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“A liberal education is at the heart of a civil society, and at the heart of a liberal education is the act of teaching.”

    - A. Bart Giamatti

“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.”

    - Clifford Stoll

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

    - Mark Twain

“"Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered . . . that creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining ...  In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.

Around the world, though, other countries are making creativity development a national priority. ...The European Union designated 2009 as the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, holding conferences on the neuroscience of creativity, financing teacher training, and instituting problem-based learning programs—curricula driven by real-world inquiry—for both children and adults. In China there has been widespread education reform to extinguish the drill-and-kill teaching style. Instead, Chinese schools are also adopting a problem-based learning approach.

Jonathan Plucker of the University of Indiana recently toured a number of such schools in Shanghai and Beijing. He was amazed by a boy who, for a class science project, rigged a tracking device for his moped with parts from a cell phone. When faculty of a major Chinese university asked Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing. “After my answer was translated, they just started laughing out loud.”

    - Po Bronson and  Ashley Merriman on

A quiz.

What do Pythagoras, Socrates, Jesus of Nazareth, Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Clemens, Louis Pasteur, Thomas Edison, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein and Jonas Salk all have in common?

Answer: None of them ever took a standardized test.

As you can see, none of them amounted to much, having not generated any quantifiable data on their schooling and their ability to memorize disconnected facts.

Actually, I have misled you. One of those under achievers did take a standardized test. Albert Einstein took an exam to test his readiness to enter the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School - and failed it. Einstein had to go to a trade school for a year. So you see, standardized tests can weed out the rif raf.

While Jonas Salk missed standardized testing, he somehow made something of himself, and was responsible for an educational ritual that my generation was the first to benefit from.

When I was four years old I was required to get several vaccination shots before I could enter kindergarten. One bakingly hot and humid August day, the day before classes started, I found myself with my mother in a long line of children and parents in the school cafeteria, waiting anxiously for my turn to have syringes plunged in my arm. In retrospect I wonder at the wisdom of having kid’s introduction to school, their first memory of school, that of being herded like cattle and having needles plunged into their flesh. The decision making in our educational system is often haphazard, as we shall see.

I sized up all of the emotions in that room and quickly realized that, regardless of the psychic state of the kids before their encounter with the needles, they were all crying in pain afterwards. This, I deduced, was not something I wanted to participate in. So, when it was my turn for the vaccinations, I clung to my mother like I was glued to her. Before the ordeal was over, four nurses had to work in unison, grimly holding down my flailing arms and legs, sweat and mascara streaming down their faces, to safely get all of the syringes plunged into my upper arm. I learned that day what a face contorted by hate looked like.

After the ordeal ended the nurses dropped me like a bale of hay onto the floor and moved to the next child. 

That, friends, is how I started my school career.

My mother has often reminded me that I got up off of the floor that day, surrounded by exhausted and angry nurses, turned to my brother and exclaimed, “that wasn’t so bad.”

I wish I could make the same statement about some of our education rituals today. We now end our public school career with another ritual that is fraught with a different kind of peril. I am referring, of course, to America’s obsession with standardized tests. 

Tests, as any first year teaching candidate can tell you, are meant to provide feedback to improve instruction. Yet, bizarrely, in Illinois, we have the most important high stakes testing at the end of a student’s 11th year of study, one short year before they graduate. It is as if some maladjusted authority figure has proclaimed that we will test bridges for structural integrity after they have collapsed - revealing the tests as less about ways to improve efficiency than to assign blame.

The self proclaimed centerpiece of George Bush’s presidency was  an initiative that forced high stakes standardized testing on every single student in America.

No Child Left Behind began as a reaction to the revelation that enormous numbers of students in Houston, Texas were failing and dropping out of school. 

Confronted with this failure, Rod Paige, superintendent of Houston schools, and later, Bush’s secretary of Education, quickly cobbled together the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, a standardized testing program he lauded as a way to mitigate these failures.

As anyone who has studied curriculum design knows, curriculum design starts, not with a test, but with a determination of goals and desired outcomes (what do we want the kids to learn - what to we want them to be able do do at the end of their lessons?), followed by the development of strategies for attaining those outcomes (what will we do in class so kids learn what we want them to learn?), training educators in the techniques used to implement the strategies (how will we best train teachers to succeed in meeting the goals of classroom?), and only after all of this preparatory work are tests designed, and then only to provide feedback for improving the ability of students to achieve desired curricular outcomes.

Houston’s standardized tests were created in advance of designing a curriculum and with almost no attempts at alignment with the curriculum in place.

Creating a test in advance of the curriculum is laughable, a dissonant example of putting the cart before the horse. 

Since the curriculum and test are not aligned, teachers, whose job depends on ever rising test scores, inevitably begin teaching to the test, focusing on disconnected facts and trivia that make up the bulk of multiple choice test items. Multiple choice tests simply measure vocabulary and memory, ignoring creativity, problem solving skills, collaboration, critical thinking skills and other more complex forms of intelligence. Thus, instead of producing students with the skills needed for academia and the workplace, we create students who can excel at Trivial Pursuit.

Soon after implementing the testing system, Houston's test scores skyrocketed and student dropouts ceased to exist. A bunch of administrators got big bonuses and Houston was suddenly hailed throughout the land as an example of how to best reform schools. In America, numbers tell the story, they are divine proof of accountability, and Houston had the numbers nestled in their databases to prove that they had performed an education miracle.

George Bush was so impressed with his fellow Texan’s success that he made Paige the Secretary of Education and soon bulldozed Paige's model into the entire United States, making No Child Left Behind, with it’s clever, manipulative title (who among us thinks we should leave children behind?), the universal model for education in America (odd for a less government proponent, no?). In Illinois and many other states, the required standardized tests were quickly designed and implemented, not by local educators, but rather by politically connected educational testing corporations - for vast sums of money. Many corporations also provide software and services, for millions upon millions of dollars, to help school districts raise their scores. President Bush’s brother Neil was a driving force behind one of those companies. Hmmm. 

Wall Street and corporate America has long lamented that public education necessarily requires, around the nation, billions of dollars in operating expenses each year, money that these giant firms historically haven’t gotten the cut of that they see as their birthright. NCLB has given corporate America a point of entry into those vast sums of money. 100,000 teaching positions were cut in the U.S. this year, and many educators have had their salaries and benefits attacked, in no small part because of a growing trend in public education to shift precious taxpayer funded education resources from educators in the classroom into corporate entities providing ancillary technologies and services. I don’t have time this morning to cover every source of troubling influence on public education, but you should know that dozens of foundations, most funded by corporations and business leaders, are becoming ever more influential in influencing public education policy. Bill Gate’s foundation is a case in point regarding outside influence in education circles, and his foundation’s initiatives reflect the truth that wealth and celebrity don’t equate to wisdom.

Soon after it became the law of the land, a newspaper reporter in Texas, sensing that Houston's success seemed too good to be true, snooped around and discovered that the Texas Education Miracle, was a fraud. To use a Texas metaphor, it was all hat and no cattle. 

Dropout rates, he discovered, went to zero, not because the standardized tests had supernaturally made students from broken homes motivated and engaged, but because a change in bookkeeping labeled dropouts as transfers. The actual dropout rate ranged up to 50% depending on the school. No one other than the reporter had questioned how 50% of students could have transferred each year.

The reporter discovered that all Houston high schools had average sized 9th grade enrollment, tiny 10th grade enrollment, and huge 11th grade enrollment. He knew that this is statistically impossible unless something shady is going on. The reason testing scores went up, the reporter found, was not that the standardized testing had divinely caused test scores to soar, but rather because Houston school administrators quickly figured out they could earn cash bonuses for higher scores by holding back students who might do poorly on the test then advancing them two grades after missing the test. Further examination of the tests scores showed that, even after weeding out poor students, much of the data was massaged to create an illusion that scores were better than they actually were.

No Child Left behind, a national testing program forced on every school in America, a program that hijacked the curriculum of every single school in America, a program that turned American schools from centers of knowledge to memorization factories, is in fact a fraudulent abomination that served to advance the careers of a hand full of reprobates, and line the pockets of a larger number of politically connected scoundrels. We know this to be true. 

In 2015 NCLB would require that any school that has as much as one student who doesn't pass the standardized tests be considered a failing school. Since Harvard bound students from Winnetka and special ed students from Englewood take the same test, this seems curious wouldn’t you say? As any sentient being not crippled by ideology would acknowledge, this essentially means that, by NCLB standards, every school in America will be considered a failure by No Child Left Behind in 2015. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this would provide the “empirical” data a vocal group of ideologues could leverage to dance on public education’s grave and steer tax payer supported funding to Charter and Christian schools. 

Objective data is gold in scientific research. What we are gathering via standardized testing is not scientific data, it is political data that can be massaged to mean anything an ideologue wants it to be. It is empty data used to support pre-conceived notions. You recall that Mark Twain said that there are three kinds of lies: “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Mr. Twain, meet No Child Left Behind.

The Obama administration recently changed the rules so that states can ask for waivers from some aspects of NCLB. As the New York Times reported recently, states that have been granted waivers are still required to tie evaluations of teachers and schools in part to student performance on standardized tests. Joshua Starr, superintendent of the Montgomery County schools in Maryland, told the Times that the administration's action ultimately amounts to "moving around the chairs on the Titanic." 

Given what a journalist discovered in Texas regarding the deceptive and dishonest origins of NCLB, how can it still be in place in any form? How are the people who inflicted this obscene and dishonest hijacking of our education system not pariahs? Rod Paige, architect of NCLB, rather than a pariah, is now the well paid Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Justice.

NCLB is still infecting our school’s curriculum and policies like a flesh eating virus, hijacking the precious intellectual equity of our public schools and forcing teachers and students to focus on rote memorization instead of processes and strategies that are proven to better prepares students for the 21st century workplace. The NCLB infrastructure is still in place, and the data it generates can still be used as a weapon to threaten schools and the educators who are devoted to those schools. 

Standardized tests, as with other recent school policies like zero tolerance, are less about improving education and more about the coward’s obsession with retribution.

As the U.S. plows obliviously towards more standardized testing, standardized curriculum, and one size fits all lunacy in our schools, the rest of the world is re-engineering their schools to be creative, collaborative, project based institutions. As India and China join the modern world and make it more competitive than it has ever been, it is vitally important that our young people are trained to think in terms of creativity and innovation and collaboration - rather than being trained to regurgitate disconnected facts and ephemera.

Consider this true story. The following is from this year’s Texas Republican party platform. “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills, critical thinking skills and similar programs that ... have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

It goes on to say “every Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.”

Thus Texas is pioneering a school curriculum based on encouraging students to not think. When educators are forced to view thinking as not just unnecessary, but dangerous, you can safely consider it as a sign of an impending national apocalypse. Stalin is smiling from his grave.

When I lived in Germany some years ago I was able to compare European education practices with those I was used to in America.

On my first visit to a German school I was surprised that it was located in a office style building on a city block - no athletic fields, no out buildings, no places for school buses, in fact, no gym and no cafeteria. Nothing to distract from the core mission or to siphon money from the core mission. I was met by an academic looking gentleman who introduced himself as the head master. He gave me a tour of the building and I immediately realized that a similar tour of an American school would mainly feature walking by athletic facilities. This was all classrooms, with science labs and a library being the only exceptions. I learned that students went from 8AM to 1 PM. They used public transportation rather than school buses to get to school, there was no lunch program, no gym classes, no athletic teams or practices. There were no teachers whose main role was coaching. Their was no special ed staff, only a small administrative staff, no cast of thousands who had no connection to an actual classroom. 

At 1 PM, students left to either go home for the day, or, if they were into sports, or music, or other extracurricular activities, they went to a club program for the afternoon, independent of the school or public financing. When I asked about Drivers Ed, the head master was mystified. Why would the school provide that, he wondered. That’s a job for parents and private businesses.

After 1PM teachers would spend an hour (an hour!) having lunch, then return to their offices for consultation with students, lesson preparation, and training in-services.

I wanted to weep. They did nothing but teach and prepare to be better teachers.

None of the perpetual bureaucratic busy work and peripheral nonsense that has nothing to do with teaching that has hijacked the teaching profession in the U.S.. None of the perpetual expenditure of energy and resources on athletics.

In Germany teachers are respected members of the community, on par with doctors and lawyers. In the U.S. we are the overpaid burdens on the taxpayer who take tickets at a JV volleyball game. I will never forget when I was visiting an MD for a health issue in Germany, and upon learning that I was a teacher, he invited me to his house for a social gathering, where I mingled with doctors, lawyers, government officials, and yes, educators.

After 37 years as an educator, my next invitation to an MD’s house in the U.S. for a social gathering will be my first.

Let me tell you about the school system generally accepted to be the best in the world, to provide more contrast to what we do in America. 

There is a better model for our schools, Finland is pioneering it, and the rest of the world, unburdened by the unspeakable dissonance and dishonesty of No Child Left Behind, are following Finland's lead. 

The first distinction between the U.S. and Finland is in how you become a teacher. In America you apply to a university, your acceptance less tied to intellect than your ability to borrow enough money for tuition, you take some classes on the history and philosophy of education, you get a brief and haphazard internship as a student teacher, graduate, apply for jobs online, have a cursory interview, and if you are lucky you get a job. Once you have the job, you teach yourself how to be a teacher on the job.

When I student taught, I was paired with the football coach who taught social sciences. The first day he told me I would observe him for two weeks then gradually instruct part of the class until eventually I could lead lessons on my own. The second day he told me he had to view some film of the last football game, told me I was in charge, and he did not enter the classroom again until I finished a few months later. I could have sunk. Thankfully I swam. 

I also taught health education. To my horror, the first curricular unit was sex education. This struck me as a minefield I did not want to maneuver. The health teacher was also a coach and his interests lie outside the classroom. So I taught sex education.

One day I was called into the principal’s office, which is even scarier as a teacher than as a student. The principal sat me down, a disturbingly stern look on his face, and, with no preliminary small talk, asked the following question: “Did you tell your students that it is selfish to wait for marriage to have sexual intercourse”?

I am the product of northern European Lutheran stock. We revel in repression and shame as forms of sexual expression. I believed that sex education should be left to chance and furtive glances at the Sears catalog underwear section. I would not make the statement he asked about. In a squeaky voice I replied that I had done no such thing. “Thank goodness”, he said, “I would have had to fire you on the spot.”

This would have ended my career as an educator before it started and left me reeling. This may be hard to believe, but at the time I had really long hair, at a period in our nation’s history when conservative folks thought that this choice of grooming made you a communist. I found out later that a prim young lady in my class, having been trained by her school board member father to hate long haired hippies as godless liberal fiends, had tried to destroy me as a service to the community. I’m sure she has led a full life since then, and I can imagine her living somewhere in Texas, entertaining herself by pulling the wings off of butterflies.

I offer this as an example of how educators are trained in America.

In Finland things operate a little differently. 

In Finland it is a tremendous honor to be a teacher, a profession of great status. Teaching is held is such high regard that they only draw from the best students nationally. Admission to teaching universities is intensely competitive - only 10% of applicants to teacher training programs are accepted, meaning that In Finland they get the best and the brightest into the profession. American teachers in training must go into debt to pay for college. In Finland, teachers get free tuition, along with a stipend to pay for expenses. They begin training under a mentor as soon as they begin the program. All teachers must have a master’s degree. While teachers in Finland make about the same salaries as American teachers, the respect that the teachers get from being part of an honored profession make teachers in Finland among the most contented people professionally in the country. Tellingly, once they began their careers, they are three times more likely to remain a teacher than their American counterparts.

Another area with a great distinction between the two systems is in professional development. In the U.S., after graduating with a teaching degree and getting a job, teachers might spend a few days each year in professional development, not nearly enough time to keep up with trends, technologies, and best practices in the classroom. In Finland, teachers spend fully half of their school time planning with colleagues, working with parents, and taking part in high-level professional development. This is promoted at all levels of Finnish bureaucracy, from local to federal. You recall that in the U.S. the bureaucracy has less to do with professional development, and more to do with giving standardized tests and gathering all manner of data.

The other glaring difference between Finland and the U.S. is in the fundamental contrast in classroom practices. In Finland collaborative activities are paramount. In the U.S. we call collaboration cheating. Students in Finland engage in cross curricular, project-based learning. They use one “project” as a starting point for learning about multiple subjects and how they are interdependent. Students might work collaboratively on a project that involves math, history, civics, and architecture. This promotes critical thinking skills and real world problem solving. This, of course, mirrors the kind of pragmatic, complex, collaborative problem-solving that businesses say they need in the modern workplace. Finnish students are used to collaboration. They are used to integrating technology into problem solving, they are used to assessing different approaches to solving a problem. They are used to writing reports and delivering presentations on how they came to their conclusions. Students in Finland often work on actual problems in the community, learning vital skills that will serve them throughout their lives while simultaneously serving their community. Sadly, in America, our curriculum is reverse engineered to teach to the test, great for generating rote memorization, great for generating test data to fill the ever hungry databases, terrible for preparing kids for life after school.

Rather than one size fits all standardized tests, assessments in Finland are made on a continuing basis by teachers and administrators with special qualifications and training, and professional development plans are customized to meet teacher and student needs and are backed up with multiple resources.

When it is time to evaluate teachers in Finland, standardized test scores with their hypnotic illusion of objectivity, hold no sway.

Lead teachers, master teachers and principals who are well-trained in terms of what to look for in a classroom use their experience and knowledge to perform teacher evaluations - not so terribly unlike how it used to be done in the U.S. before we became slaves to data.

Finland’s public education model has been so successful in preparing students for academia and the workplace that countries like China, Korea, and Singapore are starting to incorporate their practices into their educational systems. Most of the world want student’s who can think on their feet, know how to solve a problem, have a skill set, and can be an asset to their employer. Critical thinking skills aren’t mocked as undermining the social structure, but rather as the most valuable skill a student can possess.

Free public education may be our democracy’s greatest triumph. In most of the world public education is considered with great pride. In the United States of late, public education and public educators have become whipping boys for people with ideological agendas, viewed as a vehicle for social engineering by others, and actively undermined by still more. This is a source of great dismay for myself and other educators, who view our professional as the most noble of undertakings, a wonderful institution that is being willfully re-engineered to become something other than what it should be. 

I recently had a job interview in which, to my surprise, I was asked what my philosophy of education is, as if it were a multiple choice question with a best answer. I thought about blowing some smoke, rambling about this pedagogy or that. But, given how I have been considering the topics I’ve discussed today, I simply couldn’t BS the interviewers.

Here is how I responded.

Being a teacher isn’t like other professions. It is a calling. You simply can’t do the job if you don’t feel that calling. We don’t deal with widgets. We deal with the most precious commodity in the world, children. We must view every child that walks through the doors of the school as if they were some parent’s greatest treasure. Sadly, this isn’t always true, but we must behave as if it were so.

It is our obligation to know our subjects and how to transmit that knowledge. It is our job to make sure that the details of the subject are taught in class, that the children pick it up, and that they see how the subject is interdependent with all other subjects.

But subject matter is only one part of our calling. Ours is a service profession and the most vital service we provide is inspiration and guidance. Human behavior does not arise from a vacuum. We can only behave as we have seen others behave. Far too many kids, on a daily basis, are exposed to behavior that will not serve them well in life. What is vitally important in our role as educators is that we interact with the kids with a calm, assertive demeanor. It is important that they are able to observe us going about our day in a dignified, mature manner. We must model behaviors for them that give them examples of how to interact with others in honorable, productive ways, how to work together joyfully and with purpose. We must model and encouraging critical thinking skills, a good work ethic, a positive world view, how to accept setbacks and respond positively when they occur. We must teach them that you can’t choose the the challenges you face in your life, but you can choose how you will react to those challenges.

Yes, we should be teaching our subject through collaborative, project based, problem solving strategies, but just as importantly we should be providing a template for students on how to be compassionate, how to be their better selves, preparing them, as the Buddha’s eight-fold path admonishes us, to someday earn their living in a way that will bring good into the world.

I was quite proud of myself for that little talk, feeling that I had somehow found the nexus between honesty, altruism, and subversiveness. I made the point I wanted to make - teaching is not about pedagogy, but rather about our moral obligation to do what is best for children whose best interests are often not served by those around them. Treating students as vessels to supply giant databases is not what is best for them.

Just as I was patting myself on the back, the principal, who was supposed to be leading the interview but instead was daydreaming throughout the process, suddenly twisted the cap on a litter bottle of Dr. Pepper she held in her hand. I had observed her absent-mindedly shake the bottle for no apparent reason a bit earlier as she gazed at something on the ceiling visible to only her. Just as she turned the cap, the assistant principal who was doing all of the heavy lifting in the interview, shouted at her to stop - but too late. The bottle exploded in a fountain of sticky pop, spraying all over the principal, all over the parents assisting in the interview, all over the conference table, the papers, the walls. The principal, jolted with a burst of shock and adrenaline, leaped to her feet and dashed in a crouch towards the end of the room, forgetting that a portable white board was in her path, which she proceeding to hit head first, knocking her senseless, dropping her to the floor, where, next to her prone form, the Dr. Pepper eruption fizzled out.

I have never laughed so hard. 

I did not get the job. My impassioned speech couldn’t overcome the lack of propriety I displayed at laughing at the person doing the hiring. 

She wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to work for anyway. The single most important thing a school administrator does is hire quality people. If you can’t pay attention during a staff interview you have no business in the profession.

Sadly we have too many people influencing education who have no business having influence on our beloved profession. 

Public education, as I implied in my impassioned and apparently fruitless soliloquy, has moral and ethical components that makes it’s future a concern in settings such as this church. In spite of the implications of the emphasis on standardized testing in the U.S., students are not robotons, they should not be regarded as vessels for regurgitating disconnected factoids. They are quite literally the future of mankind and it is our moral obligation to see through the abject nonsense that has hijacked our schools. It is our moral obligation to make things right.

The Finns have a word, a concept, called Sisu. During WWII, the tiny country of Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union. They had a minuscule army and almost no armaments, no tanks, and traveled about the battlefields on cross country skis, ancient rifles slung over their shoulders. Yet they somehow managed to prevent the Soviet’s gargantuan army from engulfing their cherished nation. When asked how they did it they respond that it was Sisu that kept their country free - meaning strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. A short two syllable word with a world of meaning.

This grand concept of Sisu is represented in the Finnish school system. They refuse to let their public education system be driven by lifeless, easily gamed numbers that fail to reflect the essence of the learning process. The Frankenstein monster of the 21st century, the bottomless database, will not be their master. 

The Finns, when faced with a problem that could literally wipe their country out of existence, a problem that could butcher it’s citizenry, reacted collaboratively, creatively, with a variety of skills and abilities, with reason and great determination. This is the same model they use in their schools. 

Where is the Sisu in No Child Left Behind? How can there be a passion for a program that turns you from an educator to bureaucrat? I have yet to meet a single teacher who views NCLB as anything other than a burden to be tolerated, nothing else. Yet, in spite of the absurdity of NCLB, classroom teachers still manage to inject inspiration into the process, but never because of standardized testing, but rather in spite of it. It is the passion, the individual Sisu of the classroom teacher, that keeps our education system from spiraling into irrelevancy.

I could make a case that our democracy’s greatest accomplishment is our public school system. We are in an era of unprecedented attacks on that  system and it’s dedicated educational professionals.
Consider yourself educated on some of the ways our schools are being debased, and some of the possibilities for fixing them. It is time to stop viewing our schools as labs for ideological engineering, as low lying fruit for corporate profits, as a whipping boy for anti-union, anti-tax zealots, as a mindless slave to databases. It is time to remind ourselves how honorable the education profession is, it is time to embrace the wisdom of professional educators, a time to give them back the reins of education, and to give them the freedom to incorporate the lessons of Finland and other nations around the world.

No Child Left Behind and conservative educational reformers have given us a school system that is more likely to rob us of the next Pasteur, the next Edison, the next Salk, than it is to nurture them.

Our precious public schools are under attack from many fronts. Rather than submit to these attacks and the damage they have inflicted, it is time for us to embrace the educational model provided by our Finnish cousins. More importantly, it is time for us to embrace their noble concept of SIsu in our pursuit of an educational model that serves, rather than cripples, our mission of helping young people become their better selves.