When Charles Davenport Jr. is bored he seems to turn to attacking the public school system and his first few sentences sum up his approach; “When an engineer determines that a machine isn’t functioning properly ... defective components must be replaced ... the engineer will have to consider doing business with another factory” (Sunday, Nov. 17).

Rather than try even harder to “machine” our children into perfect little robots in a cost-effective manner by educational “engineers,” he might want to consider the approach taken by arguably the most effective educational system in the world: the Finnish model.

Basically, the Finns do the exact opposite of what we try to do in our system.

Standardized testing?

  • Us: As much as possible to get “data” to fix the machine.
  • Finland: Nope. One voluntary test at age 16 to help students decide which secondary educational path to pursue.

Educational fads, “silver bullets,” new programs?

  • Us: Every year new ideas to “fix” everything (remember the “flipped” classroom)?
  • Finland: Nope ... just well-trained and -vetted teachers working for independent and responsible principals who are actively knowledgeable about the needs, abilities and progress of every student in their school.

Poor children, poor schools; rich children, good schools?

  • Us: Yep.
  • Finland: Every school is funded equitably (at the national level) to ensure that all children (regardless of ethnicity or background — yes, the Finns have immigrants and income disparities) receive an equal educational opportunity.

The real difference between our systems is the simple idea that the Finns commit to the concept that all of their society must contribute to the establishment and maintenance of an equitable and well-resourced educational system whose goal is to develop productive citizens in the largest sense of that concept.

While our system is driven by the idea that as little public money as possible should be spent to produce a “public education machine” that should have cheap parts, require $9/hour maintenance and get good gas mileage to boot.

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The writer lives in Greensboro.

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