Pasi is a real thinker and a man of action. I've been a fan of his ever since I saw this interview with Andrea Mitchell back in Sept. 2010. He told an astonished Mitchell that the secret of Finland's celebrated school success was essentially doing everything just the opposite way from current U.S. school reform policies. Some of the major differences: Finland puts the focus on collaboration rather than on competition. Finnish education policy supports public good and equity over privatization and school choice. The Finnish school system de-emphasizes standardized testing. Finland has implemented high standards for entry into the teaching profession, rather than using mass purges of the profession and school turnarounds.
The message was pretty much the same this morning. Sahlberg was introduced by corporate lawyer and CPS school board member Jesse Ruiz, who applauded with the rest of us. Was he being polite or does he really like what Pasi is saying?
Sahlberg was definitely being polite, even generous, towards his host. But still, his words cut through the basic premises of U.S. corporate-style reform like a scalpel.
The breakout sessions that followed were led by some of the nation's leading advocates against public school privatization, and corporate ed reforms. Andy Hargreaves, Pedro Noguera, Jitu Brown, Ralph Martire, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Jeannie Oakes, Kevin Kumashiro and others, carried on the critique of current reform policies right up until lunch.
But I almost fell out of my chair when Anderson offered that all of "Arne's" policies and so-called reforms "were in step" with Pasi Sahlberg's earlier presentation. What!?
Anderson exited the stage before anyone could question such an outrageous proposition.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It's the great disconnect between our Democratic administration's words and deeds. No need to go into detail on this. But there would be no better place to start than right here in Chicago, where all the blather about school reform being the "civil rights issue of our era" goes hand-in-hand with the whitenizing of the city and with accompanying massive school closings and disinvestment in communities on the south and west sides of the city.
Thanks, Jo, for offering a brief surreal counter to what was an otherwise interesting and inspiring conference morning.