Saturday, December 31, 2011
"Not only is education itself free, but the state pays students to study, through a student allowance"
"Starting in 1980s, families with children could choose whether they wanted to have a home care allowance, to be paid to be stay-at-home parents, or to have their children placed in a high-level kindergarten."
"Gender equality has always been strong in Finnish society"The following is perhaps the most interesting.
"The downsides facing Finland
#1 is the unemployed—young people who have no education and no work. “That’s our time bomb,” admits Taipale. “It’s over 10 percent of young Finns. The lowest group in our social hierarchy is single men: unmarried and divorced men. Men without women. So I’ve been looking for new innovations for the second edition.”Seems the problem of "young men" still exists even in the Finnish context. It suggests that even the Finns have to figure out solutions for this small but very important cohort.
Innovations from Finland:
The secrets of Finland’s success:
#1 is consensus, togetherness.
“We don’t have a two-party system, we actually have a three-party system,” says Taipale. “One party is always out of government, and the other two share power. And they change around. In city councils and executive bodies, ever party is proportionally represented. Even the labor market is trilateral—employers, workers and the state—and together they make agreements.” This approach began during the Winter War against Russia in 1939. Torn apart by a very bloody civil war in 1918, the country understood that it had to unite to fend off its aggressive neighbor.
#2 is open democracy.
Finland has a unicameral parliament but its communities and municipalities are strong. They have tax power. Helsinki gets 18.5 percent of its residents’ salaries as a city, making it half independent of the state. “The principle of openness, that all you are governing, all your documents have to be open to everybody, came from Finland more than 200 years ago,” says Taipale. “And it went into the Swedish Constitution around 1770.”
#3 is equality.
Today, the country has a woman as president, a woman as mayor of Helsinki, and a female speaker in its parliament. “Maybe a little too much equality,” Taipale chuckles. “I was on two parliamentary commissions, civilization and the constitution, and the chairs were both women. And at home, there’s a woman. But I have to say that we, the men, made the laws to establish equality with the help of women. And we’re happy.”
Gender equality has always been strong in Finnish society:
on family farms, the wife and husband traditionally worked together. “My grandmother never went to school because they were too poor,” says Taipale, “but she taught all the girls in the family, ‘Educate yourselves! This is the way to stand on your own feet.’”
During World War II, many European women entered the labor market to keep the factories going, but when the war ended, they were pushed back into their homes. In Finland, however, women stayed on the labor market, which meant that something had to be done with their children. The Taipales, for instance, had four children and their mother worked constantly.
By the late 1980s, Vappu Taipale had been appointed Minister of Social Affairs. This was when the first serious social innovations began.
For the first time, families with children could choose whether they wanted to have a home care allowance, to be paid to be stay-at-home parents, or to have their children placed in a high-level kindergarten.
This benefit has been universally available in Finland for 20 years now. The result? Nearly all children under two are taken care of at home. And nearly all children between two and school age are in kindergartens. Moreover, the public services are strong in Finland, they are trusted, and there’s no real competition with the private sector.
“This makes our labor market more effective because mothers and fathers don’t need to worry about their children,” says Taipale. “Young children are very important for our society and our birthrate is one of the highest in the European Union—although it is not very high, about 1.8 children.”
#4 is free education.
Not only is education itself free, but the state pays students to study, through a student allowance.
“This really is very important because it develops all talents by providing all children with opportunities to grow where they are talented,” says Taipale. “For instance, in the OECD’s PISA competition, Finland has stayed in the top three since 2006. One reason is that teachers’ education is at a very high level—university degrees. Many people complained, saying ‘Oh it’s not possible, it costs too much,’ but it’s not true. Finland’s social budget is below the EU average.”
Add universal social and health policies, then if you break your shoulder and go to the hospital, you will only pay 100 euros, 50 euros of that for surgery. In the small private sector, the same treatment would cost 7,000 euros. “We are happy taxpayers,” says Taipale. “I pay 47 percent of my pension and salary in taxes, but our four children got a free university education.”
Stricken after the soviet invasion in 1939-40—indeed, one of the key clashes was the Battle of Taipale—, the country began a policy of sharing what it had. It started with very small child allowances, very small universal pensions, and residence-based social security, meaning that anyone living in the country got something. “This created the dynamics of our society,” says Taipale, “and if you listen today, the ILO and the UN both say that you have to start with small allowances to poorer people and children.”
#5 is Finland’s nongovernmental organizations—some 70,000 of them. But this is where Finland parts ways with other countries: its NGOs are financed, not just by the state, but by gambling. All gambling and all Finnish casinos are in hands of the “NGO mafia,” as Taipale calls it, not the underworld mafia, and their profits go to NGOs. Finland also has a tradition of subsidizing political parties, even at the local level, while parties have to inform the Minister of Trustees about how they collect money for elections and all donations over EUR 2,000 have to be reported, along with their source.
“And the last secret? We don’t have any enemies,” says Dr. Taipale with a smile. “We’re not afraid of the Russians. The Winter War was enough.”
The downsides facing Finland
#1 is the unemployed—young people who have no education and no work. “That’s our time bomb,” admits Taipale. “It’s over 10 percent of young Finns. The lowest group in our social hierarchy is single men: unmarried and divorced men. Men without women. So I’ve been looking for new innovations for the second edition.”
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Myths About Content and Quality: General
Myth: Adopting common standards will bring all states’ standards down to the lowest common denominator, which means states with high standards, such as Massachusetts, will be taking a step backwards if they adopt the Standards.
Fact: The Standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for success in college and their careers. This will result in moving even the best state standards to the next level. In fact, since this work began, there has been an explicit agreement that no state would lower its standards. The Standards were informed by the best in the country, the highest international standards, and evidence and expertise about educational outcomes. We need college and career ready standards because even in high‐performing states – students are graduating and passing all the required tests and still require remediation in their postsecondary work.
Myth: The Standards are not internationally benchmarked.
Fact: International benchmarking played a significant role in both sets of standards. In fact, the college and career ready standards include an appendix listing the evidence that was consulted in drafting the standards and the international data consulted in the benchmarking process is included in this appendix. More evidence from international sources will be presented together with the final draft.
Myth: The Standards only include skills and do not address the importance of content knowledge.
Fact: The Standards recognize that both content and skills are important. ......
abduction is the only logic which introduces newness: induction merely confirms that something is so; deduction draws out further logical implications. But a genuinely new development (let us call it an ‘idea’ – whether natural or cultural) requires a mysterious and incalculable move. Peirce called it informed guessing, or a hunch or animal-like intuition: a semiotic operation, but hidden from view (Peirce, 1998a: 216-8). Bateson, working out of cybernetic understandings, thought about the problem of abduction in terms of systems consisting essentially of information as positive (excitatory) and negative (dampening) feedback. Biosemiotics, of which Bateson was an important precursor, recasts ‘information’ as semiosis in living systems. In biosemiotic thought, living systems are thus conceived as cybersemiotic systems, and this introduces a rather different sense of ‘mind’ and ‘idea’. A ‘mind’, as Bateson recognised, is something much more like an ecology in which ‘information’ (semiosis) circulates in a complex symphony of causes, feedback, and further effects (signs) (Wheeler, 2010: 41).
PLAYBACK: Tweeting History, Literature and Politics, and the Future of News | Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning
Tweeting History: The New York Times covers historical reenactments on Twitter this week with a story about@RealTimeWWII, which has grown to more than 15,000 followers since it started this past August. Alwyn Collinson, a recent Oxford University history graduate, has been live tweeting the events of World War II as they unfold in real time.
Collinson tells the Times the idea is to let followers experience how the war felt to ordinary people:
“I still get dozens of tweets every day from people who say, ‘I forgot I was following World War II, and I suddenly thought the Germans were about to invade Holland,’ ” Collinson said. “That’s exactly the effect I want: to convey the fear, the uncertainty, the shock. That’s what it was like for the people who lived through it.”
We’ve written previously about using Twitter to bring history to life for students (see tweeting the Civil War), and the Times has a few other great examples, including @1948War, which tweets the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Educators may want to check out twhistory.com, whose tagline is, “Those who forget history are doomed to re-tweet it.” You can browse past re-enactments and get guidance on starting your own.
The Short Form: I wrote about Twitter’s burgeoning literary community when we covered the medium’s fifth anniversary earlier this year. The community is growing – from poets to social media theatrics. The National Writing Project has done a great job of highlighting uses of Twitter in the classroom specifically for teaching the art and craft of writing.
I like this new collection on its Digital Is site called The Short Form. Curated by Paul Oh, it demonstrates the value of learning to write 140 characters at a time.
In this resource post from Keri Franklin, director of the Ozarks Writing Project and assistant professor of English at Missouri State University, she equates learning to tweet with learning to write and to read. “I learned as much about audience, purpose, conventions, and handling writing apprehension as I have learned from writing much longer pieces,” she says.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Starting tomorrow for five days 34/35 Dean Street, just off London’s Oxford Street, will be home to eBay’s UK version of the pop-up store. There are no tills in eBay’s Christmas Boutique (image below) but with over 350 items on display shoppers simply scan an associated QR Code that resolves to the item’s page on eBay and then complete their purchase in the normal way. In addition to Christmas best sellers there are donated charity items and clothing from the Fashion Outlet.
A More Perfect Union:
The Creation of the U.S. Constitution
Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, the "financier" of the Revolution, opened the proceedings with a nomination--Gen. George Washington for the presidency of the Constitutional Convention. The vote was unanimous. With characteristic ceremonial modesty, the general expressed his embarrassment at his lack of qualifications to preside over such an august body and apologized for any errors into which he might fall in the course of its deliberations.
To many of those assembled, especially to the small, boyish-looking, 36-year-old delegate from Virginia, James Madison, the general's mere presence boded well for the convention, for the illustrious Washington gave to the gathering an air of importance and legitimacy But his decision to attend the convention had been an agonizing one. The Father of the Country had almost remained at home.
Suffering from rheumatism, despondent over the loss of a brother, absorbed in the management of Mount Vernon, and doubting that the convention would accomplish very much or that many men of stature would attend, Washington delayed accepting the invitation to attend for several months. Torn between the hazards of lending his reputation to a gathering perhaps doomed to failure and the chance that the public would view his reluctance to attend with a critical eye, the general finally agreed to make the trip. James Madison was pleased.
The Articles of Confederation
The determined Madison had for several years insatiably studied history and political theory searching for a solution to the political and economic dilemmas he saw plaguing America. The Virginian's labors convinced him of the futility and weakness of confederacies of independent states. America's own government under the Articles of Confederation, Madison was convinced, had to be replaced.
In force since 1781, established as a "league of friendship" and a constitution for the 13 sovereign and independent states after the Revolution, the articles seemed to Madison woefully inadequate. With the states retaining considerable power, the central government, he believed, had insufficient power to regulate commerce. It could not tax and was generally impotent in setting commercial policy It could not effectively support a war effort. It had little power to settle quarrels between states. Saddled with this weak government, the states were on the brink of economic disaster. The evidence was overwhelming.
Congress was attempting to function with a depleted treasury; paper money was flooding the country, creating extraordinary inflation--a pound of tea in some areas could be purchased for a tidy $100; and the depressed condition of business was taking its toll on many small farmers. Some of them were being thrown in jail for debt, and numerous farms were being confiscated and sold for taxes.
In 1786 some of the farmers had fought back.
Led by Daniel Shays, a former captain in the Continental army, a group of armed men, sporting evergreen twigs in their hats, prevented the circuit court from sitting at Northampton, MA, and threatened to seize muskets stored in the arsenal at Springfield. Although the insurrection was put down by state troops, the incident confirmed the fears of many wealthy men that anarchy was just around the corner.
Embellished day after day in the press, the uprising made upper-class Americans shudder as they imagined hordes of vicious outlaws descending upon innocent citizens. From his idyllic Mount Vernon setting, Washington wrote to Madison: "Wisdom and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm."
Madison thought he had the answer. He wanted a strong central government to provide order and stability.
"Let it be tried then," he wrote, "whether any middle ground can be taken which will at once support a due supremacy of the national authority," while maintaining state power only when "subordinately useful." The resolute Virginian looked to the Constitutional Convention to forge a new government in this mold.
The convention had its specific origins in a proposal offered by Madison and John Tyler in the Virginia assembly that the Continental Congress be given power to regulate commerce throughout the Confederation. Through their efforts in the assembly a plan was devised inviting the several states to attend a convention at Annapolis, MD, in September 1786 to discuss commercial problems.
Madison and a young lawyer from New York named Alexander Hamilton issued a report on the meeting in Annapolis, calling upon Congress to summon delegates of all of the states to meet for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation. Although the report was widely viewed as a usurpation of congressional authority, the Congress did issue a formal call to the states for a convention.
To Madison it represented the supreme chance to reverse the country's trend. And as the delegations gathered in Philadelphia, its importance was not lost to others. The squire of Gunston Hall, George Mason, wrote to his son, "The Eyes of the United States are turned upon this Assembly and their Expectations raised to a very anxious Degree. May God Grant that we may be able to gratify them, by establishing a wise and just Government."