It has recently been dawning on certain segments of the American public that public sector unions are kind of awful and that teachers unions in particular might be at fault for at least some of the suckitude of our public schools. One result of that realization is that Finland has suddenly become significant to the national debate. That's because Finland's kids are rather accomplished and its teachers are highly unionized.
A typical, simplistic version of the story has been ticking down Cornel West's Twitter feed all afternoon:
The implication here—and of the Finland-is-teachers-union-and-education-heaven argument in general—is that unionization means more talented people will go into the teaching field, presumably attracted by the better pay and job conditions that unionization helps create. But the numbers don't quite bear that out. In response to West's claim, check out how Finland stacks up on teacher pay internationally:
There are many reasons why kids in Finland are doing well on standardized tests. Teacher quality certainly could be among those reasons. But the idea that talented people in Finland are choosing teaching over Wall Street thanks to the conditions created by the unions simply isn't accurate. No one's arguing that a unionized workforce can't get good results. It obviously works fine in Finland. But here in the U.S. the education system is badly broken, and reformers are finding over and over that teachers unions remain one of the most power forces for the status quo.