Sunday, August 19, 2012

Anything for you, Finland

Including dusting off my blog. When I first started to read about the system of public education in Finland I never would have dreamed I'd have the privilege to actually see it for myself and dig in with my own questions or comparisons. Based on the generosity of experts like Pasi Sahlberg, Tony Wagner and others I feel I have an apprentice-like knowledge of a world-class, high-performing system grounded in, as Pasi Sahlberg points out in his book Finnish Lessons, the values of equality, efficiency, and solidarity. I think a majority of Americans could get behind those values in our public education system. Of course, this is where the devil meets the details though. We seem to get tripped up in rationing equality, efficiency, and solidarity as we debate the best course forward in American education. Just when we think we are working to improve student equality together, whether it is equal access to strong teachers or high-performing schools, it is verboten to work just as diligently about equality issues for those same strong teachers as well. Efficiency is liberally discussed when it comes to suppressing teacher's wages, yet any suggestion that we rethink textbook adoption funds or closer linking executive administrator compensation to teacher compensation, for example, is ignored. And shouldn't solidarity, by it's very definition, be shared and not rationed? It seems the expectation that we're all in this together would mean that there's an understanding that labor and management should work together rather than treating work together for --gasp-- better teaching and learning as an accusation. It should mean that trust, while tough to work at (because things that are worth it always take work), should not be abandoned because when we err on the side of fact-finding rather than headfirst, Rappala-fishhook-in-mouth, don't-read-the-fine-print, blind agreements on things such as Race to the Top or other competitions for needed resources. Trust can mean we each verify our moves forward independently as we move forward together, even if we don't always move at the same speed. Solidarity definitely should not be rationed. Isn't the reality that we should think in abundance when it comes to equality, efficiency, and solidarity in our public school system? As Americans doesn't our arc of history bend toward expanding equality, sharing efficiency, and welcoming solidarity? Those are my questions as I land in Helsinki.

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