The fans of state-sponsored and state-delivered education will often burp up facts about Finland as an example of how having common education standards throughout an entire country yields stellar academic results for all children.
Yes, Finland is one of the leading countries in academic achievement. They have a nationalized curriculum that all schools must use. They have had great success.
Therefore, politicians tell us, the United States should also nationalize K-12 achievement. A “common core “ will streamline academic expectations across the country and narrow achievement gaps between the states.
And education, they say, is better if we set the same expectations for all kids across the United States. “We know this works,” Obama said in the State of the Union in February. “So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”
Does that sound a lot like “No Child Left Behind”? Yes, it does to me too. Call it “Race to the Top” or “Nanny-state-education,” they’re all based on the same false premise.
Common core standards are rolling out nationally, state by state, with the federal government twisting arms by twisting the purse string. States meanwhile are grabbing the cash and legislating participation in multi-state consortia to implement these lock-step national education goals. However, we should remind ourselves that comparing Finland to the United States academically is like comparing apples to Apple -as in fruit and computers.
First of all, let’s say it aloud: Most countries, including Finland, beat our shorts in K-12 academic achievement in part because they emphasize academics. In the U.S. we continue to confuse socioeconomics with education. If education, not politics, were truly a goal in American education, we too would be topping the international achievement charts.
But should we even consider Finland’s “national curriculum” in the United States,. Given that the “core” standards we’ll use will likely be very different, occasioned by our size and diversity?
Look at the world map of Finland and the United States. Finland is a blip of landmass in geographical comparison to the U.S.- Finland has 130, 127 square miles to the United States’ 3,790,000 square miles. There are only 5.4 million Finns. There are 5.1 million residents just in the state of Colorado, one of the smaller states in the union. In other words, Finland would be better compared with one of the states rather than the United States.
So Finland’s curriculum may be better compared to state standards rather than national standards.
The fact is that Finland’s success is much more to the credit of savvy local control than serving as a poster child for a national, one-size-fits-all curriculum. It is an affirmation of the 10th amendment of the constitution of the United States that in its wisdom left education authority at the local level. And it’s another hint that the federal government ought to leave education to the states- or better yet the parents.
Imagine if the European Union (EU) imposed continent wide academic standards, in the same way that Washington politicians currently want to shove common core standards down our throats. It would be the demise of the Finns’ education exceptionalism.
Think of Finland having to participate in a multi-EU-country consortium to create common core education standards for all, then having to implement what Cypress says every Cypriot child ought to know.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that what works in Finland may not work in Cypress and the other way around. Besides, the Finns were not the first ever to use a national education curriculum. There are other examples, less touted such as: Prussia, China and Nazi Germany.
That brings us to the most important question of all: How good are the proposed US common core standards?
Let’s pretend for a second that it’s a great idea for the United States to have a national curriculum. What happens if the standards are terrible?
That’s what we face now. Forty-plus states nominated so-called-experts on education outcomes and they culled out some of the very best practices from meritocracy and left only a hodge-podge of mediocrity.
With the new common core standards, for example, middle school children will no longer be taking Algebra. The Finnish standards are at least academically rigorous.
It begs the question, who are the experts that our politicians chosen to create and impose standards on our children? These are bureaucrats who are twice removed from the classroom and three times enmeshed in union group-think.
The standards leave no room for parents, either. Do you need politicians to tell you that your kid is failing math, or needs to be in honors English? I think not.
So if common core standards are not designed to actually improve education achievement, what is it all about then? Like most things today, the common care standards are about politics, not solving problems.
Right now state legislatures are currently busy imposing goofy public education laws that have more to do with same sex propaganda and assuring long-term existence of federal lunch programs than bills that would actually improve education. It is not a coincidence.
I don’t think I am completely out to free-and-reduced-lunch here to suggest that a common core is just a rotten idea that will spoil the whole education barrel.
I will give props to any politician who attempts to fix American public education. My hat’s off to them. But only if they focus on fixing education, and stop using American children as PR extras for another federal power grab.
Let’s have the conversation about common core standards and whether or not it’s good for America. And please don’t drag Finland into it.