Meanwhile, Over in Sweden …

By February 20, 2017 Uncategorized 6 Comments

In case you missed it, at his rally in Melbourne, Florida on Saturday, President Donald Trump listed a terror attack that never happened as part of the rationale for his controversial anti-Muslim travel ban.

In defending his executive order banning Islamic refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., the President said, “When you look at what’s happening in Germany, when you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden!”

Well, the fine people of Sweden are apparently unaware of any significant disasters occurring in their country the night before. In fact, the Swedish Embassy in Washington quickly asked the US State Department to clarify Trump’s remarks.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer was quick to remind skeptics that Sweden has a history of violent extremism, sharing this graphic footage of a horrific bombing that happened in 1973:

To be serious, the Swedish people do appear to have a great sense of humor. If you want a quick laugh, head over to Twitter and check out the hashtag #swedishincident. It’s good stuff!

When I checked it earlier, I discovered that 70’s pop band ABBA may have been involved in whatever happened Friday night.

They always did seem a bit odd to me.

Anyhow, before I get too many people in a lather, Trump’s team later clarified that the President was referring to “general incidents of rising crime in Sweden committed by refugees,” and not an act of terror.

As a reason for the confusion, they cite a Fox News segment Friday night that President Trump overheard discussing a documentary filmmaker claiming a link between refugee admissions and rising crime.

Fair enough. 

However, it is also true there was no terror attack in Sweden on Friday. Perhaps, as some Twitter users suggested, the attack in Sweden happened in the same parallel universe as Kellyanne Conway’s fictitious “Bowling Green massacre.”

It’s somewhat ironic that the very group of people who are chastising the media for promulgating “fake news” would be so careless with the facts themselves.

When it comes to education, the idea of fake news is not new.

Since the release of the “A Nation at Risk” report in 1983, public schools and teachers have been subjected to unrelenting waves of disparagement and ridicule, often based on thin anecdotal evidence.

Parents may love their own neighborhood school and feel very good about the quality of education their child is getting. However, education reformers are quick to point out sometimes real, yet relatively isolated examples of educational malpractice to sustain their narrative of failing schools: “Yeah, things may be good here but have you looked at what’s happening over there in Povertyville? Who would believe it? It’s terrible.” 

Hence, thirty years later we find ourselves embroiled in debate over parent choice and vouchers. Many American’s have been browbeaten to the point where they actually believe siphoning money from public schools and sending it to corporate charters or private schools is a viable solution to addressing inequality in America.

As we know, the debate’s happening right here in Oklahoma.

Earlier today, legislation creating education savings accounts (Senate Bill 560) for Oklahoma public school students was approved by the Senate Committee on Education on a vote of 9-7. The measure now moves to the Senate floor for a vote. This voucher bill from Republican Sen. Rob Standridge of Norman is one of several bills filed in the 2017 Oklahoma Legislature to create education savings accounts.

Meanwhile, have you been following what’s happening relative to school choice in Sweden?

Since the 1990s, Sweden has allowed privately run schools to compete with public schools for government funds. Since implementing choice and other aggressive education reforms, Sweden’s standing on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has declined dramatically, from near the OECD average in 2000 to significantly below average in 2012.

In fact, according to the OECD report, no other country participating in Pisa saw a steeper decline than Sweden over that period.

To channel our President, “It’s been a disaster, Bigly!”.

Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden!”

Critics on the Swedish left blame the voucher system for declining results, saying it has opened the door for schools more interested in making a profit than providing solid education. Conservatives say students have been given too much influence in the classroom, undermining the authority of teachers.

I suppose it depends on whose facts you want to believe.

So, here are a few  more. This decline was also reported in this 2014 online article from I encourage you to take a look.

Here is the headline:

“Sweden’s School Choice Disaster – Advocates for school choice might be shocked to see how badly the country’s experiment with vouchers failed.”

While it would be wrong to blame all of Sweden’s education problems on voucher schools and choice, there is little doubt that unregulated competition has led to greater disparities among Swedish schools due to lack of accountability, cheating on test scoring by adults, and widespread warehousing of poor children, many of whom are recent immigrants to Sweden.

On the other hand, the much-vaunted schools of Finland, a country entirely free of charter schools, consistently perform near the top of the PISA rankings.

Finland! Who would believe this? Finland!

How does Finland achieve great results without vouchers and choice?

It’s quite simple.

They value the education profession and recruit the very best students from universities to become teachers. They pay them a competitive wage and provide them with the resources to do their job. Then, they let them teach. They also do not subject children to standardized testing until high school.

They treat children like children, preparing them to learn how to learn, not how to take a test. They teach kids to read when they’re developmentally ready, not based on chronological age. They give elementary age children 15 minutes of recess every hour. When kids fall behind, they’re provided additional supports like free after-school tutoring and summer school.

Finally, Finland celebrates learning, hard work, and play – not high test scores.

There’s nothing fake about that.

Maybe someone should slide a copy of these articles on President Trump’s desk for him to read. Oh, never mind, they’re more than a page long.

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