Thursday, October 16, 2008


”So how do we discuss
the education of our children?
Teach them to be romantics
to veer towards the sentimental?”

Reading that the conservatives in Stockholm are about to introduce grades for ten year olds made me pick up Ondaatje again. On one hand it is urgent to raise standards, especially in the humanities. On the other, instead of measuring relative failure, those teaching resources should be used to prevent kids from falling behind in the first place. Given all we know about society, it is a mystery to me why we do not double, or even triple, the money spent on schools, especially for the young ages? Even in strictly economic terms, the return on investment would be staggering and seen all over the board: crime, employment, science, the arts, name it.

At least in the Swedish context, a first step would be to improve the training of the teachers. Too often, people go into teaching because they lack bolder dreams. Our universities are then quick to extinguish any remaining ambition by failing to provide them with a sufficient academic challenge.

But when all this is said and done, we still have to reflect on the deeper purpose of all this. And that should be to advance civilization in its broadest sense. However, in the lingo of the former leader of the so called “liberal” party in Sweden, Lars Leijonborg, education is only a mean to achieve international competitiveness. Though undoubtedly important, that view indicates that the centre-right coalition still has a lot of thinking to do when it comes to a more fundamental question: do we have a society in order to sustain an economy or an economy in order to sustain a society?



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