of it is the teachers, who in Finland are more often at the top of their class than the bottom. While the curriculum is national, teachers have complete flexibility in their classrooms. The classrooms they went into seemed so much more alive than ours. You can't have that vibrancy when you're teaching to the tests. Shortly after NCLB was implemented there was a noticeable change in my sons' schools, and long-time teachers were not happy because they were forced to teach to the test. In the younger one's elementary school, for instance, almost every class was reading and writing or math to the extent that they alternated science and social studies by quarters in order to fit it in.

      The program also touched on poverty and the fact that we have a far larger percentage of children living in poverty than Finland does. The many problems caused by poverty are the biggest reasons our schools are struggling.

  •  xajaxsingerx, what do you think of sending (0+ / 0-)

    47% of 10th graders to vocational schools in the US based upon grades (or standardized tests)  in the US as Finland does?

    Do you think that would be accepted in the US?  Would this be an improvement for the US?

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 12:55:26 PM PST

    •  Currently... (5+ / 0-)

      Where I teach, we are sending between 2% and 12% to 4-year colleges, 30+% to 2-year colleges and the rest to for-profits or directly out into the workforce.  

      The average drop-out rate for our local high schools is over 40%.  For us, having state-sponsored quality vocational programs would be a godsend and a lifesaver (literally).

      Right now in LA, to become a certified electrician you must either pay $20,000 for a for-profit education program or you must wait for a place at the singular Vocational/Technical Community College that serves the city where, if you get a space, you can get a more extensive program for $2,200.  One of our greatest problems is the fact that we have mostly privatized our vocational training which make it incredibly difficult for someone who is poor to establish themselves in the trades.

      Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

      by xajaxsingerx on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 03:41:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  see my presentation about Finland (0+ / 0-)

    It's actually about the United States and what careers will help us come back from recession. But I start out by comparing the U.S. to Finland and analyzing what Finland does right that makes it so successful. So check out the first 5 minutes or so of this presentation (video here).

    This is a presentation I gave at the 2010 Careers Conference at University of Wisconsin, where I was a featured speaker.

  •  Diversity is why we are better (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xajaxsingerx

    (or, at least, should be)

    Great Diary. I wish more people would say things like this:

    This is almost always the answer I hear when people start talking about why another country's schools are better than ours:  If we were all the same like they are, we would be able to be just as good.  It's the fact that we aren't all white or Asian (yes, that's what they are saying, don't deny it) that is holding us back.

    Bullshit.

    Diversity should be recognized as the strength of our schools, not the handicap. Yeah, it may be a bit easier to rigidly indoctrinate students if they all have the same point of view, but if you really want educated citizens, then the challenge of others' points of view is one of the best ways of getting there.

    Yeah, it's difficult to teach English at the same time as you're teaching "content," but you know, anybody who has ever learned another language to fluency can tell you how much it broadens one's thinking. And even if schools are not all bilingual, the challenge to one's thinking from the presence of other languages is uniquely productive.

    My point is that diversity has its challenges, but that meeting the challenges produces benefits unobtainable by other means, benefits that more than compensate for any inconveniences incurred in the process.

    Long before Finland, I was hoping we'd learn from Japan.  Japan's educational system is guided by "lesson study," in which all teachers get involved in doing educational research on their own students.  The system for organizing this research and harnessing its results is worthy of a series of diaries. However, this process is certainly one of the main reasons that their educational system was completely reformed in the decades (yes, decades) after World War II.  

    Of course, in order to implement such a system, there has to be respect for teachers, students, and the educational process.   Perhaps in Finland, as it is in Japan, this is the real advantage they have over us - not the supposed  homogeneity of the population.

    None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

    by Toddlerbob on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:57:32 PM PST

  •  It sounds like a joke, but paid vacation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linda Wood

    for working adults I think matters too.

    I'd seriously like to see the experiment: let's give one set of families 6 weeks of paid vacation time and the other the standard American schedule, and see how their kids' achievement varies.

    Universal healthcare, a decent safety net, and even just more of a sense of community, that 'we're all in this together' is so important.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 09:43:55 PM PST

  •  It's more than that.. (0+ / 0-)

    ....the current version of America embraces anarchy and deems any governmental function evil. This includes public schools. When I was raised, public schools were deemed very important and were, in fact, a national priority.

    The most important difference, however, is that the public schools in Finland teach. We babysit dysfunctional children of dysfunctional adults in a country where the self is more important than the children and where we make no sacrifices for a greater good.

    We are well and truly fucked.

  •  Competition does NOT foster learning (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ms Citizen

    That's a huge myth that too many people think is true. Cooperation is what fosters learning, in a relaxed, enjoyable environment where children can "play" at learning, using songs, dance, and other ways to learn.

    •  I'm not sure learning always has to be fun... (0+ / 0-)

      ... but too much competition against others, or too much stress, can definitely get in the way.

      What can help to foster learning is if a student competes against him or herself. The drive to improve on prior performance can stimulate intrinsic motivation.

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