The real leader in education is Finland, which boasts students who have “some of the highest test scores in the world” and make American kids look like drooling simpletons by comparison. Of course, the xenophobe is quick to point out that Scandinavia doesn’t have as many immigrants or pesky ethnic minorities as the USA. That must be why their school kids do well.
The only problem with this, besides its inherent racism, is that “the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn’t lose its edge in education.”
So what’s their secret? How do they wallop us — the good old red, white, and blue — in head-to-head competition? Perhaps it’s because they have no interest in competing in the first place. As The Atlantic points out, “the Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.”
In essence, the Finns try to keep the playing field level for their children. Cooperation is more important than winning, and their goal is to educate “not just some of its population well, but all of its population well.” Consider that “there are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland,” as opposed to America, which is obsessed with snaring private tutors and getting its little darlings into the most prestigious academies.
Naturally, those students who grow up in low-income areas or without top-flight teachers are at a disadvantage. But I guess that means they’ll just have to try harder, right? Such thinking is anathema in Scandinavia, where “education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.”
Now some will proclaim that this is socialism. Perhaps they are scared that an egalitarian approach to education is apparently more effective and “more important to the success of a country’s school system than the nation’s size or ethnic makeup.” In fact, one could argue that “the problem facing education in America isn’t the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society.”
And speaking of ethnicity, keep in mind that Latinos perpetually lag behind other ethnic groups when it comes to educational achievement. Could one reason for this be that American culture has no interest in lifting up these kids, who are often at a socioeconomic disadvantage? Doing so would appear to undermine the sacrosanct principle of competition.
If that’s the way the game is set up, then those who have a head start are, of course, always going to win. And all the competitive striving in the world isn’t going to change that.