“If you want the American dream, go to Finland.” These blunt words, in a discussion about educating children, from a British politician are quoted by Amanda Ripley in her 2013 book “The Smartest Kids in the World.” At least the Brit didn’t point to his own country, which has public schools every bit as bad as those in the US, but I probably would have substituted ‘China’ for ‘Finland’. Ripley, a contributor to Time magazine and The Atlantic and an Emerson fellow at the New America Foundation, decided to find out why schools in three other countries – Finland, South Korea and Poland – perform so much better than those in the US (and Britain). She enlisted “field agents” who could penetrate those schools far more fully than she: three American high school students, each studying abroad for a year. One, Kim, a high school senior from rural Oklahoma, went to Finland, a place she had only read about, and discovered a trudge through the snow in the cold dark to a rather basic school building with desks in rows and an old-fashioned chalkboard. No million dollar modern palace infrastructure with a plethora of nifty high tech toys here. What Kim’s school in a small town near Jyväskylä did have was bright, talented teachers who are well trained, love their jobs, and actually succeed in educating their students, both boys and girls alike. This school, like most in Finland, actually achieves the taxpayer desired and funded results. And they do it with the best people, not with the best buildings. And the process is whatever the best people possible find that works.
Jyväskylä (phonetic: Ye-vas-qu-la) is a beautiful medium-sized city in central Finland with a really excellent university. I have friends there, including in several small towns in the surrounding region, and also in Helsinki, 150 miles to the south. (I lived in Finland from 1978-1981 and have visited often since then, sometimes for extended stays.) One of my friends in Helsinki is a lady who has a doctorate and over thirty years experience as a senior teacher of elementary school. What Ripley describes is indeed typical throughout the country, in small towns and large cities. Her approach with American exchange students was indeed ingenious, but unfortunately she then imposes her own American woman prejudices in attempting to interpret things for American women readers.
Like the US media in general, one of the things that Ripley doesn’t mention is the fact that Finland’s superb public education system is the consequence of a rather recent revolution, that it didn’t require a lifetime of obstreperous stagnation and procrastination. Due to a wide variety of political and socio-psychological reasons, Finland’s educational system during the long “Cold” War was good but still lacking, especially in certain areas like history, social studies and science. There were big holes here and there that everyone knew about but no one discussed, primarily because of history and politics. Students knew it was lacking, and reacted accordingly; they were incredibly bored and, ever mindful of the Big Bear next door, easily dazzled by the beckoning glitter from far away America.
In the summer of 1980 many thousands of those kids would board buses or commuter trains in small towns all over the country for the long trip to big city Helsinki on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings. In Helsinki they would congregate in huge crowds in well known youth meccas all wearing jeans and white T-shirts emblazoned with the letters of a famous American university or similar popular American icon. The first time I encountered one of these really large teeming crowds was on a bright June Saturday evening in 1978 at the city’s main train and bus terminal next to the Art Museum and the National Theater, and the first thing that struck me was their American “uniforms” – jeans, T-shirts and tennis shoes. The second thing I discovered was their ravenous appetite for anything “American”. It was a uniquely Finnish phenomenon, with a certain distinct flavor of the US in the 1950s that I found just fascinating (and most endearing). Theaters showing American films were guaranteed sell-outs from 9 AM to midnight, as were teen dance clubs playing loud American pop music. The huge crowds of these bright and healthy kids, mostly rather well behaved, were an escape from the school and small town boredom and offered them a chance to congregate for fun and friendship and to learn what else was going on in the world beyond their tiny isolated worlds. They wanted more, much more, that they were not getting at home, especially in their schools. Many of Finland’s best (and wealthiest) students went on to study at American universities, especially at medical and science schools, where they discovered the true breadth of what they had been missing at home.
As soon as Soviet Russia and the Warsaw Pact imploded around 1990, someone really smart in Finland recognized that some major changes were needed, and fast, or the country would quickly lose its most precious resource – its youngest citizens – to much better opportunities elsewhere. (Finland had, in fact, experienced a slow steady drain of its best and brightest throughout the “Cold” War.) Beginning in the early 1990s, Finland embarked on a major overhaul of its entire educational system and achieved astounding positive results in a very brief period. Finland’s universities today are more than adequate to meet Finland’s requirements in advanced science, including medicine, economics, nuclear physics, etc., and routinely provide published world leaders in esoteric sub-fields of these areas of study. And those universities are competitively fed with enormously well-prepared students by their excellent K-12 system.
There is no legitimate reason why this speed cannot be duplicated in America.
Ripley also makes another common America error. She assumes that American education has always been as it is today, an extension of the popular belief that “history” began with her magical arrival on the scene in the 1970s or 1980s. (All Baby Boomers are convinced that time began when they took over the reigns of power.) This, of course, enables her to ignore the fact that American schools were the best in the world in the 1950s and 1960s, that the Greatest Generation had put in place a first-class system for their kids. And this willful ignorance enables her to ignore the fact that the system was quickly trashed by those kids, by the self-involved Baby Boomers and their children, and most especially by the incessant demands placed on those schools by militant armies of Baby Boomer “feminists” beginning around 1970 – to better suit themselves. Women demanded, in no uncertain terms, that literally everything related to education had its female gender aspect in big bold letters constantly under the floodlights – all in the interest of gender equality, determined by gender balance in every one of those aspects. (Today, with the OTHER gender falling by the wayside by the millions, it’s nearly impossible to get those women-dominated American schools to reveal reliable gender data.)
It was all part and parcel of that monumental shift in America from “us” to “me”. It just happened that, after American schools reached bottom, Finland began its drive in the opposite direction. The great improvement that Finland accomplished in its public education system from 1990 to 2010 was matched by the great destruction of its own public education system achieved in America from 1970 to 1990. The bountiful American economy put in place by the Greatest Generation was seen by their children, who had never experienced anything else, as simply a natural gift from God that could simply be milked for “me” forever, that it required no real effort to maintain much less improve, that the future would be as easy and rewarding as the first twenty years of life had been for the Baby Boomers. (Today’s Baby Boomer “feminists”, of course, were incredibly spoiled “teenieboppers” in their much maligned 1950s and 1960s, just like teenaged girls still are, but who just never grew up.) If they had taken time to learn a little from their Greatest Generation parents, they would have had some idea that the difference between their own early years and the early years of their parents was the difference between night and day, that it took a truly monumental effort and great sacrifice to realize the change. Let’s all hope that the Finns keep the focus properly on “us”.
Finland is a very modern and orderly northern country with a total population a little over that contained inside the Washington DC Beltway (about 5,200,000) and a standard of living higher than that in the US. It was the world’s first “wired” country, and Finnish citizens make even greater use of electronic devices than do Americans. The country has most of the same problems that exist in the US today, including Third World immigration, just on a smaller scale. In the following excerpt, note that the American exchange student Kim does not speak Finnish, that she is able to communicate quite easily with her classmates in English, and that her teachers deliver their lessons in Finnish while simultaneously providing her a separate simplified English version, just as they can also do in Swedish. That’s a teaching fluency in three languages (Finnish, Swedish and English), and probably a decent capability in one or two more (such as Russian or German). Such multi-lingual capabilities are common among teachers in Finland.
Especially with boys, respect has to be EARNED,
and the only way to earn it is through COMPETENCE.
Why Finland Has Better Schools, excerpt by Amanda Ripley
To get kids to take education seriously, you have to give them first-rate teachers.
DURING her three months in Finland, Kim had collected a small catalog of differences between school here and in Oklahoma. The most obvious were the things that were missing. There were no high-tech, interactive white boards in her classroom. There was no police officer in the hallway. Over time, though, she had begun to notice more important distinctions.
Take the stoner kid, as Kim had nicknamed him in her head. He’d walked into class that day looking hung over, with glassy eyes, as usual. He didn’t talk much in class, but when he was with his friends, smoking cigarettes outside, he was louder.
Kim had seen plenty of kids like him in Sallisaw. Somehow, she hadn’t expected to see stoner kids in Finland. But there he was. Every country had its stoner kids, as it turned out. That was lesson one. There was only one major difference, as far as she could tell, and this was lesson two. The Finnish stoner kid was a model student. He showed up to class, and he was attentive. He took notes. When their Finnish teacher, Tiina Stara, assigned essays, which was often, he wrote them, just like everybody else.
In Oklahoma, the stoner kids didn’t do much schoolwork, in Kim’s experience. They didn’t care. Here, all kids complained about school, too, and they had teachers they liked and disliked. Yet most of them seemed to have bought into the idea of education on some level.
Kim noticed that some of the teachers seemed more bought-in to school, too. Stara, the Finnish teacher, realized it was probably ridiculous for Kim to even be in a Finnish class for Finnish high school students, given Kim’s primitive grasp of the language. Still, she’d come up with a way to include Kim, giving her a children’s version of the story the other students were reading. ((Finns now seem to have an automatic tendency, as good conscientious hosts, to give extra consideration to the poor Americans.))
Like Kim’s math teacher back in Oklahoma, Stara was a veteran teacher, approaching two decades in the profession. Both teachers had jobs that were protected by powerful unions, and neither could easily be dismissed.
THE similarities ended there. From the moment she had decided to study education in college, Stara had entered a profession completely different from that of Kim’s Oklahoma teacher. To become a teacher in Finland, Stara had had to first get accepted into one of only eight prestigious teacher-training universities. She had high test scores and good grades, but she knew the odds were still against her.
She’d wanted to teach Finnish, so she’d applied to the Finnish department at the University of Jyväskylä. In addition to sending them her graduation-exam scores, she’d had to read four books selected by the university, then sit for a special Finnish literature exam. Only 20 percent of applicants were accepted.
At that time, all of Finland’s teacher-training colleges had similarly high standards, making them about as selective as Georgetown or the University of California, Berkeley. Today, Finland’s education programs are even more selective, on the order of MIT. It was hard to overstate the implications that cascaded from this one fact. Just one out of every 20 education schools was located at a highly selective institution in the United States. Far more than that had no admission standards at all. In other words, to educate our children, we invited anyone – no matter how poorly educated they were – to give it a try.
Teachers-to-be in the United States generally had to pass standardized tests in order to get a teaching position. But the tests were not challenging or particularly relevant to effective teaching. By then, the damage was done: Everyone assumed that the education majors were not the smartest kids in college, generally speaking, and their profession got little respect as a result.
In Finland, all education schools were selective. Getting into a teacher-training program there was as prestigious as getting into medical school in the United States. The rigor started in the beginning, where it belonged, not years into a teacher’s career with complex evaluation schemes designed to weed out the worst performers, and destined to demoralize everyone else.
Stara still remembers the day she got the letter of acceptance from the University of Jyväskylä – her mother’s excitement, the rush of relief. Stara spent the first three years studying Finnish literature. She read intensely and wrote 20-page papers. She analyzed novels, poems, and short stories – something English trainee teachers do not generally do in the United States. In her fourth year (out of six years of study), she began the teacher-training program. All Finnish teachers were required to get a master’s degree, which meant something very different than it did in the United States.
For one full year of her master’s program, Stara got to train in one of the best public schools in the country. She had three teacher mentors there, and she watched their classes closely. When she taught her own classes, her mentors and fellow student teachers took notes. Afterward, she got feedback, some of it harsh, in much the way medical residents are critiqued in teaching hospitals.
NOW, consider Kim’s math teacher back home, Scott Bethel. He’d decided to become a teacher mostly so that he could become a football coach. As a student at Sallisaw High School, he was an all-state quarterback in 1989. Although Bethel hadn’t taken calculus in high school, he’d always been pretty good at math. So he figured the best way to become a coach was to become a math teacher. Bethel was one of several coaches that Kim had as teachers over the years, a hybrid job that would be considered bizarre in Finland and many countries, where sports lay beyond the central mission of schools.
In Oklahoma alone, Bethel could choose from nearly two dozen teacher-training programs – almost three times as many as in all of Finland, a much bigger place. Oklahoma, like most states, educated far more teachers than it needed. At most U.S. colleges, education was known as one of the easiest majors. Education departments usually welcomed almost anyone who claimed to like children. Once students got there, they were rewarded with high grades and relatively easy work. Instead of taking the more rigorous mathematics classes offered to other students, for example, education majors tended to take special math classes designed for students who did not like math.
Bethel did his training at Northeastern State University. The university prepares more teachers than any other institution in the state and has a good reputation. However, it also has a 75 percent acceptance rate, which means that it admits, on average, students with much weaker math, reading, and science skills than Finnish education schools.
To teach in Oklahoma, Bethel did not need a master’s degree. He could receive a raise if he got one, and many U.S. teachers did. But, since the typical education college had low standards and little rigor, an advanced degree did not mean much. In many states, teachers were not required to get degrees in their subject area, so they got a master’s in teaching instead.
When Kim was starting kindergarten in 2000, 10 out of 10 new Finnish teachers had graduated in the top third of their high school classes; only two out of 10 American teachers had done so. Incredibly, at some U.S. colleges, students had to meet higher academic standards to play football than to become teachers.
During his sophomore year in college, Bethel had applied to his university’s education college. To be admitted, Bethel had to have a grade-point average of just 2.5 or higher (out of 4). He would have needed a higher GPA to become an optometrist at the same university today. He also needed a score of 19 or higher on the ACT, a standardized test like the SAT. The national average for the ACT back then was 20.5. Let’s consider what this meant: It was acceptable to perform below average for the country on a test of what you had learned throughout your educational career if you aspired to dedicate your career to education.
At the education college, Bethel discovered that he didn’t have to major in math to become a high school math teacher. So he didn’t. Nationwide, less than half of American high school math teachers majored in math. Almost a third did not even minor in math.
Bethel’s primary goal was to become a coach, so he majored in physical education and minored in math. When he took the required test for high school math teachers in Oklahoma, he passed easily. Most of the material was at a 10th or 11th grade level, and he didn’t find it difficult. However, if he had, he would have been allowed to retake the test until he passed.
Bethel’s student teaching experience helped him learn to plan lessons and manage a classroom. But it lasted just 12 weeks, compared to the year-long residency typical in Finland. When Bethel got his first teaching job, he quickly realized that it would have been helpful to major in math. But what was done was done.
AFTER class, Kim had a free period – a full 70 minutes with nothing scheduled. This was the other big difference she’d noticed about Finland: the inexplicable stretches of luxurious freedom. She kept finding herself released into the ether, trusted to find her way through long stretches of time. Kim wandered into the lobby of the school and sat on a couch.
Two girls from her class sat down next to her. They said hello to Kim and started talking about how hard they’d studied for mid-term exams last year lamenting all the work they had ahead of them.
Most of the time, the Finnish students were just as aloof as her guidebooks had told her they would be. But Kim was still new enough that she could ask them about Finland to “make conversation. So she collected her courage and blurted out the question that had been on her mind.
“Why do you guys care so much?”
The girls looked at her confused.
“I mean, what makes you work hard in school?”
It was a hard question to answer she realized, but she had to ask. These girls went to parties; they texted in class and doodled in their notebooks. They were normal, in other words. Yet they seemed to respect the basic premise of school, and Kim wanted to know why.
Now, both girls looked baffled, as if Kim had just asked them why they insisted on breathing so much.
“It’s school,” one of them said finally. “How else will I graduate and go to university and get a good job?”
Kim nodded. Maybe the real mystery was not why Finnish kids cared so much, but why so many of her Oklahoma classmates did not. After all, for them, too, getting a good education was the only way to go to college and get a good job. Somewhere along the way, however, many of them had stopped believing in this equation. They didn’t take education very seriously. Maybe because they were lazy spoiled, or dysfunctional in some other way, or maybe because, in their experience, education wasn’t all that serious.
From “The Smartest Kids In The World” @2013 by Amanda Ripley.
Illustrated, 306 pp, published by Simon & Schuster, Inc., $28.
++++++++ (end excerpt) ++++++++
“It’s school. How else will I graduate and go to university and get a good job?” is an example of simple logic; it is not emotional nonsense, so common now among Americans.
(Finns, by the way, are not “aloof” (a common American misperception); they are just more reserved and polite than pushy Americans and prefer not to intrude into another’s space or privacy, unless invited to do so. If you’re nice, you’ll find most Finns just as nice. But they do take their time forging close friendships, and sometimes it takes years to get them to become so bold as to say, “I love you.” There’s a Finnish joke about an old man on his deathbed hearing with his last gasp of breath his wife of 70 years for the first time utter those words to him. He died with a smile, but before he could reciprocate. Americans, on the other hand, toss around such words like meaningless confetti, which they usually are. Finns actually mean what they say, but often words are not nearly as important as actions.)
Of course, as everyone, including Ms Ripley, knows, all “stoner” kids are boys (who don’t have a plethora of hair-trigger lobbies to ensure their fair treatment). Today sports programs in US school and college are the only places left where males are allowed to actually compete as the males they are – despite “the world according to superior me” nonsense promulgated by unassailable American women, like this typically sexist author. The reason all students do poorly in American K-12 is because teachers are sub-par, is because we constantly praise the effort – the process – while ignoring the results, and because the nation’s two largest and most influential labor unions – teachers unions – serve first their humongous industry rather than their students. But the reason boys don’t do nearly as well as girls in American K-12, the reason why boys are “stoners”, is because American women refuse to recognize their own sexist bigotry. “To achieve perfection you WILL become me!” Finns know this about American women. In America it’s just not possible to criticize women, much less hold them accountable, for anything, so they all think they walk on water. That’s a majority of our population given a free pass, able to demand that everyone else assume the responsibility for ensuring them whatever rights they claim for themselves. And this asinine practice is infecting our entire culture.
The female American author of the above excerpt naturally uses a male “math teacher” to illustrate a major point. This is the common US sexist blame-shifting stereotype of “stupid and evil male math teachers” (who are totally responsible for girls not doing well in math). (It’s been used so many millions of times over the past half century that it’s now probably America’s most famous, and pathetic, cliché.) Just imagine what the author would have had to describe had she elected to use a female “math teacher”. You can decide for yourself why American boys don’t learn math, either. (It must be incredibly “empowering” to be able to exercise your bigotry with total impunity – against a group that has no lobby of its own to champion its best interests.)
Also note that the author has some sort of a problem with sports and schools – in the world’s fattest and most sedentary nation. The American math teacher was filling two jobs – one in the classroom and one outside the classroom, that there was no sports going on in the former despite the author’s implication, and that he could have been fired from either job, or both, if his performance was not up to standards. There is no prohibition in the US against women teachers also filling coaching roles in similar arrangements. The problem is not with the male gender, or with anyone filling two jobs; the problem is with the standards. That is what is “bizarre”.
For the record, a wide range of youth athletics, especially soccer, probably have greater participation rates by both genders in Finland than in the US, and semi-pro and professional sports are probably just as popular in Finland as in the US.
The very best English teacher I ever had, including during my university years, was also the high school football coach; he was good in the classroom, even with boys who didn’t play on the team, not just because he knew a lot about English, but also because he knew how to gain and hold the attention of restless boys, how to play on their natural instincts and interests. This guy also taught history, and effectively. Over a half century, hundreds of this man’s college-bound boy scholars played on championship football teams that made him far more famous than his most important accomplishments in the classroom – and this in a prep school long considered one of the nation’s top basketball schools. The simple fact that he was effective as both coach and teacher imparted the fact that academics and athletics are NOT mutually exclusive endeavors. He never spoon-fed anything. He knew how to make you want it, and then even to work hard to get it, how to make it all in the end your own personal accomplishment, your own victory, your sole reward just his very slight smile. If you boiled it all down to the essence, he knew how to “coach” boys as they taught themselves very well stuff they weren’t all that excited about learning when they started. Especially for boys, this man had valuable gifts, gifts fine-tuned on the athletic field and then successfully imported to the classroom. His very competence ensured there were no stoners around, and he never demanded that boys become girls, or vice versa. (And I still have the exact same healthy weight I had at age 15.)
Today, one of the most effective teachers in Washington DC, which has the country’s worst performing schools, is the football coach at the city’s largest high school. As a former semi-pro football player, also with a very good education, she brings full creds to her popular environmental studies classroom, and her students respond accordingly.
When I went to K-12 school in the US during the 1950s and 1960s, ALL of my teachers in every subject knew their subjects COLD, and a lot more, and the worst thing for me was to let them or the other boys see that I did not know what I was expected to know. No matter how far the best students pushed those teachers, the teachers were always WAY ahead of them and more than willing to engage. (I missed three years of school, the 8th through 10th grades, and ended up just skipping them, so when I went back to school, I quickly realized that it was smarter for me to “play below my game”, that I attracted less attention from both teachers and other students at a “B” level than I did at an “A” level. Even so, I knew those teachers knew a lot more than I did, and they always had a very good answer to any question I posed.) I guess more than anything else, I respected their competence, a competence that could even challenge me.
Foreign exchange students I meet now from Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, all say that American public schools are a joke, that while most teachers are nice, they don’t know much, and their students know even far less. Based on what I see in the larger community, I can’t argue with them; there’s a LOT, tens of millions, of very poorly educated and ignorant Americans running around loose out there – who think they know everything because they are “special” – and they are even voting for “leaders” of the world’s single super-power! And obviously a lot of these people are even “teaching” their ignorance to our children! Anyone who’s wasted time trying to read comments posted to “mainstream” news articles on web sites would think that the US is populated solely by total morons who never got past the seventh grade. (And they do it with such remarkable self-assurance, totally convinced of their own brilliance. But, then, often the news articles don’t rise much higher than that, either.) It’s obvious that this sad reality is rapidly growing far beyond the classroom. American “exceptionalism”, too, has become a delusion, a thing of the past. No one in America, it seems, appreciates education or even brains; dumb is “cool”, ignorance can be easily hidden behind bluster, “pretty” is “popular”, and even “leaders” just follow the brainless herd.
This is not the case in Finland. For both men and women, teaching is one of the most popular jobs in Finland, where educating children is properly very serious business. Finland produces more than enough excellent teachers to meet the nation’s needs, but some locations are more popular than others. For permanent teaching posts just in the Helsinki primary and secondary school system, the number of applicants continues to far outstrip the number of positions available, year after year. Last spring (2013) there were 270 vacant City of Helsinki teaching posts and 7,100 applicants. Even with the very high basic qualifications required, that was more than 26 qualified applicants competing for each opening. As with all school systems throughout the country, those few who are accepted are hired on a provisional basis to evaluate hands-on performance by proven professionals during the first year. A permanent post remains the dream of many a teacher, but to be a teacher in Finland requires a Master’s degree that means what it says and additional vocational studies, plus continued study and demanding performance standards while employed. Elementary school teachers with doctorates are not uncommon.
What’s the pay-off for the nation beyond its schools? Finland today has one of the best qualified workforces in the world for today and tomorrow’s global economy. Competent Finns of both genders are found in professional capacities all over the world.
The following article discusses what happens after school, based on a study conducted by the same organization that conducts the annual international ‘PISA’ studies of school children. This is the first time it has moved the methodology to older people in the same countries. Around 166,000 adults aged 16-65 were surveyed in 24 countries (not 23) and sub-national regions: 22 OECD member countries – Australia, Austria, Canada, Belgium (Flanders), the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the Slovak Republic, the United Kingdom (England and Northern Ireland), and the United States; plus two partner countries – Cyprus and the Russian Federation.
U.S. Adults Fare Poorly in a Study of Skills
New York Times, October 8, 2013
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
American adults lag well behind their counterparts in most other developed countries in the mathematical and technical skills needed for a modern workplace, according to a study released Tuesday. The study, perhaps the most detailed of its kind, shows that the well-documented pattern of several other countries ((a dozen or more)) surging past the United States in students’ test scores and young people’s college graduation rates corresponds to a skills gap, extending far beyond school. In the United States, young adults in particular fare poorly compared with their international competitors of the same ages — not just in math and technology, but also in literacy.
More surprisingly, even middle-aged Americans — who, on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world — are barely better than middle of the pack in skills. ((I concluded long ago that the US system places far too much emphasis on learning what to think and not on learning how to think; everyone is required to memorize the mandated answers, most of which are “politically correct” propaganda. And most American college degrees, subject to several decades of steadily declining standards, no longer measure up to those awarded in many other countries.))
Arne Duncan, the education secretary, released a statement saying that the findings “show our education system hasn’t done enough to help Americans compete — or position our country to lead — in a global economy that demands increasingly higher skills.” ((This is a gross understatement – designed to get “More Money” and NOT “Better Teachers” or “Better, More Demanding And More Equitable Methods”.))
The study is the first based on new tests developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a coalition of mostly developed nations, and administered in 2011 and 2012 to thousands of people, ages 16 to 65, by 23 countries. Previous international skills studies have generally looked only at literacy, and in fewer countries. The organizers assessed skills in literacy and facility with basic math, or numeracy, in all 23 countries. In 19 countries, there was a third assessment*, called “problem-solving in technology-rich environments,” on using digital devices to find and evaluate information, communicate, and perform common tasks.*
In all three fields, Japan ranked first and Finland second in average scores, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway near the top. ((Canada comes in around where Norway and Sweden fall – close to the top. Australia and Slovakia were among those countries which also scored higher than the US.)) Spain, Italy and France were at or near the bottom in literacy and numeracy, and were not included in the technology assessment. ((Some countries elected not to submit to the third area tested.))
The United States ranked near the middle in literacy and near the bottom in skill with numbers and technology. In number skills, just 9 percent of Americans scored in the top two of five proficiency levels, compared with a 23-country average of 12 percent, and 19 percent in Finland, Japan and Sweden.
“The first question these kinds of studies raise is, ‘If we’re so dumb, why are we so rich?’ ” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Our economic advantage has been having high skill levels at the top, being big, being more flexible than the other economies, and being able to attract other countries’ most skilled labor. But that advantage is slipping.” ((Translation: We are now barely coasting on what is still left of the wealth the Greatest Generation bequeathed to us, while importing millions of far better schooled immigrants to show us what to do with it. It’s always a good idea to ask just who that “we” actually is.))
In several ways, the American results were among the most polarized between high achievement and low. Compared with other countries with similar average scores, the United States, in all three assessments, usually had more people in the highest proficiency levels, and more in the lowest. The country also had an unusually wide gap in skills between the employed and the unemployed. In the most highly educated population, people with graduate and professional degrees, Americans lagged slightly behind the international averages in skills. But the gap was widest at the bottom; among those who did not finish high school, Americans had significantly worse skills than their counterparts abroad. ((And a huge majority of these people are males.))
“These kinds of differences in skill sets matter a lot more than they used to, at every level of the economy,” Dr. Carnevale said. “Americans were always willing to accept a much higher level of inequality than other developed countries because there was upward mobility, but we’ve lost a lot of ground to other countries on upward mobility because people don’t have these skills.”
Among 55- to 65-year-olds, the United States fared better, on the whole, than its counterparts. But in the 45-to-54 age group, American performance was average, and among younger people, it was behind. ((i.e., Starting from the educations provided to Baby Boomer children, with each generation the US is doing a poorer and poorer job of educating its young compared to other countries. This is directly opposite to what most other countries are doing, especially countries like South Korea and Japan. The UK has been static – not doing worse, but not doing better, either.))
American educators often note that the nation’s polyglot nature ((several languages, i.e., Hispanic population)) can inhibit performance, though there is sharp debate over whether that is a short-run or long-run effect. ((This has been shown to be a popular American blame-shifting excuse for a very long time, very easily disproved even in Finland, much less right next door in Canada.))
The new study shows that foreign-born adults in the United States have much poorer-than-average skills ((This is common in all countries for first generation immigrants, but not nearly as great as in the US; it’s the second generation that counts.)), but even the native-born scored a bit below the international norms. White Americans fared better than the multi-country average in literacy, but were about average in the math and technology tests.
++++++++++++ (end article) ++++++++++++
*This assessment measurement is called ICT skills (“Information Communications Technology”). ICT is concerned with the storage, retrieval, manipulation, transmission or receipt of digital data. Importantly, it is also concerned with the way these different uses can work with each other, but the user has to be able to make sense of it all, actually know and understand what they’re doing and why, etc.. This stuff, and everything related to it, is considered critical for success in almost any decent field today, and tomorrow. And it all started with Bill Gates.
In literacy (reading and writing), Finns averaged 288 points and finished second only to Japan’s 296 points. The OECD average was 273 points. The US (270) was in 16th place, below the average for all 24 countries.
Numeracy (math) was also a Finnish strength, with the average Finn scoring 282 points to finish in second spot behind Japan’s 288 points. The OECD average was 269 points. The US (253) was in 21st place, below the average for all 24.
In ICT skills (“Information Communications Technology“), 41 percent of Finns rated ’good’ or ’excellent’ (Level 2 or 1), well above the OECD average of 34 percent. Only Swedes had a higher proportion of adults classified that way. The US was in 14th place at 32 percent rated ’good’ or ’excellent’ (Level 2 or 1). An excellent example of American deficiency in this area was the complete debacle made of the federal government’s recent “roll-out” of a major new entitlement program under the nation’s “Affordable Health Care Act” – a program heavily reliant on many tens of millions of people using the internet to easily interface with major interconnected government computer data bases. (This debacle also revealed a total managerial incompetence among those “leaders” filling very senior positions requiring such expertise and capabilities.)
The American public education industry always comes up with ways to dispute the results of such international studies, but after years of studying what OECD does with PISA studies involving children, I conclude that they are reasonably fair and accurate, and probably lean over backwards to make some member countries look better than they are. A LOT of work goes into these studies, with every participating country demanding all sorts of checks and balances and scientific discipline (plus convoluted rationales for low scores).
I am also convinced that a disproportionate significance related to high end scores concerning US children, and now adults, is due to the products of private schools.
If Americans don’t want to copy Finland’s approach to public education, they could still do enormously better simply by looking north to Canada, which achieves results in these studies almost as good as Finland and Japan with a greatly more multi-ethnic population now very heavily imported from the Third World. Over 60% of the adult population of Canada was born in other countries. Similar immigrant statistics apply to Australia.
And, unlike other countries, the US uniquely takes great exception to any requirement to report gender data; in the US anything related to gender that cannot be somehow beneficial to women is simply censored out. As is universal for all US “mainstream news” outlets, the above New York Times piece makes no mention of gender, but does state, “Compared with other countries with similar average scores, the United States, in all three assessments, usually had more people in the highest proficiency levels, and more in the lowest.” I’d bet the farm that those vast differences between large numbers in high and large numbers in low are very strongly related to gender – to the disadvantage of males. If they were not, American women would be screaming with knee-jerk predictability. Even in the OECD study, obviously in deference to women who dominate the American “education” industry, American gender data is deeply buried. Notice that the last paragraph of the New York Times article typically brings up the old tried and true matters of immigration and race to deflect attention away from the far more important matter of gender. It’s a very common propaganda technique serving the interests of the MAJORITY portion of the US population – at the expense of everyone else. That majority heavily skews the overall results and effectively buries their true meaning.
Finland, however, does not hide gender differences. This is because there were no gender differences in the rankings, with Finnish men and women reading and writing and using computers to solve problems equally well. Math skills were very slightly better among Finnish men than among women, which can easily be attributed to the natural respective interests of each.
Obviously the women running US “education” are fearful of the public learning just how poorly our schools are educating boys and thus hide it all behind nebulous “uni-sex” numbers – a sexist propaganda tactic that would have sent American women into explosive orbit as late as the 1990s. The truth is that girls are now doing FAR better than boys, FAR better than boys were EVER doing against girls in the distant past. Our schools teach solely to girls – which is the most blatant violation possible of 1972 US federal civil rights law demanding gender balance throughout all of American education. (Notice that gender is now even censored out of all Fourth Estate reporting on education, not just by the school apparatus. The power of self-interested American women is supreme.)
All while American men sit there, ostensibly oblivious, feverishly playing video games.
The European Union target is for 42% of European high school graduates to go on to university, but there is considerable variation of this among member countries. Only about a third of German grads, for example, currently go on to college, but Germany also has a different type of education system, one that includes a quite elaborate apprenticeship program with commensurate career rewards. (German thinking about education has remained largely unchanged, and successful, for a very long time; it intelligently places approximate equal weight on the needs of the nation and the desires and abilities of the individual.) Primarily due to high entrance requirements to fill finite openings, generally about 40% of Finnish high school grads go on to college. At present, while well over 80% of all Finnish secondary school graduates are fully prepared to do college course work, and about three-fourths (75%) actually apply to continue their education, far less than half of them (about 33%) are accepted. There is now a government program in place to temporarily increase the number of spots available to students at institutions of higher learning, with the aim of clearing a backlog of qualified applicants. However, opening the doors of universities and colleges to more students is not the only road to a more highly educated population. The Finns view it as very important that those who start also finish their degrees, and within the normal period of four years for undergraduate degrees and six for a masters, and they are determined to maintain their high on-time completion rate.
In Finland, entrance to university is an competitive accomplishment, not a birthright entitlement. If you want to get a univeristy education in Finland, you have to work hard for it, while also following general guidelines of what the society needs and which fields reward the advanced degree with commensurate gainful employment. And that work begins long before college age. In 2014, out of the 73,700 applicants taking the university entrance exam, 24% were admitted. The aspiring students were competing for 17,000 university places made available in that year’s admission procedure – which tries to predict society’s needs 4-10 years ahead. Those intending to study in technology fields (39%) and natural sciences (37%) had the highest chances of gaining admission. (That’s a combined total of 76%). Among those with the lowest chances of gaining admission were those wishing to pursue theater and dance (3%) and psychology (6%). Finnish higher education is heavily oriented to the realistic future needs of the society, not to today’s romantic wishes of students. There are not huge numbers of people gaining degrees in Finland which no employer needs, so that government has to create a “need” for them through ever more government programs.
In America we live with whatever students want, damned whatever the nation needs. American education is a buyer’s market, based on whatever parents are willing to buy, even where taxpayers foot most of the bill. Over 50% of the faculty at top-notch Stanford teach humanities, but fewer than 20% of applicants are interested in taking their classes. So what do you do with all those professors with liberal arts tenure while you’re trying to hire professors competent in business, science, physics, technology, engineering and math? Even within liberal arts it’s a problem. What do you do with idle tenured professors who teach history, literature, economics, sociology, foreign languages and anthropology while you’re trying to hire competent teachers for the passing-fad navel-contemplation liberal arts subjects students want to pay for – like women’s and gender studies, art, political “science”, philosophy, Black-American studies, drama, archeology, psychology, African studies, “marketing”, religious studies, music, basket weaving, etc., mainly just to get a degree from prestigious Stanford? American education should follow the Finnish model, with at least 60% consideration to the future needs of the nation, and less than 40% consideration to whatever buyers are willing to buy, plus financial assistance, loans and grants for seven or eight years or more.
University students in Finland do receive financial assistance, but there are very few Finnish professional students. For example, those admitted may receive an allowance, but only for the length of time needed to get a degree – 37 months (~4 years) for a bachelor’s degree and 28 months (~3 years) for a master’s degree (for a total of 65 months). A student is required to accumulate at least five study credits per month, and at least 20 credits per term, to qualify for the allowance. The system makes no consideration for those switching majors or for students taking extra courses not required for their degrees, but does make some extension accommodations to those temporarily dropping out due to illness.
In the US, based on national testing, only about 40% of American high school grads are actually prepared to do college level work, but over 70% go to college anyway. This naturally results in a very high drop-out rate during the first one or two years of college, even with most colleges and universities providing rather extensive (and expensive) no-credit remedial courses on core subjects such as elementary English and Math that should have been mastered just to graduate from high school. That many unprepared students trying to get a college education beyond their reach does little more that run up a lot of student debt that buys nothing but a huge albatross holding back the 30% who shouldn’t be there – as well as the rest of the economy to which they could be contributing. (Student debt in the US now exceeds a staggering $1 Trillion.) But even among the minority admitted who do complete their undergraduate degrees, very many require five or six or more years to do so. Those full-time students at American public universities who earn a bachelor’s degree in the expected four years are an abysmal 19%. In the past, most American college students were awarded their undergraduate degrees around age 22 and then moved on to jobs and marriage in a churning economy. Among US college students today, 44% are 24 or older, and over 25% have children. It would appear that college life has become a comfortable existence for many Americans well past the time when students in other countries have moved on to productive lives. (Who foots the bill for these aging American students? They all can’t be military veterans who first served their nation for three years to earn their college assistance.)
And then there’s the question of the value of that US undergraduate degree. According to the (US) National Association of Scholars (NAS, 18 Dec 2002), based on a survey conducted for them by Zogby International in April 2002: “When given a controlled test covering four areas of general knowledge, American college seniors score at about the same overall level as did high school graduates of fifty years ago (1950s). Today’s college seniors do slightly better on questions pertaining to literature, music, and science; about the same on questions about geography, and worse on questions dealing with history, than did average high school graduates a half century ago. Their personal interest in high culture, measured by questions about their favorite authors and classical music also seems little different than that of the public at large fifty years ago. By almost every measure of cultural and general knowledge in our survey, today’s college seniors appear to rank far below the college graduates of mid-century.” As much as Baby Boomer “feminists” have always loved to disparage and ridicule their Greatest Generation parents, similar studies have shown that there has been a steady decline in the general knowledge of American college graduates (and high school graduates) of both genders during the forty years from 1970 to 2010 – when those same “feminists” were running the “education” show. You can’t make this stuff up; it’s just too crazy. In order to help girls compete well with boys, they succeeded only in lowering the standards for everyone, i.e., they crippled boys so girls could best them with no effort. That’s American “equality”.
As the value of an American college education decreases, its cost increases. The average price of one year at a private US college (including tuition, fees, room and board) is now more than $42,000 – or $168,000 for four years ($210,000 for five years, which most students now need). The average price for a student to attend their own state public university for one year is about $19,000 – or $76,000 for four years ($95,000 for five years). Who is to pay such prices? To meet those 4-year costs costs for a child born in 2015, new parents need to save more than $7,000 for a private school, about $4,000 for a public school – every year. But in 2014 just 48% of American families with at least one child under 18 had set aside money for college, and their average savings totaled just $10,040 by 2015. So what is more important – saving for a child’s college or a parent’s retirement? You can’t get a loan for retirement, and there isn’t enough time left to pay one off if you could. And only a fool would expect today’s kids to pick up the retirement costs of their parents. Better get crackin’, kiddies.
Then there’s the problem of all those “special” people who need their pathetic “feelings” massaged, inflated and trumpeted. Even as the difficulty of school material “taught” in America has steadily declined, the grades awarded for mastering less and less have increased. No level of our “educational” industry is immune from this idiotic “grade inflation” designed solely to serve delusional self-esteem. Even Harvard recently realized that the grade most frequently awarded to students was “A”, making even an “A” at Harvard not so special at all. And that was after discovering a decade earlier that the percentage of Harvard graduates awarded “honors” was an incredible 91%, making one wonder just how distinguished are Harvard “honors graduates” who comprise 91% of those graduating (and how miserable it must have been for those 9% of “born losers”, presumably all “dumb men”, who didn’t get “honors”). There’s nothing more disconcerting than having an intellectual conversation with someone with very impressive academic credentials who is, basically, a quite mediocre dud hopped up on delusional self-esteem to mask both their ignorance and capabilities. “I may be stupid, but I am still the greatest! I am special!” (Yes. Yes, you are, sweetie. Now go ask mommy to tie your shoe laces.) It’s as pathetic as requiring a whole institution, such as the Regular US Army, to dramatically alter its standards so that a token very few of these “special” people can participate – just so that ALL the “special” people out there can achieve vicarious self-esteem – for doing nothing at all.
I personally note among today’s college grads whom I’ve met, including teachers, a considerable ability to cite isolated factoids, but a rather rudimentary ability to conduct independent research and analytical reasoning, and an even greater deficiency in reading comprehension and writing abilities. I also find myself explaining in basic English the meaning of rather elementary mathematical principles – to American college graduates – which I, and my two younger sisters, learned in the ninth and tenth grades. (Apparently the objective of the Baby Boomer “feminists” was to make everyone so dumb that “feminists” wouldn’t have to exert themselves to keep up.) I have the distinct impression that the main purpose of US public K-12 today is to function as forced indoctrinate centers and thoroughly inculcate undeveloped minds with the dictated dogma of those women running the operation; it is definitely not about learning how to think, but rather about learning what to think (according to supremely perfect and totally unassailable “me”, naturally).
And the degree of specialization just boggles the mind. Even those who have impressive academic credentials seem to have focused their attention on ever smaller parts of the whole; it’s easy finding people who know all there is to know about a speck of sand in the Sahara, but don’t know much at all about other specks, and many who don’t even know there’s a desert there.
This is a nation running in reverse, all while worshipping “me”, who accomplishes nothing.
“The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.” – author and historian Tom Clancy (1947-2013)
Hint: American girls always could compete equally with boys, in any academic endeavor. All that’s required is not offering either group any excuses for not. Once you start screwing around trying to assist one group, you always end up with unintended and destructive consequences elsewhere. Despite generations of asinine American “feminist” nonsense, serving only themselves, there is no “special” in equal. It’s long past time to hold them fully accountable for fixing the colossal mess they alone created.
The OECD organization evaluates much more than is indicated here. Its 466-page report can be read or downloaded at: http://skills.oecd.org/skillsoutlook.html Ripley’s book also examines what Poland and South Korea are doing in their very good schools from an exchange student insider’s vantage.
Here’s a P.S. for our armies of women social and “education” “experts”: ALL American males, boys and men, ALWAYS tell women, ALL women, whatever they think women want to hear. It’s the way women program them from birth onward, and then enshrine it all in laws and regulations actually requiring them to lie to them. Any woman doing “research” on boys or men is bound to get exactly what she’s looking for. After a few decades it’s like looking in the Magic Mirror – your very own self-fulfilling “truth”. And then you can take it wherever you want to go with it, in your own mind. All that silly reinforcement of women’s demands and preconceived delusions has been doing far too much damage to our society. It’s time for them to just grow up.
In America everyone has the right to be as stupid as they want to be, and a huge number of them take that right as far as possible. But when you teach kids to be stupid by requiring them to learn little more than politically correct dogma favoring the self-anointed “special” people, then you have over-stepped the bounds of acceptable behavior, anywhere. In America we teach children how to think, give them the tools that enable them to evaluate and analyze information, and then allow them to reach their own objective conclusions, conclusions which they can actually intellectually defend. Or we should. But we don’t. I respect the right of others to disagree with my views, but I do not grant anyone the right to impose their self-serving views on me, to dictate what I may say or write and what I may not, to require me to lie just to over-inflate your sense of self worth. And I especially do not grant such a right when it’s imposed on our children. In the last century this nation fought two monumentally expensive wars to defeat such practices, first on the right and then on the left. The last place those practices should ever have a home is in America, and the last factor that should decide any matter is whether or not it conforms to asinine left or right politics. “Take your ‘politically-correct’ dictate and shove it! And then grow up!”
Footnote #1. A Mini-USA. Finland, because of its smaller population, is an excellent example of dynamics that are mirrored in the much larger US. All key social and economic factors are very similar to those in the US, and Finland does a much better job at reporting truth in those factors (i.e., far less censorship and propaganda serving “special” women).
Finland: Men left behind as gender gap in education widens
Helsinkin Sanomat, 20 March 2014, Reprinted in English in Helsinki Times, by Anni Lassila – HS / Aleksi Teivainen – HT
When a doctor checked the blood pressure of a patient at a Helsinki health care center in November 2012, nearly two-thirds of medical students were women.
The gender gap in higher education has widened further in Finland. While nearly every second ((50%)) 30-34 year-old woman in the country had a higher education degree in 2012, fewer than one in three ((33%)) of their male contemporaries did. In this age bracket, the gap has thereby widened to over 17 percentage points.
In older age groups, however, the gender gap remains notably narrower. Of the 50-55 year-old population, 20% of women and 18% of men had a higher education degree in 2012. Men over the age of 55, in turn, were notably more highly-educated than their female contemporaries, indicate statistics published yesterday by Statistics Finland to commemorate the seventh annual Minna Canth Day. ((Minna Canth, born Ulrika Wilhelmina Johnsson (1844-1897) was a Finnish writer of Swedish ancestry, a social activist for women’s rights. Today “feminists” who invoke such icons of the past do so from their own contemporary self-interests. Thus, it’s all about rights, with the responsibility parts left to “someone else” – a very twisted version of “equality”. Note that Canth was a writer, and thus educated, in mid-19th century Finland.))
((The fact that the education gender gap increases with younger ages demonstrates a stark trend: Taking higher death rates for men into account, during the 1970s gender balance in education began to tip in favor of women, creating a gender gap that has widened in every year since. In recent times, Finnish women are steadily surging far ahead of men in higher education, which is hardly an indicator of “equal opportunity”. A society practicing actual equal opportunity in its government-supported institutions would be insuring that just as many men as women (50-50) were gaining advanced degrees. There is no more critical institution in any society than that which provides an education to all citizens, equitably. But women have rights; they do NOT have responsibilities, and most especially responsibilities for the other half. Thus, it’s all about “me”, damned the overall context, damned those “evil” men.))
In 2012, 54% of students at higher education institutions in Finland were women. The dominance of women increases further when looking at completed degrees, with 60% of the degrees completed that year being granted to women. ((Thus Finland is following the trend in the US, while lagging slightly behind the US figures. The US dominance of women students completing college degrees now stands already at 65-35. There is a variety of explanations as to why more women than men complete degree requirements, including more men dropping out rather than incur heavy loan debts. But the key factor is that women entering college are far better prepared to do college work in the fields they prefer than are men in fields they prefer, and this is a reflection of the educations each received prior to college. If that pre-college education heavily favors fields preferred by women, then it’s clear that men will suffer, in both high school and college – and that this favoritism will be reflected by the failure of men to complete college.))
On the other hand, conventional gender roles seem to continue to govern the choices of young Finns. The publication by ‘Statistics Finland – Women and Men in Finland’ indicates that women are still drawn particularly to the so-called soft sciences.
In further and higher education, women accounted for 89% of the degrees completed in the field of social and health care in 2012. The field of education and teaching was similarly dominated by women, who were granted 77% of the degrees that year. And 69% of the degrees completed in the service sector were completed by women. ((A key figure here is the dominance of women (77%) in education. A strong case can be made that women are best at teaching to their own gender – at the expense of the other gender. This is the very definition of “institutional discrimination”. Women have rigged the system, bottom to top, to favor themselves, and THIS is the very definition of sexist bigotry.))
Men, in contrast, continue to be drawn to hard sciences, and in 2012 accounted for 94% of the degrees completed in technical fields, 66% of the degrees in the field of agriculture and forestry, and 58% of the degrees in natural sciences. ((But the numbers of men in such fields are enormously smaller than the numbers of women gaining college degrees in other fields. Today “feminists” concentrate the public debate solely on the part about getting more women into “hard” sciences – not on the fact that women are benefitting enormously greater than men in education when education is taken, sensibly, as an institutional whole.))
In addition, conventional gender roles are manifested in university admissions, with women accounting for 74% of students in degree programs in humanities. Similarly, nearly two-thirds (66%) of medical and dentistry students were women in 2012.
In recent years, the gender balance has also shifted in the favor of women among law students. In contrast, nearly 80% of students in the field of technology were men.
>>> End article <<<
In summary: In Finland, as in the US,
>Women are gaining college degrees at enormously higher rates than men (60-40), and they are obtaining those degrees in “soft” and safe fields such as social sciences and health care (89%), teaching (77%), humanities (74%), services (69%), medicine and dentistry (66%), and law (55%) – all of which are funded or heavily supported by the public sector.
>Men are gaining college degrees at enormously lower rates than women (40-60), and they are obtaining those degrees in “hard” and risky technology (such as math, physics, business) fields (94%), agriculture and forestry (66%), and natural sciences (58%), which are funded or heavily supported mainly by the private sector.
In sum, fewer and fewer men are paying for the comfortable careers of privileged women.
Some gender differences in Finland in 2012:
– 72% of employees in the “safe” public sector were women; 60% of employees in the “risky” private sector were men. (It is the private sector which produces the wealth needed to pay for the public sector and enable a society to remain viable and grow.)
– There were 618 over 100-year-old women but only 91 over 100-year-old men in Finland. (This is an elderly ratio of 87-13 in favor of women in very lengthy and costly tax-subsidized retirement.)
– The life expectancy for a newborn girl was 83.5 years, but for a newborn boy it was only 77.5 years. (This is a difference of 6 years longer for the average woman in costly retirement – costs that must be paid by working taxpayers. With men and women workers paying the same taxes, the result is that men are heavily subsidizing the much greater social and medical entitlement costs of women.)
– Roughly one in five 40-year-old men (20%) were single, while only one in ten of their female contemporaries (10%) were single. (Twice as many men as women are electing not to marry, which indicates that many women are importing husbands while their society imports Third World women to have and raise the future taxpayers needed to pay for entitlements, most of which go to women.)
– One-third (33%) of 40 year-old Finnish men are childless. (Half of all young Finns live in areas where there are more young men than young women; a lack of potential partners means fewer families and fewer children. As in the US, far more young women than young men gravitate to major metropolitan areas, to government, education, medical, social service and financial centers – to comfortable, safe and secure routine office work.)
– 87% of Thai citizens living in Finland were women; 74% of Italian citizens were men. (The implication here is obvious if you know the two native cultures.)
– On an average, fathers received 81.4 euros, but women only 58.7 euros per day in parental allowance. (This is due to the lower incomes of less educated fathers. There are, of course, far fewer fathers receiving public assistance than women.)
– In 2013 Finland’s population saw a net gain of 24,600; the number of foreign-language speakers grew by around 22,000. (Almost 90% of Finland’s absolutely critical population growth, needed to avoid rapid meltdown bankruptcy, is being met by imported people, and their children.)
Such gender differences indicate that Finland is following right behind the US example. Even as women benefit far greater than men in education, they are becoming ever more dependent on fewer men to pay their way throughout their longer lives. Women do NOT carry their fair share of the societal burden, and have become a net drag on the future viability of their society. Finland, like the US, is NOT a society that is in equitable gender balance. All those rights DO come with corresponding responsibilities.
Yet another study: Finland has world’s most cost-efficient education system
A new study has ranked Finnish schools the most efficient education system among 30 OECD countries in terms of their return on expenses. The study says Finland won the top spot because of its relatively large class sizes and reasonable teacher wages.
The study highlights that smaller class sizes or teachers’ pay are not necessarily linked to better results. It focuses on teaching budgets, which researchers say account for 80% of spending on education. ((It does not focus on physical plant – for example, the money spent to build and maintain American palace schools.))
Source: Yle (Finland’s national TV news service), 5 September 2014
Governments around the world spend trillions of dollars each year on educating 1.3 billion children. But how efficiently do governments use their available budgets? A new Efficiency Index report published by the London-based education consultancy GEMS Education Solutions has highlighted which countries are investing most effectively to produce the best educational outcomes for their young people. Finland, Korea and the Czech Republic come out on top of the 30-country list.
((The report was written by Peter Dolton, economics professor at Sussex University, Oscar Marcenaro Gutierrez, associate professor at the University of Malaga, and Adam Still, from the British education firm GEMS Education Solutions, which commissioned the research.))
The study claims that over the last 15 years, Finland has achieved the best educational results for each dollar invested, if the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are used as an indicator. ((The Efficiency Study placed the US at a position – 19th – slightly better than its PISA math score placement (22nd.))
Finland’s National Board of Education Counselor Petra Packalen is not surprised by Finland’s placement. “Finland is world renowned for its quality, equality and efficiency. The lesson Finland has extended to the international community is that these three attributes are not mutually exclusive,” says Packalen.
The study is a straightforward comparison of PISA results with teacher-related expenses. The rationale behind Finland’s top ranking is the relatively large average class sizes and mid-level teacher wages. The news that Finland is considered to have large class sizes comes as a surprise to Packalen, who says Finnish classes are quite small when compared to the other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.
The chair of the teachers’ union OAJ Olli Luukkainen is also skeptical about the study’s premise that a change in teacher salaries or class size would have a statistically significant impact on PISA scores. “It sounds as if this is straight-out research mathematics, in a negative sense. You could even draw the conclusion that efficiency could be increased by expanding class sizes, and this is not how progress should happen. This logic does not take into account Finland’s practice of integrating special needs students into groups. And then there is the problem of adding teacher salaries to the mix. Two indicators are devised that are linked together in an abstract way to come up with a pretty lopsided conclusion.” ((It’s called math. The study is a logic thing; not an emotional thing. And it points to results, not process.))
How to determine educational efficiency?
The study points out that some countries emphasize practices that don’t focus on efficiency or PISA results and yet still do well. Luukkainen warns that people shouldn’t get the impression that the Finland education system is developed in line with certain PISA goals. “All of us who work to develop Finnish schools can say with a clean conscious that Finland does not develop its studies to achieve top PISA results,” he says.
The GEMS study also indicates that Finland’s top placement does not mean that it still couldn’t make its system even more efficient. OAJ’s Luukkainen is reluctant to go down that path. “I strongly urge everyone to be wary of that. Talk like that hints at adding to class size in the faith that the teacher will manage and kept up the good academic returns with relation to expense. It most definitely doesn’t work that way. I hope Finnish decision makers will understand that numerical analysis and counting euros is not the correct gauge by which we should be measuring educational outcome.” ((I agree with her: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”))
Packalen says efficiency can be an effective measure, as long as we know what is being assessed. “Efficiency is a meaningful measure of success, but one must also remain aware of who is defining this efficiency and how. For example, this study was entirely lacking in information on the time spent teaching and learning. Finnish school days are very short and little time is spent on homework, but for some reason, these kinds of indicators were not included in this study.” ((She is correct: Finnish schools have two special things going for them: excellent teachers and a high public regard for education, and, of course, for their great teachers. Those teachers have actually earned their high status in Finnish society.))
Efficiency index ‘Value for money’ in school spending and results
Efficiency PISA Math
……………………………… Score ….. Score ………………………………
1. Finland 87.8 5
2. Korea 86.7 1
3. Czech Rep 84.4 14
4. Hungary 84.1 24
5. Japan 83.9 2
6. New Zealand 83.3 12
7. Slovenia 83.3 10
8. Australia 81.2 9
9. Sweden 80.6 23
10. Iceland 79.4 17
11. UK 78.7 16
12. France 78.7 15
13. Israel 77.8 25
14. Netherlands 76.8 4
15. Ireland 76.8 11
16. Austria 74.7 8
17. Norway 74.0 18
18. Belgium 73.5 6
19. USA 72.7 22
20. Chile 72.5 28
21. Turkey 71.4 27
22. Denmark 70.6 13
23. Italy 69.8 20
24. Portugal 68.3 19
25. Germany 67.0 7
26. Spain 63.1 21
27. Greece 60.6 26
28. Switzerland 59.7 3
29. Indonesia 51.1 30
30. Brazil 25.5 29
Footnote #3. When I was a upperclassman during the 1960s, the University of Chicago was “The Shining Light”, from which brilliance constantly emanated in dozens of fields….
Chicago School of Free Speech
An antidote for the infantilizing craze sweeping campuses.
by L. Gordon Crovitz*, in Wall Street Journal, Opinion, 22 November 2015
“I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” read the headline of an essay for the liberal website Vox earlier this year. The author, who was frightened enough to write under a pseudonym, admitted that he “cut out anything I could see upsetting a coddled undergrad,” including books by Mark Twain.
The American Association of University Professors last year warned: “The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual.”
The liberals who run U.S. universities can’t be surprised by the epidemic of grievances on their campuses. Their generation used political correctness to exclude conservative thought from the faculty. Now their students reject academic freedom for everyone. Administrators quickly cave in to their demands, abandoning centuries-old principles of open inquiry.
Students have been taught there are no limits, so they expect their most extreme demands to be taken seriously. “Be quiet!” a Yale undergraduate screamed to the master of her residential college: “It is not about creating an intellectual space!” Students insist on “trigger warnings,” protection from “microaggressions,” and “safe spaces” where no one will challenge their prejudices.
Protesters at Amherst demand a ban on posters favoring free speech. Johns Hopkins students want a mandatory class on “cultural competency.” Wesleyan undergraduates tried to get the campus newspaper defunded for an op-ed critical of Black Lives Matter.
After students at Yale demanded that Calhoun College be renamed because its namesake defended slavery in the early 19th century, students at Princeton demanded its Woodrow Wilson School be renamed because Wilson was a segregationist in the early 20th century. Even Rhodes scholars are joining in: A group last year ended the tradition of toasting their Oxford benefactor because Cecil Rhodes was prime minister of segregated South Africa more than a century ago — never mind that he was a liberal in that era.
The University of Michigan canceled a screening of “American Sniper” when Muslim students protested (the school showed “Paddington” instead). Students at Smith refused media access to a sit-in unless journalists first pledged “solidarity” with the protesters. A University of Missouri professor called for “muscle” to remove a student journalist covering protests. Disinvited campus speakers include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a critic of Islamism. Comedians Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David avoid campuses for fear of offending.
The good news is that some universities are bucking the trend. The University of Chicago formed a committee under law professor Geoffrey Stone “in light of recent events nationwide that have tested institutional commitments to free and open discourse.”
The committee report, released in January, cited former university president Robert Hutchins, who defended a speech on campus by the 1932 Communist Party presidential nominee by saying the “cure” for objectionable ideas “lies through open discussion rather than through prohibition.” Another former president, Hanna Gray, said: “Education should not be intended to make people comfortable; it is meant to make them think.”
The Chicago statement on free expression echoes these sentiments: “It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
Instead, “the university’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the university community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the university community, not for the university as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.”
(Disclosures: I am a proud Chicago alum, an embarrassed Yale grad and a mortified Rhodes scholar.)
Purdue and the Princeton faculty have voted to adopt the Chicago principles. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is encouraging other universities to sign up. Meanwhile, expect students to find ever more microaggressions, perhaps including degrees in the names of offending founders: Elihu Yale made his fortune as a British East India Company imperialist. Exploited Chinese laborers built Leland Stanford’s transcontinental railway. James Duke peddled tobacco. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Mellon were robber barons.
Liberal academics are reaping what they sowed. They can now adopt the Chicago approach of tolerating “offensive, unwise, immoral” ideas or resign themselves to producing graduates knowledgeable only about their own pieties.
((*Louis Gordon Crovitz is an American media executive and advisor to media and technology companies. He is a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal who also served as executive vice-president of Dow Jones and launched the company’s Consumer Media Group.))
Common comment posted to this article on WSJ:
“A friend of mine, a university professor, commented to me about ten years ago “We may be the last educated generation because we finished college before 1969 before grade inflation, lowering course standards, invented nonsensical courses and infantile student demonstrations”. He said that the administration at his university was more concerned about accommodating Political Correctness than delivering quality education due to the sharp drift leftward in the university faculties and administrations.
“At that time, I thought that he was just venting about problems solely confined to his university. Now those problems are widespread throughout the US colleges and universities system. The educational rot is very deep. I pity those few students who really desire to get a education. All they are now receiving is a course in Leftist Campus Anarchy.
”We may have been the last truly educated generation – before the spoiled brat Boomer generation destroyed quality education in the US.” ((and, led by “feminism”, greatly lowered all standards everywhere.))