"If You Want the American Dream, Go To Finland"

Complaining about the country's education system is a favorite pastime of many American parents, but why don't - or can't - we change the way we educate our children?

Author Amanda Ripley decided to investigate by enlisting "field agents" of American students who studied abroad at Finnish, South Korean, and Polish schools.

Here's what she found out:

“If you want the American dream, go to Finland.” These blunt words from a British politician, quoted by Amanda Ripley in “The Smartest Kids in the World” [...]

[American student named Kim, who went to a typical Finnish school] soon notices something else that’s different about her school in Pietarsaari, and one day she works up the courage to ask her classmates about it. “Why do you guys care so much?” Kim inquires of two Finnish girls. “I mean, what makes you work hard in school?” The students look baffled by her question. “It’s school,” one of them says. “How else will I graduate and go to university and get a good job?”

It’s the only sensible answer, of course, but its irrefutable logic still eludes many American students, a quarter of whom fail to graduate from high school. Ripley explains why: Historically, Americans “hadn’t needed a very rigorous education, and they hadn’t gotten it. Wealth had made rigor optional.” But now, she points out, “everything had changed. In an automated, global economy, kids needed to be driven; they need to know how to adapt, since they would be doing it all their lives. They needed a culture of rigor.”

Read more over at the New York Times: Link | Ripley's book: The Smartest Kids in the World

People have the attitude that school is for entertainment, not education. Sure it should be interesting, but everyone has responsibilities, and a student's responsibility is to go to school and do their best to learn. Lack of personal accountability permeates all social classes, in all aspects of life. And not just in the US.
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I think there is a lot of danger in the attitude, "Go to school/university to get a good job." Sure, that attitude is a lot better typically, in the sense of being less risky, than no drive to learn. But learning with a very specific goal in mind can easily cause you to miss out on learning a lot of other things. Some of it might be just things for personal interest. Other things might be useful for your career in ways you don't yet see too.

Even ignoring auxiliary topics, when learning comes from a direct interest in learning for the sake of learning, you will see students going above and beyond what is just needed to get a good grade in classes needed for their major. Some students do this anyways knowing it will help their resume or grad school application depending on how good of guidance counseling they have. But you end up with a lot of job oriented people complaining how useless the classes are when they could have taught themselves the material, yet miss that classes are only one part of the resources available at a university. And in many careers, you will need to keep learning after school to stay up to date. A person who tinkers and reads tech news in their free time will have a chance of doing better in the computer industry than someone who took that route because it pays good and only do what they need for their particular job at the moment.
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Pietarsaari is 28km from where i live.. It's small town with 28k population is next to northest town where Swedish used as main language. Not that anyone cares but it's always nice to see a random story referring something geographically close. So most likely the girl in the story visited my town, the capital city of this region cause we got all the shops and malls..
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By the way, the downside to high education is that you can't get even the lowest level jobs without some kind of education. For a cleaner, it's about 1 year, for janitors it's 1-2years etc... We don't have that many "McDonalds" that can get just anyone from the street. But then again, those schools are free of charge and you get monetary support for both housing and for other expenses (not much, most have to still depend on welfare or low interest student loans, which are backed by the government..) plus one free meal per day..
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