Making Room for a Finnish Education in America

I shared yesterday’s Brief about Finland’s success in international testing standards (success that flies in the face of “teaching testing”) with a local message board that is a space of community conjunction between the municipality and the university:

The moderator, as a moderator should do, responded with: How would you implement this model into our local schools?

Here is how I responded:

Obviously this is a complex issue because of the machinery of our current economic system. We have to walk back the pressures of “work” as the end all and be all of our Western existence. We operate our schools based on the templates of the work day. We move between subjects and classes and schools as a kind of training ground for capitalist “disjunction.”

But I’d go further and say we encourage “capital” life exchange by seeing school as only a replicating machine for social hierarchies

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. The “successful” students will move into an “elite” track in order to reproduce a “white collar” class and the “failures” will either stop at grade 12 (if they get that far) or move into a “local” job training program.

Both “next steps”–white collar, management training (human resource training) and blue collar (even “tech” jobs are blue collar if they are wage labor in an industrial model), labor training–are “jobs” in their own right in which another arm of the economy is served (and students are “resources” to mine, in this sense). Both also serve to encourage a debt burden that keeps us, within our social moment, chained to the “options” offered by our ruling order.

So, I think we must first understand that it’s unlikely that we can clear away those frameworks in order to insert another way of “being.”

But to me, it’s necessary to TRY even in the face of likely failure in order to bring the possibilities forward.

First, I’d abolish the current management structure. No “leader” beholden to a 200K per annum salary is going to be interested in the experimentation that LIFE is and that education should be and that childhood should be.

Then, as I would assume that changes at the earliest stages will put pressure “upstream” to evolve to fit the children moving into the secondary waters, I would try to think of ways to mimic the “lack of school” till age 7.

So, no regimentation…no time discipline. No “lessons” with “goals” to be assessed as “progress.” Play is essential.

But not American-style play as in organized activities with “teams” and competition. Free play of the imagination. Free play of creativity…Art, Music/Song, Poetry, Dancing. The Body and Mind Discovering each other in this most crucial time. Attaching language and learning to JOY and Play.

That is, erase the current system up to age 7, and if parents and the social needs require children go to school at age 3 or 4 then they should be offered a massive playground with fully engaged and joyful attendants who keep them safe and model learning, model play, model creativity. That is, no coercive instruction in the right way and right things to learn, but adults in the act of learning are “teaching” what it means to be an active learner.

There, surely I’ve exposed myself in extremis here. Have at it.

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  1. dpopp November 3, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I preferred playing in the mud to reading poetry at age 7.

    1. Douglas Storm November 3, 2011 at 11:49 am

      Room for that as well, right!? Mud is poetry–primordial emotional and physical responses come out in the gutteral cry of the boy tromping in a stream bed.

  2. focus November 3, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    There is some of this play atmosphere in Montessori schools I believe. Don’t know enough about them but I do know they differ from the standard by encouraging more play and encompassing a broader educational base than the traditional pre-school and early childhood education models.

    1. Douglas Storm November 4, 2011 at 6:36 am

      yes, indeed. Our obedience to a strict industrial model of “shift-work” education and “piece-work” thought encourages the very failure we castigate.

      Incorporating other models into the public school environment will begin to show our communities what we can achieve if not held back by the current “way”.


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