Finnish Schools are Compete FailuresSecretary Duncan, speaking just now, urges us to emulate Finland. There, only the top 10% of college grads need apply to be a teacher, and they'll face stiff competition at that.
How did Finnish Education become such a failure? Where did they go so wrong? In this nation, the top 10% of grads are not going on to cure cancer, not going forward to provide security and sustenance for the most needful in the world, not aiming for Mars or deep sea discovery, not making the world flat with new Internet apps and networks, not financing and building the world's supply chains, grocery stores, medical networks; not reaching into the past to uncover our shared legacy, not working to engineering intelligent highways, electrical grids, a cleaner, greener, more sustainable planet.
Finnish teachers are so bad that the height they teach their pupils to aspire to is returning to whence they came, spending all but four years of their life in the K-12 school building.*
Don't beat me. I'm not dissing teachers here. Nor Finland. None of this is to say that first rate American grads who have a passion to teach should not do so. Our schools need you. Especially if you are smart enough to go around the entrenched systems by which adults slow down the learning of youth.
Yet grades are not the only measure of a student, an education, or of a nation. And there's another thing. Who really wants a nation where only the best test-takers teach our kids?
I want teachers who floundered in college. I want teachers who reached for subjects that would try both their brains and their mettle. I want teachers who took degrees so far beyond them that "C-" is the best they could do.
We want such teachers for three reasons. One, because they will be more sensitive to their struggling pupils. Two, because their own learning, and the learning they pass on, will be richer, deeper, more empowering. Three because they will confront their 'best' students and tell them to reach farther, higher, harder than they think they are capable.
*About 20% of Finns get Bachelor level education; teachers make up about 4.3% of the labor force. You can see that taking the top 10% of college grads for teaching positions doesn't leave much top talent for any other professions.