Education

Cornel West Sweet Tweets Finnish Teachers

|

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:

scapegoat's

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:

We're number 5! We're number 5!

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.

NEXT: Reason.tv: Put the Money in the Backpack

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Has Cornell West ever been right about anything?

    1. Heh heh! No…

    2. He’s right about American exceptionalism being dumb…

      1. Methinks that some Finns would disagree, because they can do so in Finnish …

        … instead of Russian.

        (Even though they were not part of NATO.)

    3. the hair. The luxurious hair.

      1. He looks like a bad impersonation of the “Voodoo Tuesday” guy on the Black-eyed Peas video.

  2. Buckwheat changed his name to Cornel West?

    OOOOOOTAY!!!

  3. There are many reasons why kids in Finland are doing well on standardized tests.

    Well, according to one of West’s tweets that accompany this article, Finnish kids take “few, if any standardized tests.” If that’s true, any differences in test scores may simply the result of a small sample size!

    1. There are many reasons why kids in Finland are doing well on standardized tests.

      Those kids are obviously unionized.

    2. “There are many reasons why kids in Finland are doing well on standardized tests.”

      None have slave-blood.

  4. I learned today that obesity is keeping our children from learning. Who’s ever seen a fat Finn? Must be all the sauna baths.

    1. Fat, cold and uneducated is no way to go through life, son.

    2. I know a fat Finn personally.

      Some of them can by chubby.

      1. Finns like licorice
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdRCXrr-XHo

        Where’s your God now, Cornell?

        1. Finland apparently has non-unionized dentists.

        2. It’s even worse than that. Not just licorice, but ‘salmiak’ too!

          (Google/Wiki it and weep)

    3. Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari is morbidly obese.

  5. That’s some genius twitting there, Cornell, the way you controlled for variables and stuff to make valid comparisons. Y’know, as opposed to just trying to make semi-literate, ridiculous, soundbite arguments like the “right” does, right, Cornell!?

    Oh, wait…

    1. Twitter’s 140-character limit isn’t really the right format for complex, well-reasoned argumentation.

      For that, you gotta go to facebook.

      1. Oh, as if Cornell is capable of complex, well reasoned argumentation. . .

        fail.

  6. If high teacher pay equalled best education then no one would send their child to private school.

  7. Remember, it’s ok to just make shit up if it’s for the right cause.

    Also: 90% of cited statistics will be a nice round number like “15%” or “30%”. I wonder what applying Benford’s law to opinion pieces would reveal.

    1. Moreover, even when statistics are accurate (though they seldom are when it’s Cornell West talking), they are often deceiving.

      “Statistics are like bikinis; what they reveal is enticing, but what they conceal is vital.”

  8. Are we going to be renaming Head Start “Head Finnish” now?

    1. RACIST!

    2. The answer to our education problems is obvious: we simply take the students in our poorly-performing schools and make them Finnish. Obviously, that would also end the drop-out problem.

      1. At an average cost of 15K per student, we could just arm every student and let them invade Finland for free education. After that, we can just wash our hands of the problem and pretend it never existed because Finland is obviously so superior with its small population and homogeneous culture.

  9. What the fuck is there to do in Finland from October to April? Studying and fapping is about it. Is there a fappers union?

    1. Of course! Ninety percent of the men are members, and the other ten percent lie about their membership.

    2. They don’t have any Marriotts in Finland.

  10. I agree with Cornel: Our teachers’ unions should be Finnish-ed

  11. It’s cultural and has nothing to do with unions. Finland reads more books than any other nation and has more libraries and more people go to school plus a massive alcoholism rate. If there was no day for months on end in America we would all be drunken intellectuals just like Finland.

    1. I think it’s called “North Dakota”.

  12. I think the quality of a child’s education has much more to do with their parents than any teacher or teacher’s union.

    1. RACIST!

    2. Re: Dan,

      And ending compulsory education would certainly help in that regard, as it would COMPEL parents to BE envolved for good.

      The problem with public education is that it makes parents become less interested in their kids’ education after the little tikes learn how to read and write, as later parents assume the teachers are handling that job competently, with the parents just longing for their children to get to the magic age when the suddenly-promiscuous and intellectually-incompetent youths are ready to “leave the nest” and let the father finally build the man-cave he so dreamed and the mother finally free to redecorate the house exactly like SHE wanted.

      1. Or the other group of parents who charge into the school when their kids get a bad grade and demand that “somebody” do “something.” This can result in students with failing grades being given passing grades & teachers being stripped of authority.

        Or, the parents who blame their kids’ bad grades (as opposed to knowledge) on the teachers alone. Hell, when I was doing badly at school and we went to parent-teacher meetings, the first question my father asked was “What does my son need to do to do better?” Long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, way.

        Not sayin’ you’re wrong OM (been lurking here too long to take that risk) but saying there are different problems caused by different parents.

  13. West is an imbecile. He makes me cringe every time I see him on TV.

  14. Send some DC or New Jersey kids to Finland and see how well they do. Let’s see if those awesome teachers can keep them in line and turn them into high achievers.

    I’d put money on quite a bit of failure in that endeavor.

    1. Actually a better experiment would be to bring the Finnish teachers to DC or New Jersey (or to rural Mississippi) and see how well they can improve the students.

  15. A) It’s easy to run an effective public system of anything if your country has like 2 fucking people in it, and all the people are very homogenous in culture and B) I don’t think Finland has a Wall Street for smart or hard-working people to get attracted to – at least not like America does. Yeah that’s what happens when your country works hard and consists of 300 million people, there’s ample opportunity to make money. Are we supposed to feel bad about that?

    1. Comparing populations of European countries to the entire population of the US might not be an apt comparison.

      I think comparing them with individual states might be a better one. Finland has about 5.3 million people in it, which is about the population of Wisconsin. If one were to compare the school system of Wisconsin with the school system of Finland, how do the numbers work out there?

      1. Isn’t most of Wisconsin Finnish?

        1. You’re thinking Stupid, not Finnish.

          1. The population of Madison is pretty brain-dead, I’ll grant that.

      2. Steve Sailer took a shot at controlling for this a while back:

        http://www.vdare.com/sailer/101219_pisa.htm

      3. When someone challenged Milton Friedman by saying “there is no poverty in Sweden,” he replied: “There is no poverty among Swedish-Americans, either.”

        1. Great saying, great. Look at where poverty and stupidity is. It is not geography or natural resources or a history of being under imperialist domination. It is culture.

  16. I hate to defend West on anything but I don’t see where West asserts that unionization caused the good results by creating conditions which attracted quality workers. It seems to me that he is pointing to Finland as a counterexpample to the charge of “unions ruin education systems.” As even KMW acknowledges Finland’s case proves that is not by itself true. In fact West notes “those countries…like Finland” with good education systems are highly unionized, i.e., there are many counter-examples.

    As to his claim that Finland’s teachers “receive the salaries of many of oour businesspeople” that seems on less firm ground given the data presented by KMW (but perhaps the unions there concentrate little on starting pay and more on seniority pay/benefits, a not unheard of strategy for unions).

    1. And lord knows how the unions work. What are the labor laws? Can bad teachers be fired?

      1. I’m not sure I’ve seen much empirical, data-driven evidence that teachers can’t or are not fired here. I hear these ancedotal Stossellesque stories of teacher A who does horrendous thing Y and is not immediately fired, but that simply reflects that some due process guaranteed by the CBA gets followed before an ultimate termination.

        1. It’s because ou don’t look for it.

          “the rubber rooms, known as reassignment centers, where the teachers show up every school day, sometimes for years, doing no work and drawing full salaries.”

          http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04…..=1&hp;

          1. Wow, you bit the hook really quick!

            That’s an exact example of what I discussed in my last sentence above. These are contractually agreed upon requirements before termination.

            1. So you think it’s ok for teachers to be in the rubber room for FIVE YEARS DOING NOTHING?

              I understand the contractual obligation part, but you make it seem as though things like the rubber rooms are no big deal. It’s costing NY $30 million a year to maintain these rubber rooms. How do you maintain that it’s “anecdotal”?

              God you’re such a pedant.

              1. If I had that entitlement mentality, I’d sit around in a room for five years and take the checks… but I’m not.

                Easy to see why some people would, though.

              2. Do you not know what anecdotal means or do you not realize that a few cases, which you cite, falls under that meaning?

            2. Bite you back

              Your example of “some due process” translates to “cannot be fired without incurring inordinate expenses”

              These “rules” are pushed by the Pub Sec Unions – they didn’t materialize out of nowhere.

              Face it, it’s a scam.

              1. Contractual obligations can be expensive. Google “Ovitz” and “Disney”. And there was no “Pub Union” involved in that case!

                1. What was that about anecdotes, again?

            3. Shorter MNG: “There’s little evidence that it’s hard to fire incompetent teachers, because it’s guaranteed by contract that it’s hard to fire them.”

              1. See, you’re confusing “hard to fire” with “takes time to fire.” We don’t know how many teachers are ultimately fired in that district, let alone the many districts across the nation where different contractual obligations regarding termination may have been reached.

                1. Is $30 million a year to maintain the NY rubber room enough for your “non-anecdotal” evidence requirements?

                  I suppose you’ll say no. True believers like you just go on faith anyways.

                2. A firing delayed is a firing denied, MNG.

                3. Making something take longer makes it harder to do, pretty much by definition. As for numbers, read this.

                  In the past decade, LAUSD officials spent $3.5 million trying to fire just seven of the district’s 33,000 teachers for poor classroom performance ? and only four were fired, during legal struggles that wore on, on average, for five years each. Two of the three others were paid large settlements, and one was reinstated. The average cost of each battle is $500,000.

                  1. Ooops, botched the link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/blo…..xxiii.aspx

                  2. Botched the link above, then had the correction marked as “spam.” Trying again

                4. I think you’re confused about what’s being argued. No one is arguing that contracts shouldn’t be honored. The problem here is that the contracts were agreed to in the first place. Why were they agreed to? Because the powerful teachers’ union would shut down “educating” the youth if they didn’t get their way. If firing a bad teacher takes a long time and is expensive, then, yes, it is difficult to get rid of a bad teacher.

                  1. But my point is we don’t know, we’ve seen no data on the total number of teachers terminated nationally or even by district. We just get these stories of this or that smattering of teacher that was fired after a long delay.

                    1. MNG, give it up. It is too hard to fire union workers, PERIOD. Plus it is also very hard to fire minorities in non-union jobs. I know what happens.

      2. As a Finn and a son of a teacher I can say that comparing unions in Finland to U.S. ones is like comparing apples to oranges.
        Here is some info:
        All new teachers do 4 years of university(college?) and do on the job training during their studies.
        Belonging to a union isn’t compulsory to be able to work and bad teachers can be fired without years of litigation or negotiations.
        Unions are quite narrowly focused on teacher stuff, they usually don’t get involved in the politics of the day if it doesn’t concern teachers/schools.
        Teachers are usually well regarded in the community and the pupils usually have a will to learn when they come to school.

  17. Judging from West’s writings I’ve previously read and his first tweet there about students opting for teaching instead of going to Wall Street to “be millionaires” I’m even more confident that he is talking about the “communitarian” culture of Finland rather than the sweet pot of pay/benefits waiting for teachers due to unionization. Certainly he doesn’t think teachers get paid millions of dollars in Finland…

  18. Damn, after all that and one of your links has the obvious answer.

    Those who graduate at the top of their class are the only ones who can consider a career in education. It is the most competitive field, more so than medicine and law. The average acceptance rate into schools of education is a mere 10%.

    Duh.

    1. How can this be true and the pay be so sorry? Something doesn’t compute.

      1. You seemed to have just pointed out yourself – the possibility for non-economic factors. That, or starting pay may not reflect pay potential, or working conditions, etc.

        1. Pointed it out, rather.

        2. Granted, but that is one hell of a communitarian culture if the top 10% of college grads go into such a poorly paying field…

          1. MNG, this says more about Finnish universities than it does about their attitude towards teaching.

            The best Finnish students go to the Ivy Leagues and UVA, or Oxford/Cambridge.

      2. Maybe they don’t think the way we do in some European cultures. In Sweden some music stars just live in 2 bedroom apartments (well, mainly because 90% of their money is confiscated) but they don’t seem to mind. Not many of them pull a Beatles or Led Zepplin and get out to live like an American rock star.

        1. In an analogy to Willie Sutton, they go where the Swedish pussy is.

      3. How can this be true and the pay be so sorry? Something doesn’t compute.

        While I don’t know the structure of Finnish school systems, but this is not paradoxical if the system is a government monopoly, like our public education system. They simply limit acceptance as well as pay.

      4. Maybe the pay is even worse in medicine or law. What’s the average pay in Finland? Maybe it doesn’t matter how much you earn because taxes are so high. What’s the tax structure?

    2. Well, why would the best and the brightest young people in the U.S. want to end up in (non-University) teaching when the teachers unions don’t allow teachers to be rewarded based on merit and where the seniority system means that the same young people would be the first to go during any layoffs.

  19. Schools are doing better in Europe because they dump a lot of students onto vocational colleges. The only students in high school are the ones who are preparing to go on to university, and thus their academic record should be higher.

    1. This is the way it used to be done here too. Seemed to work. People would get actual job skills. It’s how my mom got her first job and stuck with that line of work for like 30 years.

      1. Similar to Australia (or at least as it was 15 years ago; may still be but I don’t know). Everyone stays in high school until they’re 15; then solid students stay one more year, v. good students 2 more years. Those who leave when they’re 17 go onto university, etc. Others go to vo-tech schools, etc.

        The one problem with it, is that you can get locked into a career track early in life b/c it can be hard to change over in your 30s although that seems to be changing.

        1. My mom eventually went to nursing school in her late forties, so she got out of the old line of work.

          1. I should have been clearer: my second para also referred to Australia.

  20. If you control for national origin, white Americans do better than the vast majority of Europeans on these international tests, our Asians do better than Asia in Asia, Latin Americans in the US do better than Latin Americans south of the border, and African-Americans not only outperform sub-saharan Africans (duh) but all of Eastern Europe.

    You can’t compare the US–a huge, diverse country–to Finland, let alone Singapore or Shanghai and use that as an indicator. It’s apples to oranges.

    1. Now, that’s not to excuse the gap between these groups within the US, but that’s a problem of inequality within the United States, not with the rest of the world.

  21. Just another example of how overblown the “AMERICAN EDUCATION IS BROKEN!!!111!1” narrative is:

    The daughter of the (presumptive) next President of China is attending Harvard right now. So, let me put it this way: if Laura Bush or Malia Obama were attending Tsinghua University, THEN you would know we’re falling behind!

    1. Obviously relevant. I mean, all those unionized Harvard Professors…

      1. I wasn’t talking about unions specifically but this silly hand-wringing about American education is falling behind Asians and Finns from both the left and right.

    2. You do realize that we still have competition at the college level, right?

      -jcr

  22. As to teachers unions, or public sector unions in general–have you ever heard someone say “gee, when I grow up, I want to strike it rich by being a high school teacher/cop/garbage man?”

    I didn’t think so.

    1. Strike it rich? No, they’re not that ambitious (which is part of the problem). But not work that hard, get iron-clad job security after tenure, have summers off, and retire in your 50s with a pension and great health benefits…yes.

  23. The key difference between European and American school systems, is that in Europe, funding follows the students, and there is school competition. If an American school graduates illiterates, they cry for more funding and usually get it. If a European school failed like that, they’d be out of business in a heartbeat.

    -jcr

  24. I doubt that teacher pay is the reason that most good college students don’t aspire to be teachers. Of course, the best students have a shot at med school, law school, wall street, or some other high paying career track. Unless you’re in the top 10-15%, you don’t really have those options. Once you take them off the table, teacher pay is pretty good. Also, plenty of really top college students do show an interest in teaching. Teach for America and programs like it are widely popular for Ivy grads- some of it is resume building, but many of them are committed to at least trying teaching. Also, private schools get plenty of great teachers and often pay less.

    I think the culture of teaching is really what drives away good people. It’s the same culture the prevails in most government employment. It’s the my mentality that my job and pay check are entitlements whether I work hard or not, do a good job or not. I haven’t been a teacher, but I have worked in government, and that mentality is prevalent. It also drives good people away. They don’t want to be around people like that and have their careers held hostage by people like that. It’s demoralizing. Even if you get a good steady pay check, most people who want to feel good about what they do all day don’t want to go hang around people like that.

    My two cents.

    1. Agreed. The culture of teaching in America drives good people away. That culture includes (among other things) an overemphasis on credentials and tight control over what is taught and how it is to be taught.

      And ultimately, the American education system is not failing. It is doing exactly what it was intended to do, and doing it well. Unfortunately for students, education has never been one of its goals.

      Finland, incidentally, is a wonderful country in many, many ways.

  25. Wouldn’t some of the pay discrepancy be due to cost of living? If the cost of living is lower, you get paid less.

    1. very true.. here in the expensive s.f.bay area the most basic, entry-level, babysitter ‘teaching’ salary starts at 37k and quickly increases to an average of 60k. guess that makes us equal to TWO switzerlands!

    2. Cost of living in Finland is on the high side, though not as high as Sweden or Norway. Higher than Germany, though.

  26. Can’t comment on the situation in Finland, but I’d avoid any union job despite the better pay just because I prefer an atmosphere where people give a shit. It’s just fucking depressing to work in a job where trying harder doesn’t earn you anything but spite from the fuckers you work with who feel personally threatened by anything non-mediocre.

    1. Let’s not take this too far…I work in the federal government (military, specifically) and have encountered plenty of hard-working, motivated people. Definitely a higher percentage when talking about those in uniform, but there are government civilians that care as well. There is certainly a culture of 9-5 and entitlement, but it isn’t true for everyone.

  27. In our district in the Midwest, the average teacher salary is $67,000.00/year. Average. Some are making way above that. But the tide is turning.

  28. For gosh sake Cornell go to the bloody dentist.

  29. I seriously doubt that the douchebags that work on Wall Street would make very good teachers regardless of pay.

  30. Why the hell would you bring this up on a libertarian blog? It disproves your entire philosophy – or at least any chance that your ideology will lead to better education results.

    As pointed out and conceded above – west doesn’t say “unions = good results” – he is simply saying that “unions do not preclude good results” so you can stop scapegoating them any time you’d like…

    …and if you concede finland’s model for education is successful, you should read up on it – its a massive welfare state that prevents poverty and poor schools in order to ensure that each and every child receives the care and attention they need, along with the education…

    …they start going to preschool, full day, at age 2…

    They’d laugh you silly libertarians and your “something for nothing” philosophy of improving schools out of their country if you ever showed your face…

    You want results like them? Pay for it. Full day in school from age 2 on, hot meals, 1 teacher per 7 kids, etc.

    Oh the taxes….the taxes…

    1. Oh – and what you’re missing about salaries…

      Relative to doctors and lawyers salaries in the country, teachers earn slightly more on average. HOW CAN THIS BE!

      Well, you see, education there is free…as in, college education. You actually get a stipend to go to school. So people aren’t buried in debt, people aren’t required to pay back massive student loans, no one is held out because of financial reasons, etc. So doctors don’t get absurd salaries because of an artificial lack of supply of them – plus, universal healthcare and all that. There are plenty of doctors. Same with lawyers – anyone smart enough can become one and there isn’t pressure to charge $200 a hour to pay back 150k in student loans. There is real competition which keeps the prices down…imagine that!

      Oh, and Reason put “starting” salaries – but that is much different than “average” salaries. Those jobs aren’t even really “teaching” – you have to get a masters to do that. Those are more like babysitters for 2 year olds…and once you get a masters you can actually move up in the schools and actually teach kids…

      …there is this fascinating thing i found called “the google” and you can learn all about these things if you want…

      1. Why the hell would you bring this up on a libertarian blog? It disproves your entire philosophy – or at least any chance that your ideology will lead to better education results.

        …and if you concede finland’s model for education is successful, you should read up on it – its a massive welfare state that prevents poverty and poor schools in order to ensure that each and every child receives the care and attention they need, along with the education…

        My ideology is dependent on Finnish schools doing badly? Herp.

        Yes Finnland is successful, at the cost of a large tax burden and less school choice.

        They’d laugh you silly libertarians and your “something for nothing” philosophy of improving schools out of their country if you ever showed your face…

        Something for nothing? You’re the one who claims that “education there is free…as in, college education.” Herp derp.

        So people aren’t buried in debt, people aren’t required to pay back massive student loans, no one is held out because of financial reasons, etc. So doctors don’t get absurd salaries because of an artificial lack of supply of them – plus, universal healthcare and all that. There are plenty of doctors. Same with lawyers – anyone smart enough can become one and there isn’t pressure to charge $200 a hour to pay back 150k in student loans. There is real competition which keeps the prices down…imagine that!

        Everyone makes less money, taxes are higher, so why wouldn’t prices reflect that? Someone needs to take an Econ class… Pointing to low prices doesn’t mean anything if everything else is to scale for it. What you should look at is how much *wealth* per capita Finnland produces compared to the US. I think you’ll find the comparison isn’t very attractive for Finnland…

        Oh, and Reason put “starting” salaries – but that is much different than “average” salaries. Those jobs aren’t even really “teaching” – you have to get a masters to do that. Those are more like babysitters for 2 year olds…and once you get a masters you can actually move up in the schools and actually teach kids…

        Oooh nice try. You might want to get a refund for that master degree in bullshit. The difference in salaries for tenured teachers in the US and Finnland is even bigger:

        http://www.nationmaster.com/gr…..r-15-years

        1. No, your ideology for improving schools is the exact opposite of what they’re doing – less choice and more taxes, more nanny state, etc. You should just ignore them and try to find somewhere that has gotten results that favor your ideology…if that’s your goal. Why would someone write this article – essentially saying, “well, it disproves what we believe and i don’t understand why, but i hate this dickhead.”

          You want “something for nothing” – better schools at lower cost with less regulation/intervention/government/whatever…you want a free lunch. Doesn’t work that way – look around the world. To say that college is “free” for the students is not saying its “free” overall – i realize its paid for by taxes.

          Now, if you’d like to do a complete economic analysis – including the savings from less police/jails, the economic efficiency of a competent worker, etc – and come up with a refutation of the premise that a quality education paid for by taxes, in the long run, pays for itself – go right ahead. I’ll wait right here. But i don’t think you’re going to like the results.

          I’m not concerned with wealth per capita – it does no good to tell the hidden third world country here how well off they are because bill gates can talk to his wall and it will respond to him. The people of finland, on the whole, are better off than we are. They don’t know what poverty is, they don’t know what dying from a lack of healthcare is, they don’t know what its like to have an education denied to them because they didn’t win the birth lottery. Sure, maybe their surgeon doesn’t get to drive a lamborghini, but i’m willing to bet he’s still able to sleep at night.

          You don’t seem to know what the word “relative” means. The salary of a top surgeon there is about 3.5X that of the average teacher. Imagine if that held true here – a teacher averages 40k, a top surgeon (of which there are very few – this isn’t even “average”) makes 140k. Here, a top surgeon is more likely to make closer to a million dollars.

          So, given their relative amounts, where do you think all the smartest people are going to go for employment? Because teachers are payed well RELATIVE to other professions, intelligent people CHOOSE to be teachers there – it is hard to even get in the programs to become a teacher. Here, we have to beg for them, because the smartest people would rather be doctors, lawyers, or on wall street.

          1. Finland’s healthcare system doesn’t have the R&D costs that are part of our cost … they just get the benefit of that expenditure … and I’d wager they don’t have trial lawyers running amok over their healthcare system.

            I’d also wager they capitalize on the R&D funded/executed by Mr. Gates and others in other areas, as well … and let’s not forget that they can still speak Finnish, not Russian, in part because of our past expenditure of treasure to keep the USSR limited in its reach.

            However, the Finns do pay a greater cost in one area … the reduction of individual potential to the least-common-denominator of the collective.

            That limits the innovation that is also a big part of societal progress … and also limits one’s ability to pursue happiness as they see fit.

            Last time I checked, that ability is an inalienable right … a right it appears the Finns have traded away in order to reduce their personal responsibility for getting ahead in life.

            1. Last i checked, when they measured happiness, the countries that have supposedly “traded away this right” sure had a lot more people achieving the desired state…but don’t let the facts get in the way of a tired ideology…

              …if you think people in somalia are living the dream because of the lawless “pursuit of happiness”…well, good luck with that…

              I know you people keep making this same error, because its the central pillar to your ideology…but maybe some day you’ll learn…

              As for the rest…we all know what little part lawyers play in health care costs, and as a libertarian i think you could easily see the restrictions on the number of surgeons that drives up their salaries in this country…along with the inefficiencies of the private market…

              I think what you’re missing is the disconnect between who gets the additional gains in each of our countries from R&D, etc. For the people from somewhere in the second quintile (20-40%) up to the top 98% of people, there is very little difference between standards of living in the two countries. For the bottom people, they have a much better standard of living over there. For the top 2%, you’d prefer the US – because all of the difference goes to you anyways. This is where our difference in “per capita GDP” comes from.

              Read into how they live over there – they’re not in mud huts with tin can phones. It looks a lot like the United States – only the people are happier, healthier, don’t have to walk past homeless people (or become one themselves), are better educated, live in a more modern country when it comes to infrastructure, etc, etc, etc. I hate to break it to you, but if you knew anything about their country, you’d realize they’re better off than we are. Any time you want to compare apples to apples, i heard that you are free to purchase a plane ticket and see for yourself…if you’re not on a watchlist that is…

              Now, i will agree that our governments model of R&D and fostering innovation has been the most successful in the world – the internet, all the drugs the NIH pays for, etc. I am all for more government funding of innovation. I welcome you aboard.

              1. If you think Finland is so fucking great, why don’t you move there and deprive us of one more caring progressive to lead us stoopid people.

              2. Last i checked, when they measured happiness, the countries that have supposedly “traded away this right” sure had a lot more people achieving the desired state…but don’t let the facts get in the way of a tired ideology…

                Yeah, I’m sure the smaller scale of their society, high trust factors, and homogenous culture doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with that at all…

                Any time you want to compare apples to apples, i heard that you are free to purchase a plane ticket and see for yourself…if you’re not on a watchlist that is…

                Yeah, apples to apples–you must be outside your mind. Apply Finland’s system of government to a country of over 300 million ethnically and socially diverse people, and then start bragging about how much better off they are than us.

              3. Happiness? More like settling for the average.

                Let’s see how you feel when you see a way you can do legitimately do better than the average, only to be inhibited in your efforts to do so by those in charge, in the name of “the common good”.

                This nation OTOH, was founded to secure something that defies averaging … individual liberty. Imposing the “average” too often infringes upon that liberty.

                The nations you admire can get away for now with some of that, in part because they have benefited from the greater respect for personal freedom in other nations … from the innovations of their entrepreneurs, to their willingness to defend that personal freedom and stand in the way of tyrants.

                Were it not for nations that protect one’s right to break away from the “average”, the whole world … including those nations you admire … would not have the standard of living you are describing.

                You can’t ignore the influence that more libertarian/entrepreneurial nations have upon the socio-economic conditions of the nations you are citing as examples.

                And as for R&D … outside of areas where the government is purchasing the final product (i.e. defense), the benefits we realize from government R&D would not be realized without the private sector doing the heavy lifting (on their own nickel) to actualize practical benefit from what was done … especially with regards to pharmaceuticals and telecom.

                The internet would still be ARPAnet and/or a plaything for academics, without the reduction-to-practice accomplished by the private sector.

  31. what’s shocking is that this hilariously verbose loon is able to limit himself to a ‘tweet’ !

  32. I bet it is the diversity of the Finnish society that makes these kids such good students. I mean Finland is a rich gumbo of all kinds of people. Oh, wait.

    1. You’re right. The Finnish people are – genetically – a mixture of Caucasian and Asian peoples, in about a 3:1 ratio IIRC.

      Surely it is this diversity that has made Finland a paragon of excellence.

  33. Skeptical of the starting salary data source. Several “educator oriented” web sites show starting teacher salaries in the U.S. (by state) as hi 20’s to mid 30’s. How old was the data?

  34. I live in Finland, and yes teachers are unionized. You have to take into acct the ammt of corruption in America in general to see were the problems arise. The kids are nice to people seem happy and well cared for. Plus the gvt gives parents a monthly ammount in the form of child allowances. In the late 80s was the Child Allowance Act of 1948 and all kids get these benefits no mater what nationality you are up to the age 16. Plus they have a generous parental leave for both Moms and Dad’s.

    My Finnish in-laws are the best people in the world.

  35. If you follow the Nationmaster link to Education Statistics and choose “View All Education Stats”, you can obtain some more information, such as that Primary educators are paid less in Finland than they are in the US, but start to edge out US teachers somewhere around the 15-year mark.

    But the salary difference is less than 6%.

    There are many metrics that Finland doesn’t even make an appearance. Not sure if that’s a problem with Finland’s record-keeping, or with Nationmaster’s data-gathering.

    One could, however, note that Finnish classes are much less orderly than US classes.

  36. West is a perfect example of affirmative action in action.

  37. Professor West, are you still pursuing your hip-hop “rap” career? Hey, dummy! Listen up! Yo!

    Finland has a homogenous population of only a little over 5 Million people. They don’t have no ghetto, homeboy. They don’t have no DIS funktional Black underclass in da hood.

    Better to compare them to the children in North Dakota, ProFESSor. Hey, I tried to read one of your books but it was just tooooo intelligent and I turned on MTV.

    1. Oh, so you’re recommending we follow the Finnish model to eliminate poverty – because you finally realize that is probably the largest stumbling block to effective education in this country? Finally something we can agree on!

      Signed, a progressive

      1. Yeah, it’s amazing how people were able to accomplish and invent anything at all before the 20th century.

  38. Ah yes, Finns are doing well for all sorts of reasons OTHER than the fact that they are…Finns. Libertarian blindness is as funny to watch as liberal hyperventilation.

  39. I’m wondering why these studies always show “starting salaries”? Nobody makes the starting salary for long, and with the huge pensions teachers make, the salary alone isn’t the full story. How about showing the average numbers for a whole career including retirement and other benefits? Wouldn’t that be a more relevant number? I don’t think we’d be saying “ooh, those poor teachers” if they listed average total compensation in the low 6 figures instead of starting salary in the 20’s…. Not to mention the fact that full retirement by 50 with full pay and benefits is a better deal than you’ll get in most any other non-state profession…

  40. The salary data are from 1999, so they’re not very relevant here. Simplistic salary comparisons between countries are relatively meaningless anyway because they do not tell us what kind of a standard of living those salaries buy in each country both in absolute terms and relatively, compared to other wage-earners. Teacher salaries in Finland are average, and there are certainly no classrooms of 14 with two teachers. Whatever differences there are between American and Finnish schoolchildren are mostly due to demographic factors, not any differences in schools systems.

  41. My sources suggest that the starting salary for Finnish elementary school teachers today is about 30,000 euros/year, or 41,000 dollars. It’s on the low side for university educated people in Finland.

  42. Finnish education system works well because they are educating FINNS. The offspring of the 10,000 Somali refugees that Finland welcomed in the early nineties have the same poor outcomes that Somali refugees have elsewhere. Unionized schools have excellent outcomes in USA too — as long as the teachers are teaching whites and east Asians. People are not born blank slates. Believing otherwise leads to all sorts of ridiculous nonsense. Perhaps non-unionized schools have slightly better outcomes with non-Asian minorities than unionized schools, but the difference is marginal.

  43. Milton Friedman said the most powerful union in the U.S. is the American Medical Association.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.