I recently read this article and was motivated by what I read: What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success.
A friend commented:
I find it ironic that the principle we champion, 'competition', when applied to education has the net opposite effect. Rich kids, bathed in the excesses of the education system given them under produce because, well they know they don't need to. Poor kids, already behind, see their example and conclude, we aren't going to work any harder than they are. End result? Less competition and a society spiraling downward. ( I know these are generalizations, but I've frequently heard and seen numerous examples supporting it.) In the end it comes down to the character of the people involved. Public or private, doesn't matter, never has.
And then I said:
In America, we're always talking about "leveling the playing field," especially in the program I did "NYC Teaching Fellows." With a focus on equity and absolutely no private schools, that's exactly what kids get in Finland, an equal opportunity everywhere. Haves / Have Nots . . . not as much an issue in education. I'm trying to imagine how this would work in America, a school in a low-income, gang-ridden area ranked with the same quality as in an affluent suburb? Are we dealing with different variables outside classroom doors, and aren't those made exponentially worse by the cycle of poverty? How do we break it? I also learned about "leveling the playing field" in Denmark. When I was in Copenhagen, I was asking a lot of questions about why they are often ranked so highly in quality of life. A local said, "our greatest resource is our people, so we invest in our people." And he continued, "in our schools, it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, you will get the same education and have the same opportunities no matter where your family comes from or what your father does." He also was proud to say that, "The CEO of that shipping company over there has exactly the same health insurance as anybody in the country. We are happy because we take care of each other. In America, we pride ourselves on our rugged individualism and the "American Dream," the idea that we can make it big no matter what. But when the odds are stacked against some kids in this way (and I see the inequality every day . . .) I begin to wonder what would happen if we were more collaborative instead of competitive. Competition, in my mind, doesn't just ruin education at the student level, but also at the teacher level, with awards such as "Teacher of the Year," whatever that could mean. In a carefully orchestrated choir, all voices work together for a beautiful blend. At Midnight Mass, for example, as I hung out and struggled to blend with the professional egos in the alto section I could hear a hot mess of egos in the Soprano section. The choir director had to stop and say, "Blend. Calm down. This is a choir. It's too much. I shouldn't hear individual voices." In my mind, teaching is not just a solo act, but more like the blended efforts of that choir and everybody works together to blend and help each other out, even if you are alone standing in front of the classroom. But what about ineffective teachers??? In a system that reveres teachers, it would be about support and development. And I'm just thinking back to other jobs I have done. I was a lifeguard, and there was no "lifeguard ranking system." There was a job to do and we helped each other out. College Professor? There's an evaluation, but it's mostly to help us self improve, and when a boss observes me, has always been supportive and positive. Study Abroad Advisor? We worked together as a team with a common goal. No glorified individuals. Waitress. Food had to be served, and people had to be happy. Some restaurants even "tip share" pooling all the tips together, so a weak link would bring everybody down. Resolution, help that "weak link." We've got it so wrong in this country on so many levels. And instead of working together to fix this massive problem, we argue, point fingers, yell and still, at the end of the day, there are schools like mine with a 50% graduation rate.