School choice in ….. Sweden?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080726/ap_on_re_eu/sweden_s_school_revolution

Could the bright and shining beacon of world socialism be showing cracks by borrowing a page from the play book of the …… American anti-education movement?

It seems that in one of the last places on Earth you would expect it to happen, school choice has latched on …. of course for the most part these are not religious schools, these are mostly schools set up by corporations, whose job it is is to run schools. School companies would be one way to look at it.

There’s a particular quote that I find troubling, though I am sure it is not indicative:
For some pupils, private and public schools have become wholly interchangeable.

In the Vittra school, a 10-year-old boy named Oliver has an assignment to write a crime novel, but he says, “I don’t have the patience to become a crime novelist.” He is leaving Vittra in the fall for a public school specializing in music because, he says, “music really is my life.”

I have nothing against music … I love many different genres …. used to try my best to play myself. The fact is, while I think writing a novel seems a little over the top for a 10-year-old’s homework assignment, I’m not sure I would like the idea of any child specializing so soon in life.

One of the things I genuinely like about the school where I teach is that there is an emphasis on exploration: try things: see what you like, what you think you like but don’t ….. where your talent lies. The idea of specialty schools has never appealed to me much, especially for younger kids because invariably elements of their basic education get left behind.

There is a religious school not far from where I teach. I have spoken to students and teachers and parents who have sent their kids there. They spend a lot of time on religious studies. I have no problem with that. I have a problem when you set X% of the schedule aside for religious learning/events, and then as the year progresses regularly usurping the other courses for that. In the end, the students non-religious education is short changed, and that can have a negative impact down the road. I suspect specialty schools operate in a similar manner, except don’t pretend to set a schedule that accommodates the regular education classes the time they need.

Once again, it smacks of the business model being applied to education: that a well rounded education is really all about a few courses that you like, and the rest are hoops to jump through. come to our school, and we either make the hoops really easy to walk through, or eliminate them altogether. Plus, we’ll throw in a brand new iPod for registering today (this is in fact happening at some of the schools in Sweden). It is a situation where more and more education decisions are being taken out of the hands of educators, and handed over to business people.

Of course, not all private school are specialty schools, and not all private schools are bad (I thought I got a great education at the private high school I attended), just like not all public schools are as repulsive as the media/government would make you think.

Of course, this begs to wonder: Sweden has in the past always scored very high on those international tests that have made certain conservative elements in our country claim “The sky is falling: our public schools are terrible”. This change makes me wonder that there must be a pretty healthy percentage in Sweden that think otherwise. It makes me wonder how good those standardized tests (or any test) are at measuring how good a nation’s schools are.

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2 Responses to School choice in ….. Sweden?

  1. Tom N. says:

    Um, you argue against the whole specialization thing, but the quote you posted has the boy leaving a private school so that he can go to a public school to specialize in music.

    Also, why do you label school choice as anti-education? That’s insane. Details can be argued, but giving parents a choice in which school to send their kids to can only help strengthen schools and improve outcomes for students.

  2. teganx7 says:

    1. Public or private, specialty schools are, IMO, problematic. The City of Chicago in particular has many of them, either charter or public. There are only a few private schools that are “specialty schools”.

    2. When I said “anti-education” I was not specifically saying anyone who supports school choice, though that in and of itself is not the panacea that any think it is. Anti-education people are more specifically people who are more interested in grabbing control of school because they disagree with what schools teach (like evolution), or what they won’t teach (their personal idea of religion).

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