Monday, September 27, 2010

Hanging Finland Around their Neck

Political and educational progressives should take ruthless advantage of the use of Finland as an example by ed reformers (of all stripes). There is no downside as long as you don't let people cherry pick in the most egregious way. Yes, they have a national curriculum, but it is not at all like anything vaguely on the table here. For example, if you look at the Finnish National Core Curriculum for Upper Secondary Schools, here's the first sections:

  • 5.3 Mother tongue and literature
  • 5.3.1 Mother tongue and literature, Finnish as the mother tongue
  • 5.3.2 Mother tongue and literature, Swedish as the mother tongue
  • 5.3.3 Mother tongue and literature, Sami as the mother tongue
  • 5.3.4 Mother tongue and literature, Romany as the mother tongue

Now, according to Wikipedia, Swedish is the native language of 5.5% of Finland's population, but according to the US census, more than 12% of US households speak Spanish. Romany is spoken by the Romani (aka gypsies), of which there are about 10,000 in Finland. There are about 7,000 indigenous Sami (out of 5 million Finns total).

Imagine bringing the equivalent to a US national curriculum. "Mother tongue and literature, Spanish as the mother tongue..." That's just one example, and you can go on and on and on. Our current slate of business model reforms is nothing like what Finland does, in just about any dimension.

I'm not saying that's going to win the argument, but if they're going to hang so much on international comparisons, they should have to retreat rhetorically to Asia.

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