I just read, what I’d hoped would be an interesting article on how successful Finland’s school system has been, called “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success”, but having read it, I find that it might have been better entitled “What American journalists can score political points with while Ignoring what’s made Finland's Schools Successful”.
What I found most interesting, is that the author of the article, and the Finn contact, relentlessly present the 'secret' of Finland’s success in Education, as having to do with issues which have nothing whatsoever to do with how they actually go about Educating their children.
Why would an article on educational success... not discuss what makes their system of education so successful? Interesting, isn't it?
The contact, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility, apparently taught mathematics and physics in a junior high school in Helsinki; but do we get to learn how he went about teaching those ‘notoriously difficult’ subjects to his students? Nyah. Apparently that’s just not pertinent to an article on another system of education.
What they did find to be pertinent, was going on and on about how there are no private schools in all of Finland,
“There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.”,Practically? I wonder what that means? Keep wondering, because they ain't gonna tell ya. And,
“None is allowed to charge tuition fees. ” and “In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same.” And “More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.”All the options are all the same… say that sounds great, doesn’t it? And more ‘equity’ too! Btw, ‘equity’ in this context, probably means even more of that ‘spreading the wealth around’ that we Americans have found so swell lately, but why would a journalist who is interested in communicating truth and understanding bother with making sure that their readers understand what is truly going on?
Why do you suppose an article on education, would be so concerned about issues of politics?
Apparently this fine journalist, Anu Partanen, who btw is writing a book about "what America can learn from Nordic societies", along with her editors at Atlantic Monthly, could find no reason to point out that if no tuition fees are allowed to be charged, and all classes teach the very same thing throughout the nation, then that must mean that the Finnish government has apparently dictated that no one will be permitted, by law, to teach what they might see as being important for their children to learn… nope… no issue there, fuhgeddabout dat 'liberty' stuff, we've got 'equity' for you, nothing to see here dear reader, just move along. Now.
Instead, they find it much more useful to point out that their schools aren’t in competition with each other – hey would a journalist find it interesting to point out who it that set up the system of American schools and specifically sought to foster competition and rivalry between them, especially in high school? Oops, sorry, that could be dicey stuff for a leftie rag like the Atlantic to delve into. Instead, the article describes how the political delivery system of education is organized and publicly funded, and it also mentions, repeatedly, the lofty ideals that led them to that ‘equality for all’.
And that is nice and all, but strangely, for an article on a new and exciting educational system, it tells us very nearly nothing about what happens inside their classrooms… which is after all the ‘product’ being delivered.
Why do you suppose they neglected that? Hey, you don't suppose that one of the things that Anu thinks that we Americans can learn from Nordic societies, is socialism, do ya? Ya think?
When they do get around to mentioning issues which do have a direct relation to how the Finnish‘deliver’ Education in the classrooms, they are only mentioned because the Finnish Do Not engage in them: endless testing, assessments, teacher accountability, and they are mentioned almost in passing, humorously even, as a way to chide their American counterparts. Sahlberg says,
"Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students' performance if you don't test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?"The article doesn't bother to mention that those very features; testing, assessment, homework, production line like delivery and competition for grades, etc, were the signature innovations brought to our modern American 'system' of education by our founding proregressive leftists, such as John Dewey & Co. Nope, nothing useful in learning that, I suppose.
Amazingly the article gives barely a few sentences to what the Finnish actually do, do in their classrooms. One sentence tells us that,
" Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. "Which is intriguing to me, how is it, do you suppose, that they so successfully engage their students, and in creative play at that? I for one would really like to know. But… apparently it’s just enough for us to know that they do, not how they do. And for what is probably the most significant issue of all, that the Teacher is the one who personally design's a test for each one of their individual students, they go all out and give us two sentences,
“Instead, the public school system's teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher.”THAT seems to indicate that the Teacher is in charge of teaching their own classes, rather than following a top down, turn by turn, compendium of policy instructions on exactly what to teach and how to teach it – which is an utter and absolute refutation of the entire formulation of the modern American educational model in general, and Obama & Arne Duncan’s model in particular!
I would love to know what sorts of materials they use in the classrooms to teach from, do they use textbooks? What type of content do they contain? How do the teachers utilize them? What sorts of ‘creative play’ do they engage in? How do the teachers go about putting together their lessons? Do they have particular academic goals for the semester? For the year? Do they even have semesters?
But alas, those questions were apparently not of any interest to the author of this article on the successes of the Finnish educational system. It really is a shame that this article on ‘education’ tells us so little about how the Finn’s actually go about educating their students… but, I guess when you’ve gotta choose between making a political statement, and stating the subject of your story, the choice is obvious – go with the political statement.
That certainly seems to be one of the lessons that journalists do manage to learn in their schools.