Can the world learn from Finland?- for the world as a whole, it is difficult to say; the only country I know is the US and here is a random example of what is wrong;
"GOP likely to hold House after $1 billion campaign"
Not to pick on the GOP, they think they are more or less doing what is right: divided by self-interest, multiplied by idealism. A billion spent on a campaign, trillions spent on the petrochemical world. Right there you can see how hard it will be to change. The following will be picking on the Right (though not necessarily the GOP, the GOP being a barometer of the Right): they blame mediocre schools on teacher's unions and govt. education bureaucrats. However if it were as simple as teachers' unions- govt. bureaucrats being 'the problem', the education situatIon would have been changed at least to some degree in the four decades during which education has been a political football of the worst sort, as children have little say.
"It's not about the children" is the truism.
The obvious corollary is it is about parents, teachers, officials, interest-groups, talkshow hosts, houses of worship, fighting ideological-- and purely turf-- wars. America is a much larger nation than Finland, so its problems are x times larger, which IMO is reflected in its educaton.. no purpose in going into a catalogue of those 'problems'. But after four decades it has gotten v. tiring hearing a simplistic formula for decentralising-- it comes down to they think first-rate charter and private schools will arise through spontaneous order if only the govt. would remove itself from micro-managing education. But when they need funds and protection, decentralists come to the govt. asking for assistance. This is what is wrong with devolution: it is insincere, when private managers bungle (albeit they are more efficient because they are willing to cut more corners) matters they switch from being capitalists to being state capitalists-- which neatly ties in with our bait-and-switch politics.
They've got it all covered; the first rule in politics, economics and just about everything else, is 'cover thyself'.
Posted by Penelope Colston on 11/04 at 05:15 AM
Hello. I'm American and have lived in Finland for five years. I've taught in the school system, in the equivalent of tenth and eleventh grade. Yes, the system indeed is top-notch and the teachers are, by and large, totally devoted to what they do. They wouldn't be granted access to the profession otherwise. But there is something unique about the culture here behind the education system's success. It is quite unlike in the States, or at least that is my opinion. There is a distinctly quiet, focused attitude toward work coupled with a fear of singling yourself out from the group. In the classroom, kids work. They are quiet and they work because not to would be like saying, 'Look at me! I need attention! I'm special!' and Finns as individuals for better or worse do not like to be put under the spotlight, at least this is my experience. (I teach English conversation at the local adult ed center. It can be frustrating.) Of course, kids will always be kids, and there is usually a bit of goofing off, but it really it is quite phenomenal how quiet and focused people here are. When kids don't want to participate, they'll turn in a shoddy piece of work - this is their version of rebelling, rather than disrupting class. This work ethic seems to exist at every level of society. People keep their houses, yards and cars impeccably clean. To not do so reflects badly on you. People change from winter clothes to spring clothes to summer clothes to fall ... on a dime at the same time. It's just what you do. People clean their house every Friday and then have a sauna. You can see the swirls of smoke coming from the chimneys. It's cool. Do I find all this perfection exhausting sometimes? YES! Back to kids - people also seem to have a different approach to raising children. They don't make them the center of attention or treat them like they are more special than other kids. I think that this might be one of the reasons why the kids are so well-behaved when they get older and they don't feel this pressure to stand out among others. And then one last comment - my own views again reflected in this - lives here are just downright stable. People are never allowed to fall into true poverty. If you hit a bad patch, or lose your job, there are ways to stay on your feet. You don't have to uproot and go into debt. You get your health taken care of. There are people living below the poverty line here but it is nothing, nothing like poverty in the States. I think a stable home makes kids act out less. When life gets tough it filters down to the kids.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 11/04 at 11:24 AM
Thanks for your description. Your observations of Finland describe a rather sedate, peaceful, cooperative and conservative picture of society? A society that seems attractive even to the Liberal, even if a tad slow perhaps?
A society based on less competition, or rather less need for competition? Therein lies the socialist ideal also?
What really makes Finland so conformist, sedate and content I wonder? Less population and numbers? Less diversity? Cultural history of cooperation?
Take the Liberal, Conservative, and Socialist - draw a Venn diagram and place the ideal society in the centre?
The clue to problems associated with strain on world resources, increased competition, poverty, hardship, suffering, stress, disgruntlement and unhappiness, even size of classrooms and time spent with nurture of each child, may all be linked to numbers ultimately?
Solutions..? Reduction of numbers, re-evaluation of social philosophy, radical socioeconomic change and values?
Posted by Penelope on 11/04 at 12:39 PM
Hello and thanks for your response. To touch on a few of your questions ... Whenever I comment on the work ethic here, I am told that Lutheranism is behind it. This also explains, I am told, the extreme fear of wasting resources, the fear of being successful or having outward signs of success. One of my students told a story in class about buying a Jaguar - his dream car - only to sell it shortly thereafter because it turned heads, something he simply couldn't live with.
Also ... Finland historically has been claimed by the Russians and the Swedes. It only became independent (from Russia) in 1917. So, I suppose this has had an effect on the collective psyche of the Finnish people. Perhaps it has ingrained in them a sense of common purpose, although this is not something anyone has ever expressed to me. Finns also have an unusual language (albeit beautiful, to me at least!) that isolates them from the other Nordic countries and they have an awareness of being peculiar in this respect - they are not too proud for subtitles, for example. They are avid readers and language-learners as a result -- again the effectiveness. What I am saying, I suppose, in short is that Finns and Finland are subject to isolating forces that have contributed to Finland being a highly functioning society.
And then there are the long, dark winters. They really are pretty unbelievable if you're not used to them. I think the impact winter has on cultures is underestimated. When you live through winters like these, you have to be efficient, organized, practical and conservative whereas resources are concerned ... it becomes way of life. You won't survive otherwise.
And, yes, last but not least, when your population is small and culturally uniform, things roll more smoothly. There is no doubting this. I think Finland could be in for some shaking in this respect as the society slowly becomes more culturally diverse.
As a closing comment, I don't know how anyone can hold Finland's education system up as an ideal without at least noting these exceptional facts about the country and its people.
Posted by Intomorrow on 11/04 at 09:24 PM
" I think Finland could be in for some shaking in this respect as the society slowly becomes more culturally diverse."
If only Utopian conservatives in the US could grasp this; they think if our school system is decentralised, it will abra cadabra result in high quality affordable schools a la the 1950s. But first off, if the system is decentralised, it is not a system anymore, there's not the oversight a system has. So how can that which conservative parents complain about the most concerning contemporary students' educations-- disorder in 21st century schools-- be monitored if no genuine system exists? They are asking for too much: they possess a hyper-religious expectation that the outcome of decentralising education is wholesome students reading Narnia in class before they attend a Bible study after hours, or something.
Americans are practical in many ways, yet unrealistic in others, they can't quite get it how population has increased two- threefold and much greater diversity exists-- they are used to having their own way and wont tolerate fleas coming with the dog. Now, Utopian cons can return to the '50s by starting intentional communities wherein they set up schools sans computers for a wholesome '50s lack of diversions. They can have students read Aesop's Fables rather than 'Heather Has Two Mommies'.
And naturally they can sponsor prayer in their schools. However apparently it isn't worth the effort so they expect govt., Bad Old Big Guvmint which they despise, to change the situation for them.
It isn't hypocrisy, it is doublethink.
Posted by Intomorrow on 11/05 at 04:07 AM
This is a matter to be optimistic about: the public cares about children and their education though they don't know what to do to improve education (my experience is too many careerists are involved with aiding adults).
The mistake progressives made was to overemphasise identity politics which continued up to this day (it is fading); the disadvantages in fraying social cohesion may have negated the advantages of minority empowerment.
Posted by Intomorrow on 11/05 at 06:37 PM
"the public cares about children and their education"
That is to say they care about their own children and their own childrens' education; they are interested in improving education if it will benefit their children-- it's something to be optimistic about: how K-12 education can be improved.