Friday, April 29, 2016

"Where To Invade Next" Finland?

Unless you've continued to be super busy living under your rock for a good part of the last decade, you're probably aware that Finland has the best schools in the world, at least as measured by the standardized test that is used to rank such things. Now, you would think that the US policy-makers and corporate education dilettantes who place such a high value on standardized test scores that they are subjecting American students to hundreds of such tests over the course of their academic life would be seeking to emulate the Finns.

But no, instead of learning from them, the corporate-style "reformers" have created schools with longer days, more homework, more paperwork, more high stakes standardized testing, and a federally mandated standardized curriculum, all of which has, according to the New York Times, resulted in lower math scores and exactly zero improvement in other areas. They are failing, they know they are failing, and instead of looking around and seeking to learn from those who are succeeding, they are doubling-down on their vision of public schools as test score coal mines.

Why aren't we learning from the Finns? Probably because what the Finns are doing in their schools (i.e., basing education on science) doesn't match their neoliberal nose-to-the-grindstone narrative of how to make America great again: you know, the one where carrots and sticks and "grit" are the primary tools of the trade. And, probably even more importantly, outside private corporations aren't growing rich from Finland's methods. No, the children are just growing up smarter, healthier, and happier. How does anyone turn a greasy buck from that?

It's quite clear that our political and business leaders have no interest in actual education. The evidence could not be more clear that these so-called "reformers" are only about imposing their will upon our schools and banking money from the labor of our children. It doesn't make sense any other way.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has taken a look at Finnish schools as part of his new movie "Where to Invade Next." Here is a clip from his visit with teachers.

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Rafer Nelsen said...

We went to Loic's school's "STEAM" fair last night, I forget what STEAM stands for exactly, but it was basically a way for parents to check in on what the kids have been doing the past couple of month, so in kindergarten it was; bowls and trays of goldfish, platys, earthworms, isopods, land snails, water snails, "bottle cap math" (bottle caps glued to constructions paper, also beans and stickers in sets of 10 to make 100 total), class and all-school art projects, and an origami table set up for parents and kids to make things on the spot (I had never done origami before, we made a house, a piano, a pinwheel, a boat and a couple of seated foxes). Now, I have my own complaints about our public school system (whose problems to my mind boil down in large part to our having abandoned them post desegregation, so the apparently "external" problems with schools are truly our own "internal" problems with race and social iniquity, but that is a whole 'mother topic...), but it is always good to get in the school to see the good, hard, fun work the kids are doing with their teachers, and the dedication of the teachers and administration in the face of top-down bureaucratic nonsense. Personally, I'd love it if like in Finland we did away with the idea of private schools here in America, voluntarily if possible, and fully realize that life is not about our own kids, life is more than some atavistic urge to further our personal genetic material and curate an overly precious life for our kids, but that it is rather a cooperative, group undertaking. To me that is the psycho/spiritual breakthrough of public "common" schooling. And at the end of the STEAM fair, all the kids were out on the playground together running and climbing and expressing their full "kid-ness".

juli said...

My children are studying in Finnish school. Finland is small and wealthy country. I do see lots of good things, but we have lots of questions too. Why we do not see Finnish students winning International Olympiads or being extraordinary successful in any other fields? What we see is that our socialism is sinking because of the citizens enjoying benefits and not willing to participate in work life. We have high suicide rates, we have high rates of depression and other problems in young people, growing number of parents unable to take proper care of their children and so on.. I wish life was so easy as our schools :)

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