talking about education in the information age

We had to pick an elementary school for my daughter a few weeks ago.  Our town has school choice, and, honestly, I wish it didn’t, as it was an agonizing choice.

But the real problem is that I don’t want her going to any regular school.  I have bought into the idea that our schools – both in Sweden and in the US – are built for an industrial age long past. I do not want her sitting at a desk all day. I do not want her necessarily with the same age kids for 13 years.  I know she will be fine, but will she be ready to thrive in a network society?

Why Memorizing is Ineffective:  This takes on the SAT, grades, why we have our kids in school, different types of learning.  Even for kids that find school easy, the skills they learn are of little use in the outside world.  Yay, I was awesome at multiple choice.  Strangely, I have not had many multiple choice exams at my current job …

Before society can improve the educational system, we need to have an honest discussion about the purpose of education, and whether society is willing to devote the resources necessary to create a 21’st century workforce.

Stop Stealing Dreams:  This is a self-described “rant” by uber-blogger and author Seth Godin.  It’s really a short book that he has posted for free and in many forms, trying to create a viral discussion on education.  I like this list best as a summary:  What kind of qualities do you want from your kids or employees?

Column A 


Column B


Mind the gap: Zadie Smith on school reporting without the wonk: All my education worries are very developed world ones, I know.  Here Guernica Magazine sent some very good writers out in the less developed parts of the world to write subjectively and, with an eye to the human, about education in countries like Bosnia, Pakistan and South Africa. The challenges are different, of course, but the need to redefine what we mean by education in this century is not.  The kids in these countries are just starting on a different (not necessarily better or worse) baseline, in terms of becoming well-adjusted, productive adults.

Changing education paradigms:  I posted this last October too, and it gets to the exact same points as my first two links. But I still think the illustration and the talk are awesome.


Monday links: Talking about a revolution or business as usual?

Back in the 1990s, while I lived in post-war Croatia, I was on the edges of a proto-environmental, social justice movement that first blossomed in the anti-globalization protests in 2000 and now with Occupy Wall Street.  I am far from that life now (well, not if you consider pushing paternity leave a radical politics), but am fascinated by the change in tone in the mainstream press since OWS.  What seemed unthinkable in the 1990s and especially during the credit boom, which I covered as a newspaper reporter outside NYC, is not commonplace – open talk of socialism and the radical failure of market captialism.

Really?  Sometimes it becomes so clear what a bubble we inhabit in Sweden – a bubble of the good kind.

Capitalism versus the climate: Naomi Klein goes to a conservative conference and confirms all their fears.  Yes, to save the world we will need to drastically reject everything they stand for.  We will need to restructure the way the world works.  And the climate must go before all else.  Our survival depends on it.

Is This the End of Market Democracy?: This is notable because it appears in the New York Times, though on the campaign blog, which suggests to me that it got smuggled in somehow.  A Columbia journalism professor examines all the very respectable and mainstream economic figures who argue we need a major change, that the current system is more or less doomed.  Jeffrey Sachs invokes the success of “northern Europe” and its social democracy as a model. It ends like this:  “At an undetermined point in the not too distant future, however, as the “gale of creative destruction” blows through the heartland, the debate will become inescapable.”

What Future for Occupy Wall Street?: A look in the New York Review of Books at where OWS has come and where it is going.  Bascially, the story is not uplifting.  Police intimidation is working.  The lack of concrete demands and the insistence on radical consensus makes the movement hard to build.  But you have to admire that the core group is about more than moderately changing the status quo, it is about a moral call for a new kind of society.  And with a huge chunk of Americans under 30 in favor of “socialism,” who knows where it will go?

Bill Clinton:  Someone We Can All Agree On:  And for the counterpoint, we have Bill Clinton, the ultimate believer in working the system to make it all work.  This is the standard view – and one that is very compelling.:  we have to focus on what is achievable, we have to look at what Obama actually got done, we have to find people real, concrete jobs, not worry about all this hippie stuff on the edges, that you have to be realistic about the American culture, that the country is center-right, and so on.  I get it, I really do, Bill.  But is that reality or just the 1990s calling?

Monday links – Europe works, the US tax code does not, and thank goodness for subsidized preschool

Going to try something – just links I’ve liked over the past week or two.  It’s everything I would put on Facebook if I did much on Facebook or if anybody who comes here saw my Facebook page.

Why Is Europe a Dirty Word?  – This column from Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times is superficial but important because it recognizes all the ways that Europe works, in contrast to important ways the US does not.  I think most Americans would be surprised to learn how many people see the US as a sort of failed state.

Behind Every Great Woman – BusinessWeek wrote a cover story about the men who stay at home to support their successful wives.  The problem?  It’s about role reversal, not equality.  A very small step.

Homemaker Dad, Breadwinner Mom – In a blog entry at the New York Times, Nancy Folbre takes on my point above.   And she gets into detail about something my wife figured out the first time we did our taxes in the US.  The system is so biased towards a stay-at-home parent that it makes almost no sense for many spouses – men or women – to work.  In Sweden, of course, both spouses have to work, which is another kind of pressure, but at least a more fair one.  Why not support child care activities and others tax breaks that would allow everyone to go to work – while preserving choice – instead of penalizing mostly women who often do go back to work but for what comes out to insulting wages?

Pre-K Converts – Which brings me to this post from DadWagon, in which Nathan Thornburgh talks about the sad state, and ridiculous cost, of pre-K education in New York City, but also the whole US.   Excuse me while I go metaphorically kiss the stable, competitive, yet secure Swedish welfare state.


now blogging off the news at The Faster Times

I have started blogging off the news for The Faster Times, to go along with my sporadic Huffington Post entries.

I am working to find my own personal mix of links and news and commentary.

I am toying with adding haiku into the mix (seriously) but am still too new at the website to venture that.

But check it out …

sweden’s oldest man does NOT die of natural causes

A 107-year-old man died in Sweden the other day.  In a fire.  In the house where he lived … alone.

He had lived alone in the house for nine years since his wife died.  And the man was in good health, according to the Swedish newspaper article, except for a little hearing loss.  He worked until 78, drove until 102, was a lifelong sailor.

Now, it is obviously very sad that the man died in a fire, one so bad it had burned the house down before firefighters arrived.  This is not a pleasant way to go.

But how many 107-year-olds do not die of natural causes?  How many are still in a position to die in a (likely accidental) fire in their own home?

If my infant son makes it to 107, the year will be 2116.

What will the world look like then?