Skip to main content


The Golden Verses Of The Stoic

Seneca and Epictetus refer to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras , which happens to provide a good framework for developing a daily routine, bookended by morning and evening contemplative practices. Zeno of Citium , who founded Stoicism in 301 BC, expressed his doctrines in notoriously terse arguments and concise maxims.  However, Chrysippus, the third head of the Stoic school, wrote over 700 books fleshing these ideas out and adding complex arguments to support them. 

It is Not that We Can't Be Like Finland
....well... that's not really ... um...

So I'm out on the Web looking for the Finnish Education Standards for 6th Grade Math -- why? Well, because Finnland is the number one country in the world in the area of Education. And, they kick the hell out of the US -- we're like 23 or 27 or something (32). Right? So, this guy, Milgram is going around saying that the CCSS Math (which he helped write) isn't good enough to accept as a school standard. He likes to point at 6th grade. So, I'm out looking for Finnland's 6th grade Standards -- which are written in Finnish *sigh*
There has to be a copy somewhere in English.

So, anyway, I found out some cool stuff about this International Rockstar in of Education.

In 2006 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted a survey of 15-year-olds' academic skills from 57 nations. Finland placed first in science by a whopping 5% margin, second in math (edged out by one point by Chinese Taipei), and third in reading (topped by South Korea). Comparisons that involve so many variables are ... difficult. Some might say impossible. Still, just a glance at PISA's scores year after year prompts the question: How does Finland churn out so many avid learners?

At first glance, the Finnish educational system looks like it would only produce hippie slackers. Check out the casual amenities:

Schools often have lounges with fireplaces but no tardy bells.

Finnish students don't wear uniforms, nor do they often wear shoes. (Since Finns go barefoot inside the home, and schools aspire to offer students a nurturing, homey environment, the no-shoe rule has some pedagogical logic.)

And although academic standards are high, they don't have that "grind grind grr grr DO IT!" normally associated with high standards.

Never burdened with more than half an hour of homework per night, Finnish kids attend school fewer days than 85% of other developed nations (though still more than Americans), and those school days are typically short by international standards.

 Finnish teachers enjoy an equally laid-back arrangement. They work an average of 570 hours a year, nearly half the U.S. total of 1,100 hours. They also dress casually and are usually called by their first names (Aino, Helmi, Viivi, Eetu, etc.).

Is the secret massive financial investment? No. Finland spends only $7,500 per student, considerably less than the United States' average $8,700. So how does Finland produce the world's best young scholars via minimal hours and cash? Since PISA began ranking nations and revealing Finland’s special sauce, plane-loads of inquisitive teachers from every corner of the globe have been making pilgrimages to this educational mecca. Here’s a taste of what they've observed:

 More cred than doctors The level of respect accorded to Finnish teachers tends to grab attention, especially in America where teaching is viewed as a "fallback" profession occupied primarily by the lower third of college graduates. That equation is flipped in Finland, where teachers boast the highest vocational status (followed by physicians.) 

A full 25% of Finnish youngsters select teaching as their career goal, but only a fraction succeed. Only 10% to 13% of applicants gain acceptance into the masters' degree in education program. After all this hard work, the rewards are generous, but not necessarily financially so. Teachers earn a generous $45 to $50 per hour for elementary school, $75 to $80 for secondary school. Yet some far lower-performing nations such as Spain and Germany pay teachers more. Instead, Finnish teachers enjoy immense independence. Allowed to design their own lesson plans and choose their own textbooks (following loose national guidelines), Finnish teachers regard their work as creative and self-expressive.

Free preschool, free college

Finnish toddlers have access to free preschools supervised by certified college graduates. Ah, you wonder — are the little innocents getting a jump-start there, reading and writing all day? Wrong! Truth is, Finland's preschools offer no academics but plenty of focus on social skills, emotional awareness, and learning to play. Remarkably, Finnish children don't approach reading until age seven (Waldorf nation?). They learn other concepts first, primarily self-reliance. One American observer noted that first-graders were expected to walk unescorted through the woods to school and lace up their own ice skates.

Twenty colleges exist in Finland, and they're all free. Imagine the financial relaxation this provides for both parents and children. Universities are not widely stratified either; the disparity between the "best" and "worst" is not terribly large. Curbing the dog-eat-dog competition

Americans give lip service to the notion that "all men are created equal,” but our appetite for competition creates an intense focus on ranking low and high performers — whether they're schools or students.

Finland downplays educational competition in a number of ways. Schools aren't ranked against each other, and teachers aren't threatened with formal reviews. At many schools, teachers don’t grade students until the fifth grade, and they aren’t forced to organize curriculum around standardized testing.

Gifted students aren’t tracked into special programs, invited into honor societies, or chosen to be valedictorians. Instead, struggling students receive free extra tutoring. After ninth grade, students attend either an academic program (53%) or vocational one (47%) — this flexibility results in a 96% graduation rate, dwarfing the United States' measly 75%. Finally, since there are no private schools to speak of, there’s no sense that the best students are being skimmed off the top.

Overall, such attitudes go hand in hand with Finland’s socialist-style egalitarian society, which focuses on meting out fees and services according to need rather than merit. Even parking ticket penalties are determined according to income: A wealthy sausage factory heir was fined $204,000 for going 50 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone!

Additional differences

Finnish schools lack some of the extracurriculars — such as sports teams or musical bands — considered so essential to U.S. high schools. But free lunches are available to all students. “School choice” doesn’t exist; everyone goes to the neighborhood school. Students learn at least three languages: Finnish, Swedish, and English. Finally, Finland is a culture of readers, with a great library system and book mobiles reaching even remote locations.

Although the Finnish system seems antithetical to South Korea's (the Asian nation placed second in the 2007 PISA surveys), the two small countries share much in common. Both cultures hold teachers in the highest esteem. Both achieved independence relatively recently — Finland in 1917, South Korea 1946 — and both are resource-poor nations that decided education was the path out of poverty. Finnish and Korean languages are easy to read and spell; they don't have the illogical phonetics of English.

Comparing lingonberries to hamburgers

Is it fair to compare the small, homogenous northern nation to our roiling melting pot of diversity? Many experts say no. After all, given our higher immigration rate and wider socioeconomic stratification, our schools tend to become social experiments not simply for learning but also for many other social functions schools aren't designed to handle.

But let's Compare anyway

I agree with that point -- regarding the variety of problematic social situations vs qualification of design and support of resources. Like you I was brought up in that pot of stirring melting *&% as well. Getting through some school days was a lesson plan that had very little to do with algebra -- though physics and some lessons in dealing with greater mass and power using smaller frames and slighter structures might have come  in handy.

However, I also know that it is not an insurmountable problem. It is a problem with several layers of variables, many details and very few constants you can count on to stay where you put them an hour ago. But I also know that this problem has zero chance of being solved. In fact it can't be solved at all. It would take a major change in the foundattional structure of our nation for there to be the slightest possiblity of any true change And Finland?

The problem we face is -- as a nation -- our real problem -- is we don't give a shit.

Most states treat their education programs, and the management of those programs with -- It is easy to say 'destain' because it looks that way when you approach it from the political side of the room, but really -- they don't care enough about it to give it destain.

Most state constitutions, separate the education area, away from everything else. They do. Most of them have a system where they have a State Superintendent. Then, for each district, there is super who answers to the State Super. Then, they have a State School Board. Now, what this creates is very close to a congress, a senate and a governor. The school boards at the district level, however, are politically more powerful than the district super in most states. -- There are no standards for this, so if your state is different, it just is, alright?

Where few states differ are in some very messed up areas and these areas show that level-below-destain I was talking about.

In the State of Missouri, for example -- My Champion in the arena of Citizen protection Against Power Mad Government. 'MERICA! Yes!  How much do you think a member of the State Education Board makes?

Missouri has this salary written into their Constitution. A guaranteed, constitutionally protected salary. No budget change, no economic change, no problems of any sort can take the budget of their salary away. Cool huh? So, how much do you think it is..?   State Education board... not those wimps out in the districts. State!

What? hmmm... well, no... not that much. $25 a day -- a day, meaning every day that they are actually in the board room doing State Education business as a group.  No.. Not $25,000.00. Just $25.00.

I'm not even sure that is legal is it? Minimum wage?

The District School Board Memebers aren't paid at all. Nothing. Colorado is like that as well. Remember that these people fill Elected positions. They had to Pay to run a Campaign for a postion which has no respect or real authority.

Qualifying Education levels are a little low as well, as in thin, or slight or... Invisible.  That's right. A member of the Board of Education, at the District or the State level, isn't required to have a high school diploma, or to pass any test of ability, nor are they required to know anything about -- e.d.u.c.a.t.i.o.n. They are not even required to have a background check performed to show that they are not sex offenders or felons -- because the litigators don't want to pay for those checks.

Which is only fair. You aren't paying them anything. They have to work their asses off, they take tons of crap from the press, and congress, and governors if anything goes wrong. They are overburdened with the decisions they aren't qualified to make -- you pay them NOTHING for this amazing honor of insuring your kids get an education -- and have absolutely no power to insure that it happens.  And on the Social Respect Level, they are somewhere between street sweeper and newspaper boy.

That -- against a hydra like problem dealing with multi-level government, multi level government laws, unions, parents, congress(state and federal) with no real educational standards to speak of (prior to CCSS), not guidance, no very little guidance and most of that guidance comes in the form of people who have agendas.

OH! And let's not forget the Tea Party members calling the house, threatening your life, threatening to rape your daughter, and burn you out because you are a fucking liberal swine trying to make this state into a Socialist NIghtmare and Working under Obama To INDOCTRIATE their kids!

"Indoctrination? Are you out of your fucking mind? On $25 a day!"

So, yeah... Better get back to finding those Finnish 6th grade math standards so I can make sure that our CCSS standards -- all of those TeaParty members with no education at all, hate because they think Obama has something to do with them, -- make sure they are up to the level we need them to be -- which is at a level insuring our school board members aren't qualified to talk about or make decisions on.

... just this last thought... You know how those Tea Party guys are all talking about Big Gov tracking them and tracking their information?  So... the next time you are on Twitter, check your profile, and look under Installed Applications. -- So Under Settings, and then on the left, under Apps. Check that list? See it? Yep. The Tea Party Software Tacker! Recording everything you say, and every group # you post to and every person you talk with and who your friends are... All into the database where Big Tabacoo and Big Oil can find your tickle points and send you wildly into breakup meetings and protest against things.. you don't even know why.. do you? Nope.... Its' Obama... and that's enough.

Luck to you drones. Luck to you.