THB that the education system needs an overhaul

Normaali

Week 2


 

Date: Jan 7th, 2019
Motion: THB that the education system needs an overhaul
Role: PM (gov.)


Dear Ladies & Gentlemen,
Assemblage and Chair,
as the very first speaker of the discussion, I think we have truly failed the youth of the nation.

The reason is that teachers are supposed to teach our young to be the best versions of themselves, but instead it’s a crooked game between the adult parties with vested interests in the education factory. I will elaborate on what I mean. My partner, in turn, may talk more about the real scope of the upheaval at hand.

Internal Disparity in Teacher’s Theories
The teaching of teachers is arbitrary. If someone wants to be, for instance, a language teacher (in Finland), (s)he will have to learn the entire history of the language (s)he is willing to teach plus 10,000+ pages of literature out of the canon of the said language and its extended cultural sphere (what, in terms of English, would not only be British but also Irish, North American, Caribbean and Australian literature, across the continents and centuries). Thereafter, the auscultee is required to learn about pedagogy and didactics by the essayfuls and examfuls. What follows is the auscultation (or teacher training in a real school).

External Disparity in Teacher’s Practice
When the person in question is finally behind the desk in his or her teacher’s chair, (s)he will be able to apply about 5 % of what (s)he has been taught, for the rest is determined in the classroom by means of learning disabilities, disruptions of discipline, the National Curriculum and the supply of coursebooks. Another dimension will be added by special-need students, children to immigrants and refugees in the classroom and the general expansion of class sizes.

The dénouement is that what seems to matter is that not anyone can make the grade for a teacher rather than that children, pupils and students could get the best tuition available, enabling thus oneselves to develop into the best possible versions of themselves. Rather, it’s the teach who needs to run a formidable obstacle course in order to become the best possible version of himself or herself. And what for? The public sector provides a long but narrow livelihood for its civil servants and officials, who cannot be fired for any petty reasons or difficulties in budgeting. People who get tenure are so lucky in the eyes of the authorities that that man-made Fortune needs to be guarded from all and sundry gold-diggers.

Way Into the Future
The system, as it stands, is inappropriate and slightly ridiculous. It would need to be changed in two ways, at both ends of its existence.

First of all, tenure should not need to mean unfireability. There are plenty of examples of teachers who exploit their job security to their own advantage. Drinking, smoking, wasting time, by whatever means. As a) the job market has changed a lot in recent years, b) there is a plentiful reserve of unemployed people and c) the requirements change with the advancement of technology, the conclusion is this: teachers should enjoy only the same kind of job security as people do in the private sector and elsewhere where people work.

Secondly, the things teachers are taught in teacher training should correspond to the things they are supposed to teach to children. We all know kids cannot learn Shakespeare, be it from a book, a teacher or a theatre troupé, so teachers should not need to learn that either. The teachers need to know more than their protégées, of course, but only so much. If the information or knowledge is entirely redundant, it should not hold a place in the curriculum.

With these words, I’d like to move the podium over to the next speaker, and may the debate continue.
Thank you.


Kesto: x min yy sek
Arvio
: Puheen ansioita on linkitys seuraavaan puhujaan; väljällä tavalla, jossa jätetään auki se, mitä sieltä varsinaisesti tulee. Puheessa on myös pääministerille sopivaa painokkuutta ja arkailemattomuutta käydä suoraan asiaan sen vaatimalla arvokkuudella ja aggressiivisuudella. Kuin Juha Sipilä ilman sönkkäämistä ja sofistikoituneisuuden puutetta!

Puheen paheita on ranskalaisten lainasanojen hieman liian runsas käyttö ja lievä liioittelu yläkanttiin eri asioissa.

Aiempi osittain samanaiheinen puhe

Mainokset

Viimeisin muttei vähäisin

Normaali

Viikko 1 / 2019


 

Hyvää uutta vuotta!

 

Kaikki eivät aina tajua, kuinka hienoa on olla Whip.

Whippinä oleminen on kulinarismia. Periaatteessa whip pystyy ottamaan parhaat palat kuulemastaan keskustelusta, koska
a) hänellä on ollut aikaa kuunnella koko keskustelu, lukuunottamatta viimeistä 7 minuuttia, jos hän on hallituksen whip
ja
b) hänellä on ollut aikaa sisäistää
– muiden mielipiteet asioista
– omat mielipiteensä muiden mielipiteistä
– omat mielipiteensä.

Ajatelkaa itseänne elokuvaa katsomaan elokuvateatteriin. Vaikka elokuvaa Z voi katsoa penkkirivin X paikalta Y, elokuva vaikuttaa hahmottomammalta, jos sitä katsoo suoraan ensimmäiseltä riviltä; siinä missä se vaikuttaa ehkä jopa kliseiseltä mutta varmasti ainakin ymmärrettävältä, jos sitä katsoo viimeisestä penkkirivistä. Tämä on syvyysvaikutelma paikassa, ei ajassa, mutta samalla tavalla se helpottaa asian sisäistämistä ja mielipiteen muodostamista. Jos on tavallinen elokuvissa kävijä, mielipiteellä ei ehkä ole niin väliä, mutta jos on elokuvakriitikko, taka-asema helpottaa mielipiteen muodostamista ja sitä myöten kritiikin kirjoittamista. (Tosin osalle kriitikoista on selkeästi tärkeämpää lukea, mitä Variety kirjoitti elokuvan tuotantoprosessista ja mitä muut kriitikot ovat siitä kirjoittaneet kuin elokuvan varsinainen näkeminen.)

Mitä yritän sanoa tällä on se, että jos whip on nopeaälyinen, hänen positionsa on sillä tavalla kadehdittava, että hän voi lähestulkoon edustaa ”jälkiviisautta”. Jälkiviisaus on helpompaa kuin etupainoviisaus siitä yksinkertaisesta syystä, että kulunut aika tuo 3D-syvyysperspektiivin asiaan kuin asiaan.

Whip siis muodostaa Greatest Hits -kokoelmaa oman puolensa parhaista laukauksista. Painoa on sanoilla ”parhailla” ja ”laukauksista”. Olisi tärkeää valita whip-puheen rakennusaineksiksi oleelliset asiat sekä ne kohdat, missä joku osaa kiteyttää nasevasti jotakin, niin että esitystavassa sekä muoto & sisältö kohtaavat vastaansanomattomalla tavalla.

Sen sijaan usea whip tuntuu uivan vastavirtaan ja nimenomaan kaihtavan muiden parhaiden juttujen toistamista, jotta häntä ei syytettäisi ”toistamisesta”. Tämä on kuitenkin typerää ja roolin kuvauksen vastaista. Toisto, väsyttäväkin, on whipin työtä ja hän tekee sitä puolensa hyväksi. Sitä paitsi toistoa tulee vain sen yhden toiston verran, sillä on selvä, että kaikki lopettavat toistamasta heti, kun puhetilanne on ohi.

Liian usea whip jää lillumaan johonkin puolimaahan, missä hän yhtäältä ei toista puolensa parhaita viisauksia mutta ei toisaalta sano debatissa mitään omaa parempaakaan asiaa. Se on 7 minuutin hukkakäyttöä. En keksi sille muuta rationaalis-emotionaalista syytä kuin, että whip ei halua puolustaa omaa puoltaan, koska sillä on joku ”tyhmä tyyppi”, jonka kanssa whip ei halua olla samaa mieltä mistään.

Whipin kuuluu olla ylpeä puolestaan ja laulaa sen puolustuslaulua. Hänen tulee poimia virrasta substanssia ja muotoa ja mahdollisesti uudelleensijoitella ja uudelleenmuotoilla sitä. Bändin managerin tai levy-yhtiön palkkaamaan tuottajan tai ääniteknikon tavoin hänen tulee olla ylpeä suojateistaan, aksentoida vahvuuksia ja peitellä heikkouksia sekä nostaa ylös ”hyviä raitoja” ja häivyttää ”halpahintaisia”. Whipin työ debatissa on puolensa rooleista kaikista lähimpänä musiikkiteollisuudesta osallisen työtä.


 

Studio to End Studios

Normaali

Week 52 (last week of the passing year)


 

Participants

  • Mattias Fagerholm, editor-in-chief of Läraren, a trade periodical
  • Sari Huhtaoja, teacher (unspecified)
  • Ida Stolt-Haglund, development manager, City of Esbo
  • host

under the supertitle of ”Gåvan, en muta?”, or ’A Gift Is a Bribe, Or?’, orig. aired 13th Dec, 2018

Point of Departure
The municipality of Espoo in Finland, part of the metropolitan region, is issuing guidelines advising parents and pupils against giving their schoolteachers expensive gifts, in the form of money or vouchers that are convertible to monetary value. This came up when someone in a PTA asked what the going value for a gift could be. What is a parent or a student to do if the teacher is dear to her heart? The bottom line is that a tenured teacher is an officeholder, and officials are not to receive money or, in equal terms, vouchers for obvious reasons.

Opinions of Others
On the defensive, Ms. Stolt-Haglund is advocating the guideline, saying that it is still okay to give a transient gift or a tangible gift such as a serenade or a bouquet as long as more expensive gifts are avoided altogether. This, she reasons, would not make the non-givers feel bad about themselves. She stresses multiple times that pupils may still give gifts as long as they’re not money or vouchers or presumably not alcohol (a bottle of vodka or cognac) either. Ms. Huhtaoja reckons she has broken the principle multiple times both as a teacher and a parent, working in the adjacent community. She’d like to have one gift instead of 22 small ones. Mr. Fagerholm views the proposal with ridicule and cannot see how a graduating class, for instance, could bribe their teacher in return for a personal favour. According to him, teachers know if a gift is a bribe or a thank-you for the passing year and its small victories.

Opening sequence

Clockwise: Sari, Mattias, Ida, host

Own Opinions
When I was in elementary school, gifts loomed large in our lives, but they tended to be of the expensive computer kind, so we possibly gave a candle or something to the teacher in 4th to 6th form, thinking little about it. In junior secondary school, I did not appreciate any of the teachers at all, so giving gifts would have been entirely out of the question. In senior secondary school, the going was so competitive that gifts hardly came to mind, but possibly, if one was given to somebody, it was the form master. This is the historical domestic background of my generation, with exceptions here and there, to giving gifts.

Later on, in an adult-education course centre, I remember that we as a class gave a bottle of tequila, the only one that was to be found on the shelves of the national spirit-store chain, to the Spanish teacher, a young man. It was probably an unsavoury one, but the idea was to offset the inhospitality of our younger years. He also managed to stay in our good books throughout the school year. That felt nice.

When teachers embark on their path of teaching, they become officials. They choose a narrow but long livelihood instead of the windfalls of the private sector or entrepreneurship. Their reward is the reliability provided by their employer. Essentially, they do not need any other rewards. Also, by default, they go through a lot of the nation’s younger population on behalf of their profession in a way other professions do NOT. They have an unfair advantage in getting to know people.

Conversely, many teachers do their best to educate children and teens. They work long hours in the evenings correcting exams. If they receive gifts, those would pale in comparison with the bribes private entrepreneurs and employees receive in return for favours in their areas, because there the money talks louder than words. For these reasons, I would be in favour of teachers’ gifts classified as perks of the profession. In the end, it’s transparent. The givers and the beneficiaries know what they exchange. If the gift is communal, it cannot favour any single student(s). Moreover, my last argument comes from my very youth. Our female (language) teachers were mostly single women. The gifts they (did not) get might’ve possibly been their only ones received for Christmas. So, let them have ’em; it’s only charitable and human.

Based on opinions, I would sit closer to Sari and Mattias, with a bit of ambivalence involved


Footnote
This is the last program in this series, as it will not continue into the next year. Its successor may become a similar subtopic on this blog. I followed the program for a time before I took it up here. Therefore, the episodes I have covered here are only a handful of the sum total. The title of the program was Obs Debatt and it grew out of many earlier fact-based talk shows or taped clips. The main language was Swedish, with Finnish subtitles added to the archived streamable version.

Jäniksenä vai kilpikonnana

Normaali

Viikko 51


 

Puhetta tehdessä, kun aloite on ilmoitettu, pari on valittu ja valmistautumisaika on alkanut pitää katsoa onko aihe
a) helppo; suorastaan naiivi
b) tyypillinen, normaali, keskimääräinen vai
c) kompleksinen.

Olisi virhe kuvitella joka kerta, että tällaista jakoa ei ole ja että kaikki puheet, puheenaiheet ja puhujaroolit ovat samasta puusta veistettyjä. Joskus vastaan tulee kierrepallo, joka näyttää samalta kuin muutkin pallot, koska siinä olevaa kierrettä ei osaa erottaa. 🎾

Tutki aloitteen sanamuoto huolellisesti läpi ja katso, onko siihen piilotettu jotakin epätavallista. Epätavallisuus on jotakin sellaista, mikä etäännyttää aiheen tavallisen ihmisen arkielämästä ja siirtää sitä hieman loitommalle ”abstrahoivien” ihmisten ”spekulatiiviseen” elämään. Sanoja, jotka johtavat syvemmälle uppohiekkaan ovat esimerkiksi historioitsijoiden, kulttuurintutkijoiden ja sosiologien käyttämät sanat kokemus, kulttuuri, luokkatietoisuus, narratiivi, post-jotakin, sukupolvi (tai jokin ei-tuntemasi sivistyssana) — joka voi olla myös adjektiivi tai verbi — sillä ne joko etäännyttävät tai ekspandoivat aiheen niin pitkälle, että sen käsitteleminen ilman asiantuntijoiden sisäistä tietoa ja lähdeaineistoja on vaikeaa.

Käymme tässä läpi asteittain kiperöityvän aloitteiden kierteisyyskirjon.

A) Puhe tulee omasta kokemusmaailmasta ja siihen puoleen, jolle on valittu, suhtautuu lähtökohtaisesti myönteisesti. Tämä johtaa tilanteeseen, jossa puheen voi yrittää kirjoittaa mahdollisimman pitkälti valmiiksi ja puhtaaksi valitsemallaan spontaanilla rakenteella. Esitetyt mielipiteet voivat aivan hyvin olla omiakin mielipiteitä, joskaan tätä ei kannata tuoda julki tietenkään. Aihetta ei kannata komplisoida, jos siinä ei ole mitään komplisoimisen aihetta.

B) Puhe on tyypillinen 50 – 50 % -aihe, jossa voisi yhtä hyvin sijoittua vasta- kuin omallekin puolelle ja jossa aihe EI tule omasta kokemusmaailmasta vaan koulutuksen tuomasta tiedosta, oman elämän antamista anekdooteista, mediasta ja yleissivistyksestä. Tällöin puhetta voi yrittää jäsentää mahdollisimman selkeäksi, mutta varsinaiseen puhtaaksi kirjoittamiseen ei ole varaa eikä aikaa. Myös parin kanssa tulisi neuvotella.

C) Puhe on oman kokemusmaailman ulkopuolella, mahdollisesti siksi, että se on yliopistomaailman ahtaiden muurien sisäpuolelta, ja aloitteen muotoilussa vastapuolta, ei omaa puolta, suositaan selkeästi. Tällöin kannattaa panostaa parityöskentelyyn, jos pari on ajattelevainen, sosiaalinen ja vuorovaikutteinen. Jos ei ole, motion kannattaa kääntää omaa puolta sanatarkasti edustavaksi myönteiseksi väitelauseeksi, jotta sen mutkat aukeavat. Sen jälkeen siitä tulee ympyröidä tai lihavoida avain-substantiivit. Sen jälkeen substantiivit kirjoitetaan VERSAALILLA ja niiden alle voi ranskalaisin viivoin kehitellä joitakin avainsanoja tai -lauseita. Nämä avainsanat tarjoavat samalla myös puheen rakenteen paremman puutteessa. Jos aikaa jää, ranskalaiset viivat voi kääntää englanniksi. Puheen aikana voi joutua improvisoimaan paljon, mutta tärkeintä on täydellisen jäätymisen välttäminen.

Puheen voi periaatteessa kirjoittaa vaikka kämmenpohjaansa, joten ei tarvitse hermostua, vaikka ei pystyisikään puhumaan selkeistä konsepteista tai tabletille siirretystä valmiinoloisesta skissistä. Puhe pysyy työmuistissa ainakin 1 – 3 päivää esittämisen jälkeen, minkä perusteella sen pystyy kyllä kirjoittamaan myöhemmin puhtaaksi niin halutessaan. Mitä kiperämmästä puhetilanteesta on kysymys, sitä varmemmin tämä pätee.

 

Puheen A-premissi on helppo, B normaali ja C vaikea

Non-Studio Show Me Where It Hurts

Normaali

Week 50



Participants

  • Nina Ahlblad-Mäkinen, matron
  • Eili Ervelä-Myréen, Swedish-speaking retiree for their Union
  • Peggy Granholm, nurse
  • Veronica Kalhori, coordinator of the Soc. Dem. Party’s parliamentary group
  • Björn Månsson, municipal politician and activist
  • Säde Pitkänen, special planner at City of Helsinki
  • Veronica Rehn-Kivi, member of the parliament’s social and healthcare standing committee
  • Jaan Siitonen, homemaker (husband)
  • Eva-Maria Strömsholm, outpatient
  • Camilla Wikström-Grotell, head of the health and wellbeing unit of University of Applied Sciences Arcada
  • health-care students
  • host

under no supertitle due to a live setting in a Munkkiniemi, Helsinki Service Centre, orig. aired 8th Nov, 2018

Premise
(A monolingual portion of the) Swedish-speaking in this country are worried about their status as in- and outpatients. According to them, they are increasingly forced into situations where they do not understand the anesthesiologist, nurse, physician or surgeon enough — let alone the mortician or pathologist (a little humour) — and vice versa, which can lead to frightening medical situations and possible instances of medical malpractise. There has been one fully-Swedish-speaking infirmary in the country, in Vaasa, which is part of the Swedish-speaking ”heartland”, but it is faced with budgetary cuts that will force its clientele and customer base farther afield, when emergencies present themselves, to hospitals where proficiency in Swedish is nigh on nil.

The participants among other people as the full live audience

A debate is held as a public event with invited guest commentators, many of whom are known from other areas of civic activities, who air their views about the situation and potential remedies for it. During the discussion, one begins to get the impression that a major reason why the situation has gotten so bad is a kind of brain drain that leads the most linguistically skilled forces in care, medicine and nursing to leave the country for other Nordic countries, Europe and even the Middle East. Finnish training in health care is very good, so if the students have some major assets apart from their training, they profit moneywise from NOT staying here.

Opinions of Others
The participants do not form specific opinion camps; rather, they bring up individual viewpoints that are sometimes repeated. One repeated line is that the country is officially bilingual and legislation should be applied where it’s not apparent today. Another is that money solves the problem, with salary bonuses and cheaper apartments for those who work bilingually. In another words, either stick and/or carrot to those who are responsible. The youngest and eldest ones stress the fear factor, of how frightening it is to be ill in a nil-communicating environment. Foreign workforce from abroad is mentioned, but it seems that a staff that speaks ”English Equally” to both the Finnish- and Swedish-speaking citizens, especially if the latter are elderly, is an unsavoury non-solution, even though it has its ergonomic and global benefits. Those who work behind the scenes in boardrooms and cabinets deny that the ”shopfloor problems” could all be fixed by boardroom dictums and decisions.

Opinions of One’s Own
I think Swedish-speaking Finns are being bullied a little. Here’s the thing. For ages, they were content, because they had one enclave for those who were not willing to ever learn Finnish and another for those who were willing to be almost fully bilingual, in addition to holding a seemingly permanent position as a fill-in party in every government. Now two things have changed: the govt. seats are gone, perhaps not to return, and powers that be have NOT sanctioned Vasa Central Infirmary the permission and the resulting resources for keeping its doors open 24/7. In other words, even if individuals drove ”the extra mile”, the collective couldn’t anymore guarantee the wellbeing of all of their people. It’s a radical break with the past.

As I see it, three alternatives present themselves.
1) To build a new hospital in Helsinki to serve anyone in the country who wishes to be treated with Swedish as the main language. This would be a costly choice, but something there would be the funds for, ultimately, after knocking on every door. Again, people would need to drive ”the extra mile” to receive treatment, but this time the govt.’s benevolent will and the physicians’ volatile language skill would not be the stumbling block.
2) To take the uncostly measures that are available to us:
a) raise awareness of the situation with campaigns
b) earmark money for (semi-)bilingual employees in the care sector as raises or performance bonuses
c) provide employees with flag lapel pins onto the clothing/uniform if and when they are capable and willing to serve people in Swedish AND Finnish. This way customers would not have to pick up cues about who speaks and who doesn’t. It would be straightforward and transparent.
3) To let the situation worsen on its own weight, leading to Swedish-speaking Finns seeking medical treatment in Sweden or elsewhere or enduring the situation as it is, with a degree of ensuing alienation.

I would be in favour of options 2 (primarily) and 1 (secondarily), but that would require that someone progressive and sensible hold pertinent minister posts, such as Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Minister of Internal Affairs or Minister of Employment, depending on who can implement the necessary statutes. Based on the discussion, I’d join Camilla, Björn and Jaan to form a side against a potentially strongly dissident opposite side in a (follow-up) debate.


Thereafter
A link to a related humorous short film about the subject (with expiration after a month counting down from today).

Studio Leverage to the People?

Normaali

Week 49


 

Participants

  • Silvia Modig, leftwing MP (opp.)
  • Markku Suksi, professor in public law
  • Juhana Vartiainen, rightwing MP (govt.)

Under the supertitle ”Folkets röst”, or ’Voice of the People’,
orig. aired Nov 29th, 2018

Point of Departure
Bills can have these days their origin in an official online site where people can set up and vote for citizens’ initiatives. Recently one such initiative, for the abolition of inheritance tax, was not taken into consideration despite a substantial backing. Standing committees and their chairs use their clout to block or shunt unwanted bills-to-be. After 2011, about 800 initiatives have been formulated, out of which 25 have gone further. It helps if the initiative is written in legalese, but it may also be written briefly and in vernacular terms.

Opinions of Others
Mr. Suksi is ambivalent about initiatives and juxtaposes them with single MPs’ causes, which often fall through. Suksi reckons that a normal MP stands for 29,000 ordinary citizens, so support for an initiative or bill is counted in differently powerful backers. From this, we may infer that 2.9M votes straight or by proxy in Finland stands for a pass in most things. Ms. Modig speaks for the new procedure, even though she would have voted against the tax proposal in a plenary session. To her, initiatives and petitions are an instrument of democracy. Mr. Vartiainen is critical of the new tool, regardless of how he had voted. He thinks that the initiative could not have been passed, anyway, without a taxation overhaul, something that seems to afflict a great many bill these days (the need for an overhaul). All think that it would be nice if citizens’ initiatives would not expire with every new government that did not have the time to put them on the agenda. Vartiainen would recommend gathering as big a base for one’s initiative as possible, while Modig would choose to get powerful allies among civil activists and MPs.

Clockwise: Juhana, host, Markku and Silvia. The funerary procession in the background is most probably related to inheritance tax as the sub-topic.

Opinions of One’s Own
Citizens’ initiatives could be characterised like a class-action suit that isn’t out to get anyone, or, an affirmative-class-action suit, or << A.C.A.S >>. But if a real class-action suit can have at the most dozens, hundreds or a thousand plaintiffs, the initiative’s scope is between 50,000 – 300,000. Since 50,000 is 1.2 per cent of Finland’s eligible population, many causes can rally per se significant but still insignificant amounts of people behind them. The status of citizens’ initiative is thus ambivalent. It can be used both for what’s relevant and for what’s irrelevant.

Moreover, internet crowds have already shown their ”responsibility” and relevance in different issues. When the British Royal Navy aimed to name a ship it was about to receive, a naming competition was announced, the winner of which was Boaty McBoatface, with an overwhelming majority. People were genuinely disappointed when the name was not chosen but for a smaller vessel. Democracy doesn’t always deliver choosable alternatives.

Initiatives are alright, but often they trip over how the system is set up otherwise. For example, the inheritance tax initiative needed to fall through, as the govt. needs for sure all that money. The only exception is when people inherit functioning, incorporated companies, firms and factories as part of their inheritance. In those cases, they shouldn’t be forced to liquidate the business in order to pay the tax, especially since businesses pay many other kinds of taxes to society’s needs instead of that particular tax. Inherited businesses could be wholly freed from the tax, but that exemption could be granted by the govt. or passed off by the legislature without further ado and with their existing powers.

By and large, the worthiest citizens’ initiatives are worthy in their own right and they also show how much less tardy the processes of ordinary citizens are compared to those of politicians. There is no reason why important, constitutional decisions could not be made without a ton of paper and years of preparation. In the end, it’s about context, scope, objective and volition. It can not be so that every decision made would be unconstitutional.

As I’m equally congenial with each debater, I have no choice but to place myself geometrically at the extant empty spot around the circle.


 

Studio Don’t Know Much About History

Normaali

Viikko 48


 

Participants

  • Mikael Eriksson, principal of Kyrkslätts Gymnasium (upper secondary school)
  • Anna-Lena Laurén, foreign correspondent in Moscow for HBL and mother (via broken-line Skype)
  • Linda Mannila, doctor in education or pedagogy, university researcher
  • Laura Saarman-Töringe, elementary-school language teacher and mother
  • host

under the surtitle of ”Skola för alla”, or ’Schooling for All and Sundry’,
orig. aired on Nov 22nd, 2018

Premise
A new, as-of-yet-unpublished study hints that over the last 15 years, during which the digital revolution in education has properly gained momentum and the first all-digital generation of children is about to reach the age of consent (cohort of ’00/01), results in schooling and education have weakened and children no longer reach the same proficiency in comprehensive literacy and overall numeracy as before, when everything was more rigorous and less flexible. The study is controversial, but there may be more such studies to come.

Opinions of Others
The principal and the researcher make an argument for digital learning, with Mr. Eriksson claiming that the only ones complaining about it are the hoary teachers, who do not understand the technology or procedures fully and Ms. Mannila saying that the study is dubious and should not have been released yet. She also says that there is no going back. Ms. Saarman-Töringe is in favour of going back to basics on the blackboard, as she sees the digital experience as too taxing, for which she receives support from Ms. Laurén, who speaks for general sophistication, history-awareness and critical thinking that machines cannot really teach. She has seen Russian pupils and students as a foreign correspondent and claims that their level of literacy and numeracy is far greater than in Northern Europe due to classical schooling and an expectation of precociousness.

Own Opinions
As projected, the newest developments in education favour progeny to high-performing, salaried, middle-class parents. Children seem to need to possess approximately the same skillset as their parents have in juggling the copy-cut-paste-scroll-search-and-join-the-dots world of computerised learning and labour. Conversely, working-class and upper-class children don’t quite live in the same world of top performance and compliance and they might not understand why they have to show so much initiative and discipline.

I feel the pain of these children. Moreover, schools and their principals may also view computers as the best martinets in the class. When teachers hand out the objectives and persuade children to meet them, in quietly touching and typing away at their computers, discipline is maintained almost in a virtual manner, because one cannot argue with a computer. Schools are between a rock and a hard place when they have the option of a) children not learning anything at all, if and when there are disciplinary problems and b) children learning poorly when they are the bottom rung in the disciplined command chain of teacher > computer > pupil.

The problem with computers is that they bring a queasy feeling of disorientation to the learning/examination experience. I once did a TOEFL on a computer, and even though I passed it, I felt disconnected from human interaction, even though I know that my input was ultimately corrected by human eyes and hands. This happened as an adult, when I already had my very traditional years of schooling behind me. On the other hand, I do enjoy reading the newspaper today in a digital edition, because it is handy, there is a possibility for commentary and polling and reading articles does not feel disorienting. While digital materials are engaging and interesting, they work best when they only fill in the (scattered) blanks and supplement what one already knows about the world and things in it.

In light of this, my opinion is that the basics/fundaments/ropes of curricula should be offered traditionally, whereas the complementing, contemporary, fringe information could be offered digitally. In chemistry, this could mean explaining a chemical reaction as shown in a streamed video with a Power Point presentation; in languages, it could mean a(n) article/essay/phrase/word club for the eagerest tithe of the class, where the club materials were distributed in an electronic way, either via an online platform or a cloud file.

Based on my opinions, I’d be seated closest to Laura and, in a virtual fashion, to Anna-Lena.