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Pet peeve of the day: Oregon is trying to make it harder to have exceptional public schools. Which kind of sucks.

Background for non-Americans: the US school system is a disaster, with very uneven quality. You have some good school districts, and you have some really bad ones, and it's all just pretty crazy. Very different from back in Finland, where education isn't just good, it's fairly reliably good. You don't have to worry too much about which school you go to, because while there are certainly differences, they simply don't tend to be all that marked.

In the US, if you care about education, you end up having to make sure you live in a good school district. Or you do the whole private school thing, or try to make sure you can transfer, or whatever. The one thing you do not do is to just take it for granted. You work at it.

I'm not a huge believer in private schools, and I actually wanted my kids to be able to walk to their friends houses, so we made sure to move to one of the better districts in Oregon.

Now, living in a good school district means that you end up paying a lot more for housing, so it's not actually necessarily really any cheaper than sending your kids to a private school. But you do also end up being in a community where people care about education, so it's not just the school: it's the whole environment around you and your kids.

But it's unquestionably unfair, and it unquestionably means that people who can afford it get a better education in the US. Despite the whole "public" part of the US public school system, it's like so much else in the US: you don't want to be poor. The whole "American Dream" is pretty much a fairy tale.

So the Oregon legislature is trying to fix the unfairness. Which I very much understand, because I really do detest the whole US school system - it was always one of the things that we talked about being a possible reason to move back to Finland when the kids needed to go to school. We ended up learning how the US system works, and made it work for us, but that doesn't mean that I have to like the situation. Because I've seen better.

So why is trying to make things fairer a peeve?

The way the Oregon legislature is trying to fix things isn't by making the average school better, it's by trying to make it hard to have the (fairly few) bright spots around.

In particular, let's say that you do have a good school district, where people not only end up paying for it in the property taxes (which is what largely funds the school), but also by having special local tax bonds for the school in addition to the big fund-raisers every year. Because the public US school funding just isn't that great, so the local community ends up fixing it - to the point of literally raising much of the money to build a new building etc.

And I realize that this all just sounds completely insane and broken to any sane person, but hey, Americans are so used to it that they seem to think that it's how things should work. The whole school bake sale is a part of the whole American psyche (and I'd be a big proponent of using that funding method for the military too, but somehow it never works that way).

Anyway, if you actually were successful, had people who cared deeply about the local school, and built a good local public school around such a community, such a school district used to be able to accept out-of-district kids, but charge them extra tuition to make up for the fact that they obviously aren't paying the local tax bonds etc.

And now, in the name of fairness, there's a bill (HB 2748) getting pushed through to make that kind of "out-of-district tuition student" not be an option any more. 

And I really do understand the fairness question. Why should public schools be able to charge some people, just because they don't live in the right place? It's a public school, isn't it?

I'd be frickin annoyed too about the kids of well-to-do families who get to go to a better school in their nice district. I absolutely get it. I grew up in a country where private schools were for odd people who wanted their kids to be in full-time foreign language immersion classes and learn more than just four languages. Where one of my buddies transferred to my school not because it was more convenient or a better school, but because it was the only Swedish-speaking one that taught Latin, for chissake. And it was all free, and we didn't need to have cookie bake sales.

So I really do understand why people would want to get rid of the special schools and find them odious. I find them odious, and they are a sign of how broken the US school system is.

Except HB 2748 doesn't actually do anything to try to fix the breakage, it just says "you can't charge out-of-district students". It doesn't fix the bad schools, it just makes it harder to be a good school. Suddenly local tax bonds etc don't make much sense, because you can't make non-residents bring in the equivalent funding.

Oh well. I bet nobody wanted to hear that whine, and I guess I should put the "First world problems" meme picture here, but hey, I wanted to get that rant off my chest.
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Yes, Finland and South Korea, are way ahead when it comes to education and Schools but you have to remember the USA, is structured differently. Bill Gates, is one of the people trying to change it, as well as hundred of other people over here, it is a tough thing to change.
US school system is not that bad, only uneven as you said, but that's normal for such a big country. Come to Brazil and you'll see a real disaster in school system. (yeh, put the meme there :D )
When you think about it, the USA just has a different mindset. That's not to say it should be the way it is, but it'll be a very long time before we see a major change.
It's good to hear The Man The Legend weigh in on something like this.  It's also nice to hear that my thoughts on Nordic policies are not off the mark. 

Shared for publicity. This sort of crap needs to stop. Pushing us in the exact opposite direction of progress cannot be a good thing.
This isn't all too different to the UK. 
That bill is a disaster.

I live in Virginia, which has exactly the same problems. I've heard of people living in a cheaper neighbouring county who rent apartments in my county so they can put their kids in my schools.  The system is crazy.
Thanks for's very interesting stuff. Here in Kansas we're barred from having local special taxes to make our local schools better, because schools in poorer rural parts of the state (with lots of tax-hating conservatives) can't have the same benefit. So instead we have fund raisers all the time. And now our butt-head governor is trying to get the state funding for education even lower... sigh...
I'm sorry to say I have to agree with most of your points. You can make the American dream work if you start out near the bottom--I managed it--but the schools certainly weren't much help. 
You neglected to mention homeschooling in the mix; I myself have been homeschooled (parents chose all their own curriculum, rather than public-school-at-home) and I am going to graduate with a two year AA program from my local college this summer, which I plan to supplement with a four year bachelors; I am currently 19. I think a lot of people simply pass off homeschooling as old-fashioned or not worth it, but it saves schools millions of dollars each year.

The new system that Bill Gates and many others are trying to implement is one I support completely as it is practically the same methodology as homeschooling (mastery of a subject rather than mastery of the class) but to a larger group of people. Of course there will be inherent drawbacks with trying to teach to lots of people at the same time but non-the-less it will certainly be a improvement over our current schooling system.
I think that improperly assumes that Oregon is first world still, +Charlie Ellingson.  I say this as a native Oregonian.  Moved to Oklahoma two years ago, and it was definitely a vast improvement.
Micromanagement does not work. In fact, it has the opposite effect to what it should do. It creates lousy quality.

If you want high quality in anything, hire intelligent, dedicated people and give them the freedom to make mistakes. Don't put them in a straight jacket. They'll leave and you'll be stuck with those who can't find work elsewhere.
Sounds like they want to lower the bar instead of raising it.
That second paragraph there- I cri erry tiem. ;-;
Things rarely transfer from one school to the next. I always moved different cities and states during school. I maintained a 3.5 GPA, but I have 7 credits, it made it really hard to keep up... So here I am, getting my GED. :/
Shawn S
So true. Teacher unions make teaching kids really hard.
+Shawn S - That's funny, because Finland also has teacher unions and have little trouble maintaining excellent schools.

Perhaps Americans make teaching kids hard.  We are an obstinate bunch.
Shouldn't good public schools in the US accept, as a matter of course, students from poor countries as well (India, Yemen, Afghanistan)  -- to be fair.
Don't blame labor for expecting basics like job security and to be properly compensated, +Shawn S, unless you're willing to give those up yourself.
I don't know what to say, but I agree on your thoughts.

And no, it is not a first world problem +Linus Torvalds.
School should be accessible to everyone at the very same way, with the same quality. Even more in a country so advanced as USA.

And at least in US there is home schooling, that is something very unique. This is possible nowhere else in the Western world
Well said.  How we fix the school system isn't clear.  But it does need fixing.  

I'm a recently retired programmer who tried to teach elementary programming in a new (Montana) online high school system.  This is a state funded program whose original mission statement mentioned the lack of foreign languages and IT training in remotely-located rural schools.  Even though I had 5 years college level online teaching experience at that point, I was told  I  was ineligible because of obscure paper-work/bureaucratic reasons. Bureaucratic hoop jumping is all about protecting somebody's existing good deal.  And that has a lot to do with the rigidly inflexible poor quality of our school systems as a whole.  Schools need to be better funded.  And better managed. And looser and less bureaucratically stiff.
Reminds me of No Child Left Behind. One way to make sure no one stays behind, is to keep everyone at mediocre level at best. 
+Linus Torvalds makes good points as usual. I was homeschooled during most of my childhood because we could not afford to live in a decent school district. When we finally were able to move to a nice area, I went to a very nice public school.  The whole system is screwed, and it seems to only hurt those who care about education.
Again, +Alex Agranovsky, welcome to Oregon on that likes to front on being a progressive hideaway, but it's the worst kind of right-wing state in that it pretends it's not.
Kyle Rose
Funding is only one aspect of good schooling, and an overrated one at that: the US is outspent per-pupil by only Switzerland among the OECD countries, and yet has worse outcomes:

The fact is that even with open enrollment, kids are going to wind up going to the public schools near them, which means that school districts near rich people are going to have the rich kids with more resources and higher expectations, and so those schools are going to be substantially better than average... with the opposite dynamic in areas near poor people.

I suspect the real difference between Finland and the US is that the US has a larger and geographically-distinct underclass (in terms of both education and income), while Finland is by contrast far more homogeneous in income, education levels, race, cultural heritage, etc.
Society should exists with, as its only purpose, that of defending its members. This includes working towards a society where everybody has equal rights and chances disregarding their income. Unfortunately, "liberism" (that has nothing to do with "liberty" .... since often is the opposite)  tends to encourage differences, on the grounds of the archaic belief that so called "free market" should lead to better services. As anyone with minimum amounts of wit can see by himself, this belief is not simply wrong.... it is plain stupid. (I would move to Finland if I could.... my country tries to do everything it can to imitate US, specifically in its worst parts)
Great rant! I Happen to be in a little bit of this in Cali where I'm in between my 2 divorced parents, one lives in one city and the other lives in another, I go with the school district that's best between the 2 cities and, that parent cant move from there so I can get a better education. I must say, as a high school senior, its worth it. Ideally, there really shouldn't be a difference in how good the schools are.
I love the US, but I can never defend its healthcare or education. Some of the worst in the world, unless you have money.
Wow, I thought the school system in Croatia is bad (it is), but this is fecking horrible. "Land of the free" my ass, this sounds like land of the stay poor and uneducated if your dad is not rich. Somehow, I don't think the US constitution was made to represent that.
How about home schooling? Dodge the whole damned mess until college.
(Wouldn't it be nice if things weren't coin operated here?)
+Paul Johnson Not saying it is; but often many people have negative connotations about it... just trying to prove the opposite. :)

It is a large time and effort investment into one's children so it certainly isn't for everyone but until the reformed system of public school comes into play, there's not really any good options that are easy.
US is not the only one country that has probs with their schools. At Greece learning by heart and not paying atettion to the content of the school books is one of the problems. But As I read about at US is by far worse.

If people do not get proper education is a huge affect to become criminals. Also to be able to be productive and use their knoledge is one of the other problems.

Also I think if you protest you will have a huge impact you name is well known to the universe you are no one you can think as nobody, you will get noticed.
Politicians in the United States don't really get elected anymore to fix anything, or do any work as the word is defined for you and me. (Well, maybe you. I just write.)

They get elected almost purely to shore up party majorities and push whole party platforms. And that's it.

The result? A remarkably inefficient public school system that can only get worse.

There's no solution to the mess that is the American public education system. We'd probably be a lot better off just scrapping it and copying another, more successful system.

Too bad there's no political will for common sense. It's easier just to be popular in American politics. -bp
We're not used to this.  This is not how it was done for decades.  This is a recent (though several years old) "innovation."  Formerly, many schools were paid for with property taxes, but at a state wide level.  This mean that wealthy people were paying taxes that went into middle class and poor people's education, because the wealthy people paid more (more valuable land) and send their kids to private schools.

This was intolerable to the wealthy people of California, who got a ballot initiative going to eliminate most property taxes and remove education funding from that area. Then they did it in New York and Massachusetts.  Ironically, some of the most liberal states were the first to stick it to the middle class and poor kids.

It is in fact horrible that we do it this way.  I think the defunding of public schools was the first step in ensuring the concentration of the vast majority of wealth into the hands of a very very small number of people in this country. 
+Linus Torvalds, you can then campaign a bit for public education in Chile. Chile has gone all the way of the voucher, and public schools are disappearing every day. There was a massive movement in 2011 for public education, but we have only "freedom of choice" zealots in government, beginning with the Department of Education boss himself, Harald Beyer a well known pro-voucher researcher.
We were very fortunate to grow up in a tiny school district -- ~300 students, I believe -- in a modest-income community but with a very large, very profitable manufacturing plant nearby that paid big taxes into the school district. I heard that at one time all the high school teacher but one had a doctoral degree. (College was a let-down after that!) Microbiology, quant/qual analysis, pre-calculus, French lit, super band and theater... I wish so much that more kids could benefit from similar, though I suppose we were lucky the plant didn't play politics with how its taxes were used.
I've never been to a US school so I don't really have much by way of fair comparison, but I do know the Canadian system and it doesn't sound much better.
I grew up in Northern Alberta (North of Edmonton) where education is apparently on the extreme poor end of the spectrum.  I managed to skip a few grades for a few years but ultimately the school board decided that my acceleration made my peers feel stupid, and was ultimately held back to a year at a time.
That said, in grade 5 we started computer science.  The curriculum went as follows; Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor -> Oregon Trail -> Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor -> ...  The grade 6-11 CS curriculum went like this; Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor -> Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor.  Meanwhile, I was coding semi-professionally by grade 7.
Our "track" was a ring of mud around the football field.  Gym class was dodgeball (every year).  Religious studies was considered a core subject every year until 10th, at which point you could switch to social studies, which was really a poor facade for "white people ruin everything" history and "how god created the Universe" (this was a public school).  Science classes were almost entirely devoid of hands on experimentation and instead we watched documentaries from the 50's which pushed 50 year old (and very often completely incorrect) data at us.  None of the sciences had stand-alone courses and were all rolled into "science". The biology curriculum spend 4 months on the virtues of sexual abstinence.  I don't believe, by grade 9, that we'd actually learned what a cell was (this is confirmed by classmates who to this day, believe a cell is a type of molecule).

It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I discovered that Canada does in fact, have a few decent schools where you could reasonably expect a decent education.  Today I'm still playing catch up with the folk who were educated a few hours south (though most of them didn't retain anything, so I'm comparing to what they were taught vs. their actual retained knowledge).
Private schools aren't much better here.  90% of them are religious schools where the education is generally worse than even the worst public schools.
+Linus Torvalds with the exception of some "magnet schools" my experience, and what I've seen of my childrens' schools, is that the teaching is done to the lowest common denominator - and this isn't the teacher's fault.  There is simply no provision for, say, a kid in a Geometry class, to have the teacher say "this kid really ought to be in Algebra I.  He's not ready".

We don't have "out of district tuition" here in CA, though (as far as I know).  But any parent that would expend the time and energy every day to take their kid to a better school in another part of town is likely to be fostering a climate of education at home too, so they're not likely to be a problem, and IMO shouldn't be penalized for it.
One thing to keep in mind, comparing a country the size of the USA to other smaller countries based on school system is a tricky thing to do. While on one hand they're both countries, on the other hand a state in the US is the size of some of those countries. And just like countries some have good school some have bad. Its just the nature of the beast. While I whole heartedly agree that we need to increase the overall ratings that the school system outputs, we really aren't doing all that bad on a grand scale. (Just my two cents, and I apologize for the typos, on my phone ATM)
Oh, didn't mean to put down that thought, +Camo Yoshi.  I know the efficacy of motivated home-schooling.  Right out of college, I was surveying Williamsburg, Kansas for +OpenStreetMap while visiting a renfaire, and one of the faire's organizers homeschools their kids.  Their 8 year old schooled me at calculus and trig as we were walking around taking measurements.
and that's not even getting into how incredibly fucked up our colleges are. Fix it +Linus Torvalds run for office. Seriously.
+Ernesto Manríquez : this ridiculous "freedom of choice" idea is exactly the same that people (actually, right wing and religious integralists people) are using here in Italy.... I believe that someone is perceiving education as a business (and, of course, a social control method) and is succesfull in finding stupid people to agree with them (stupid people can be found everywhere, unfortunately)
+Dan Swick: I would suggest you learn more about US education before you start talking about me "not realizing" things. I've seen both sides, I suspect you haven't, and your reply was the standard "rah rah, USA USA" thing born out of ignorance and patriotism rather than any actual knowledge.

You seem to be unaware that public education is actually a state matter, that Oregon is about the same size (both physically and in population) as FInland, and that your comparison of all of the US to Finland thus makes no sense? Yes, there are some federal rules (and federal funding, but that would go to the poorer states), but you'd be better off comparing the US to EU if you want to compare at that level.

But I won't blame you for not realizing that there is a massive educational gap between Finland and most of the rest of the world. After all, I assume you went to US schools, and never saw anything else.
I disagree in a major way about the German/Bavarian system. I don't have statistics handy, but I am sure my parents didn't live where they lived because of the good primary school, they were all reasonably good. Same for all the other schools I went to. I've never heard anyone in Munich complain about their school, but then again I've been gone for 15 years. Outside of Munich I have no experience whatsoever of course.
Having run for the Oregon House of Representatives for District 49 (Wood Village), I gotta say, the last thing +Linus Torvalds wants to do is subject himself to the level of dirty, caustic politics Oregon puts out, +Daniel Sprouse.  The public would just destroy him and his family, and he'd still probably lose.
Give me the keys of the education system and they will vote me forever.
+Paul Johnson That kid is after my own heart! Absolutely adorable!
Thanks for the discussion. :)
It's similar here in the UK too. Parents fall over eachother to get their kids into the catchment area for one of the better state schools and property prices increase as a result of that. 
I don't know the Oregon system at all, but I think that the consequence of this will be that schools will no longer accept out-of-district students.  So in a completely bone-headed move to try to make it cheaper for the members of the legislature to send their kids to the better schools without having to pay for it, instead they will just make it so that fewer kids get to go to the good schools.
Americans pretty much all agree that "fairness" is important, but we can't agree on what it is. For some people, it means giving everyone the same opportunities. For others, it means letting everyone achieve what they can without being hobbled by the need to help others.
It's a lot easier for Finland to have good schools nationally, given that it is the size of a middling US state. The US is just too big, there are too many different cultural areas, and the population is clustered in a few cities very far from one another. It has unique problems.
On the topic of "not knowing any better", my daughter is unfortunately stuck with in a school up north as well.  Her mother (not knowing any better) says "her education is GREAT", despite her school scoring the lowest in the district, and the district itself is in the bottom 5% of schools in Canada.  My daughter learns more in a week of hacking with me than she does all year at school.  Worse, a large part of the curriculum is not only outdated by about 50 years, but often inaccurate.  I have to go over the months education with her to correct all the inaccuracies.
Worse, because the average income in the district is on the low side, the province has cut funding for public schools, resulting in the closure of 2/3 of the schools in the district.  This of course is answered by 5 new catholic schools being opened, funded by the church. sigh.
On the plus side, my "deprogramming" is getting a good work out.
Come to Brazil and you will see a broken system. North america system is utopic here and Finland system is almost a utopic distopia. Brazil a place where build more temples than schools and religion teachers, paid with public money receive more than a science teacher. Where who dictate what books can be read or not or what from history can be reached or not is religion. The land of eternal shadow. 
Finland leads the world in school education. 
the US pretty much spends a little less than 2% of our budget on education. That's just so fucking wrong, and yet we keep electing people who want to put us into unsurmountable debt to pay for the new police state instead of what we really need. And what we need, what our children need, is better education.
I was homeschooled, and I didn't end up too crazy.
As a Dane, I envy the Finnish educational system. ... and driving skills.
Working towards the lowest(dumbest) common denominator... Homeschooling is an alternative... Thanks for the rant, thoroughly enjoyed it.. Since I too grew up in that excellent Finnish school system.
And that dear sir is the problem with the US. I'm sorry you have to go through it. I know it sucks, it's the way things are here. We don't actually want to fix things when they are wrong because that would require more work then putting a bandaid on the problem (the new HB) that you referenced. I honestly do wish that we could follow the example of Finland and have a better school system all around. 
+Martín Cigorraga I know well how bad its is in another latin América countries. Some ones to study innpublic school the kid andnfather need ro declare christian and catholic or no teach. How Your write, we are huge, we pay Finland/German taxes like but we don't have the Finland/German return from our government. Brazil today have the most heavily taxes per citizen around globe, but the worst services possible from government. You pay like a Finland citizens to receive a Finland like school but you receive an Ethiopian kind of teach and need to pay more for particular teach. Then you pay high taxes and pay again the particular one to have a decent service. You can extend this for health and all public services.
The idea that the problems with US education is from a lack of funding is just utter nonsense.  Wildly divergent spending levels are matched with wildly divergent educational outcomes, however, they don't actually line up.  That is to say that there are many good school districts found at many different funding levels and usually the very highest expenditure school districts - like the District of Columbia - have terrible outcomes.  Indeed, over the past half century we have been spending more on K12 education per student in real dollars - not less.

School districts now spend less than half of their budgets on actually educating children.  The rest is spent on bloated administrative budgets and non-educational line items.

The reality is that now, the "good" residential districts create "good" school districts not because they fund higher spending but  because they are filled with parents who demand good schools, good teachers and good outcomes.
I want be a presidend of nigeria but not like one are present naw be cause he and their members all are bullying
+Linus Torvalds Thank you for so eloquently highlighting one of the problems in the US public school system! I have heard about the magnificent education system in Finlland!
Private schools are for the most part superior to public. Downside they can be expensive.
Linus, what makes you to want to stay in US and not go back home to Finland?
If that's a rant Linus, keep them coming!

The US public school system is simply broken; funding at the county level is flawed because it "balkanizes" public education producing these sorts of problems.

Down here is NSW Australia we're introducing new school funding model called "Local Schools, Local Decisions" which looks like its taking some inspiration from the US model.

The results will be similar if we're not careful.
I'm not american, and don't live there, so it's actually very good to read such rants, to see how things really are. Because a country always sells its propaganda, and here in Brazil the propaganda is that the US is the best place in the world. If you ask in the streets, no one knows of a bad side of that country. Nor of any of the Developed Countries. That can misguide people that want to go abroad to study, for a related example.
+Álan Crístoffer Please. Don't try to compare the problems from US education with the Brazilian Education. Its like compare a bad weather and a bad Wine. There they have problems here our system is broken and in the religion hands.
The whole school system as it exists today is simply outrageous. Believe me. I'm unfortunately still a part of it.
+Linus Torvalds Thanks for that insides, but you might want to come to germany and check out how things here work: If a boy from thuringia (me) wants to find an apprenticeship or go a to a higher school in Bavaria my grades are multiplied by 1.5 compared to Bavarian kids, because those people think we are more stupid (if you come from Hesse it is factor 2). Our school systems differ so much from state to state that it is practically impossible for a family to move from one to another because not only school books differ, but whole subjects. This comes down to this, if your kid didn't have a subject in one state, but in another state they already had that specific subject, you can't really move down there unless you are willing to self teach your kid that subject, which would require you to know what they are teaching there. So yeah it comes down to be born in the right area or have rich parents to pay for private schools. We don't measure in areas but in whole states that are valued down, which is a result of a federalized school system (in contrary to the US system that works for almost the whole country). Sooooo I'd like to have a working school system like in FInland too ^o^
Wouldn't it be fair to mention that income taxes in the US and Finland are significantly different (much higher in Finland) and this fact explains a lot why Finland is more social than the US.
You may want to look at the spending per student. Fact-free moralizing is great though, so please feel free to carry on the diatribe. Also no mention of student abilities or diversity makeup of Finland vs USA. 
A good one Linus. As a Finn I´m proud to have you as a defender of our educational system. Since the criticism towards it has gotten stronger in the last few years, it´s important to have someone living abroad to remind us, how well off we are in this matter. En mycket bra kommentär.  
+Friedrich Sinofzik But I didn't compare. I said that here people believe that the US is perfect, because of the US propaganda here. And that it's good to see such rants so we don't fall for the propaganda.
That's not a first world problem, that's a second world problem.
+Dan Swick. That said, what's wrong with a system that delivers " across the board ", huh?
There are problems in education system that you are not aware of, like "racism ", for lack of a better term.

J.O. Aho
+Dan Swick I guess you agree with me that making a fund raising in a poorer neighbourhood will give less money than it would make it in a richer neighbourhood, so you will always have a crappy school in a poor area unless you have a tax system which sees to that each school district has enough money to do what they are supposed to do. The higher tax level in Europe (not every country and some even tries to copy US in a way which makes it even worse than US) is meant to help the poorer to have equal education and health care without the need of taking a huge bank loan when something bad happens and if you are poor you don't get a bank loan.
I rather pay a bit more tax to have the security that something happens, I don't have to wait for an insurance company to decide if my insurance will cover or not, sadly the government over here has fallen in love how things works in US and everything gets just crappier and the tax level stays high, so maybe it's time to think of getting back home to Finland.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.
Won't that just discourage the better district from accepting any out-of-district students?
I happen to live in what's arguably the best school district in Oregon (having done your homework, you probably know which one I'm talking about), and I can't imagine the quality of schooling here would take a hit if they didn't accept out-of-district students.
It would be interesting to see what sort of effect this would have on high school sports programs though.
I generally agree.  It's sad and unfair.  But to call the American Dream a fairy tale?  Hard working, self motivated individuals can make it out of the crappiest school districts.  And let's not just blame the money.  There's more than just the lack of money that makes a crappy school.  But who wants to talk about those deep rooted problems.
and that is why if you care about education vs socialization and teaching kids to be a drone you [home|un]school. We live in one of the 'best school systems' in the United States, but that isn't saying much. There is no emphasis on learning, but instead it is on regurgitating for tests. Questions aren't allowed because it slows down the class and teacher. No thinking allowed, listen and repeat. By 4th grade it was horrendous.

Now my kids teach themselves and my son is taking class at community college because he wants to discuss philosophy.

Does it address or fix the problem? Nope.

Did we try to work with the system for 4+ years? Yep.

Changing the game worked better for us
Los Angeles alone has a school district covering a larger population than the entire nation of Finland.
Your comparison is invalid.
Well, I bet my money on that it is the Anglo-Saxon class-system that the whole country was based on.

Where they came from? From UK and Germany. And look UK and Germany today. 

They are Class-based societies till today. 

In UK if you born in poor family, you are bounded to be poor, because you cannot teach yourself as, say doctor. In Finland you can.

In Germany pupils are separeted at very young age, and if don´t get to right line, damn.

I guess that in northern countries it was "All Hands On Deck", even women and children were needed to work to survive the coldness and lack of food.
And that is how the scandinavian "communism" and system was created.
Nanik T
+Linus Torvalds this problem is everywhere even here in Australia. If you want good education and environment for your kids to study you need to stay in a good suburb. The other alternative is either your move to Catholic (which costs approximately A$3000/year) or you move to full private which can cost upto $10,000/year, the choice is ours.

Housing is a major issue here as Australia is in the top 5 place for the most expensive housing in the world, if you are a single earner in a family and not earning $100,000/year you can kiss goodbye living in a good area and get good education for your kids. 
+Álan Crístoffer , Although you are right that the system is screwed up and nowhere near as good as South Korea or Finland, it is still a lot better than other countries around the world. I personally come from one of the best school districts in the country, so I most certainly can't speak for the whole country, but you can still find good school districts in most states. I also found this study conducted by Pearson very informative:
Australia is going the same way. But ultimately its not so much the school funding being the broken model, its the school staffing structure and organization and education model.

In Australia, and from what I've seen in the US as well, the emphasis over the years has been "to improve education we need to drive out the bad teachers. The ones who have been teaching for a long time and have high salaries due to union rules that reward tenure over performance". This is usually done via cuts and confrontations with teachers unions and marketed and sold to the public as lazy overpaid teachers. Even though public school teachers have low salaries compared to their private sector training counterparts.

And then since they concentrate on driving out teachers for being 'bad' and attacking their wages there is a drop in teacher quality. To overcome this drop they the put higher 'bureaucratic hoops and requirements' to 'improve teacher quality'. Which just acts as a further deterrent to skilled people who can see much more rewarding work for far less effort. Lowering teacher quality even further.

And the lowering of teacher quality contributes to the idea that education could be better if they could just get rid of the lazy, bad teachers. A self fulfilling cycle.

Then to follow this they go, well lets prioritize our funding by setting standardized tests and such to rank schools which then determines their funding, with schools that are failing the ranking given less money since you shouldn't reward failure and they are doing something wrong. They obviously need to figure out how to improve their ranking before they deserve better funding. So schools then train their students how to pass ranking tests, rather than educate their students on what they might need to know and what they are most talented at learning.

So the system you end up with puts high barriers to enter teaching, low rewards for actually working in teaching, encourages training on how to pass special tests rather than education and prioritizes funding to schools who are doing the best rather than those that need it the most.

Australia is currently implementing a new "4-point plan". One of the points is that new teachers will need to sit a test before they are allowed to teach that assesses their literacy and numeracy after they have done their 3 year education degree. And with a 3 year companion degree in the case of maths/sciences/english high school education. And they have to pass an additional emotional intelligence and suitability test to weed out those not 'committed enough'. And simultaneously as they are putting these extra tests in they are lowering the entrance barrier by allowing lower graduation score applicants into university so long as they have a 'commitment to education' and suitable extracurricular activities.

And after all this they can try to get a job in teaching. Which starts out at 35,000-45,000 a year depending on qualification (Primary school the lowest, maths/science/technology high school the highest). So doing 6 years of education for the maximum entry salary of a maths/science/tech high school teacher of $45,000. Compared to just doing the 3 year science and getting an entry salary of...$45,000 or so? Or go into industry training for $50,000 easy.

But hey, maybe the salary gets better the longer you work right? Except my father is a public school teacher in the most high demand field with the maximum amount of experience. He earns just under $80,000. I did a 4 year science/business combo degree and went into IT. Last year with all the travel perks and bonuses I cleared an equivalent pre-tax salary of over $90k (A lot of my overseas per diems and such are non-taxable income.)

If you want to improve education. Improve the teachers. Stop blaming them and attacking them and putting systems in place which cause the best teachers to always go to the same 'high quality' schools along with most the funding while everyone else just has to suffer with what they can get.
Kay Bee
Hmmm it's nt that bad
+George Hong, of course making it out of the broken K-12 school system is possible for any aspiring young student, it's the next tier of education where the American Dream is snuffed out.
Like everything else in the country, education has been perverted to a for-profit industry whose commodity is a student's aspiration. The United States saddles its brightest, most motivated minds with crushing, lifelong debt as reward for furthering their education. It's no longer designed to realize dreams, but to indoctrinate into slavery. But, hey, as long as they don't move, they won't notice the chains.
I hate the us education system. They need to fix it.
Ahmad A
+Shawn Anastasio South Korea does not allow drop-outs anywhere. Only the necessary swaps, but nothing like dropping out.
In Italy school works pretty much as you say it does in Finland, except for the fact that it is decades late on some subjects
I know right, cuz gues what i go to these crazy educational trying to make us learn buildings
+Linus Torvalds my pet peeve on schools is busing. Back in Norway, we walked (45 minutes each way) to school, and we are the better for it. 
Linus, as an educator I would love to tell you a hundred reasons why you're wrong but, well, you aren't. 
All rich school districts are not better, but most poor school districts are worse.

As Neil Degrasse Tyson says, "up to a toddler we teach kids to walk and talk, and after that age we tell them to sit down and shut up."

The art of learning is not being taught, rather the subjects of material. If you can learn efficiently, subjects are less relevant.

I'd say a kid with good parents and role models will always have a chance.
Bo Tian
+Dan Swick maybe you'd like to explain why the USA has worse education system than countries with lower tax burden like Singapore, South Korea, and Switzerland.
Linus - being a fellow Oregonian, I also moved to a place with a good school district, despite having no kids.  We as americans don't really put much stock into schools like we used to.  We don't want to pay for it.  It's all this huge anti-tax thing that started in the 90s or maybe it was when Reagan showed up.

It's really stupid.  I don't mind paying 1000 dollars more for good education.  I don't mind paying 1000 dollars more for better healthcare. 

But for a lot of people they believe that they shouldn't have to pay for other people and that's just plain selfishness.  Schools have always been a struggle in Oregon.  Our governor and legislature is tryign to fix it, but we are also cash starved.  It's a big mess.
Amen Linus. The worst thing in the US is education. Or, sometimes, lack thereof.
Jon Kim
Being British I never knew this was a problem, but with aspirations of moving to America with my new family in the near future I will certainly keep a watchful eye out for this... Crazy to think it is the way you describe!
Well said. I can't claim to know much about the school system in America, but if it works how you describe it, it truly is a f*cked up system.
Loads of great points here. I hear the health system is terrible too, as a Canadian I haven't experienced it, but it sounds awful. From what I understand, people want to change things, but government/ big companies prevent them (for the U.S.). 
Only about five million people live in Finland. That's pretty close to the population of Los Angeles, so it's a little hard to make an apples-to-apples Finland/US comparison.

I like school vouchers.
From my perspective, the state of Oregon sucks in general.  Want to know why I think so?  Visit

Although Oregon has no sales tax, Oregonians pay through the nose for stupidity taxes of various flavors.  Want to know what I mean by that?  Read

Sorry I am such a buzzkill about Oregon, but I feel like I have an excuse, I used to live there but I live in Arizona now.

The only thing that Oregon has going for it is assisted suicide and if you live there for a while, you will start to want to take advantage of that.
This is why I go to a private school. Because public schools SUCK.
There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence here, but people wanting an overview of Finland's education system can look here:

In short, Finland is enjoying the results of several decades of education reforms that focused on teacher quality and equal educational opportunity and outcomes. (A 5% child poverty rate, compared to the U.S.'s 22%, helps a lot, too.) Teachers are highly respected, they get a lot of support and time for planning lessons, and they are given a great deal of autonomy.

Also, Finland provides voluntary free preschool for anyone who wants it, and about 98% of all children attend. College is also free for graduates of secondary schools. +Linus Torvalds was also right about the uniform quality of Finnish schools: according to the 2009 PISA exam, no country had less variability from school-to-school than Finland. For more, I recommend Pasi Sahlberg's Finnish Lessons
Great post Linus. Well spoken. This comment "Americans are so used to it that they seem to think that it's how things should work" may not be the most accurate though. As a fellow Oregonian I don't think that is how our school system should work but between the teachers unions, school districts and political agendas we have just gotten overwhelmed.
Come back to Europe Linus. Freiburg Germany is nice. I tried Finland, but it was too cold.
Disappointed Linus. Calling the American dream a fairy tale when you have directly experienced it at considerable profit. I think if you hate it so much you can take your vulgar ass back to Finland. Douchebag.
Joe G
Why not, use your visibility to make a point that benefits people less fortunate. Plus you got it off your chest and it needed to be said. I don't live in Oregon, but our school system is messed us and probably contributes some economic drag. It goes to show that it sucks to be poor in the US, and the American dream is an illusion for most because they do not get a quality public education.
Thank you for yet again saying what needed to be said, Linus.  Oh yeah, and for that whole "Linux" thing, too. ;)
Linus, it is very true that we should want to change this deplorable system.  The Teacher's Union (NEA, SEIU, etc) make it almost impossible to change anything that won't benefit them.  If you want to have a go at it, you sure would be the proper person to do it.  I heard you speak before.  It appears to me that you could be a battering ram to a brick wall and that damn brick wall will come down.  
Sean G
Why I will just buy a ChromeBook & Cyber Schools with grow. With Googles help. Mby we can bypass the Stupid US Public schools. With underpaid teachers. Who hardly care...

The only School you need is +Google & +YouTube your can learn or teach yourself anything. The information age is Awesome.
No longer is information & education about your Luck or Money.
For the first time its up to Parents & People to educate themselves.
Why I think getting CPU devices in the hands of everyone... will change the world. Why I like to see more work like +Raspberry Pi w Googles support. Educate the world!! For FREE. Crazy Concept right?
Oh what's the problem with speaking more then 4 different language?
(Chinese Hakka, Cantonese, English, Dutch, Taki taki and Portuguese)
+Kit Malone: it's not all about the money.

There are other factors too, but admittedly they tend to skew things the same way the money does, so it's easy to just point to the money.

For example: while education doesn't guarantee wealth, there's definitely a correlation. Good education and good jobs do tend to go together. So those good (expensive) neighborhoods that bring in more property taxes? They also tend to have more educated people in them. And educated people value education, and have books in their homes. So their kids think school is important, and quite likely learnt to read before they even started school. All of our kids certainly did.

So that school in the good area not only gets more money in the US, but it gets "better kids". And that's not some kind of value judgement about my kids being superior to your kids (if you wondered: they are, btw), that's just a completely objective measure of how "good" the kids are for school. They need less coaching because they came in better prepared, their parents probably make sure they make their home work, the teacher has fewer problems etc etc.

And once a school district gets known as a good school district, that just snowballs. What kind of people are willing to spend more money on a house "just" because it's in a better school district? Right. The kind that values education. Again. Feeding the cycle further. 

And the teachers? Not only do they have an easier time (because they have kids who knew how to read even before starting school), but I guarantee you that most teachers would prefer teaching in a school like that, as opposed to one in a bad district. Sure, they'll have to work with those parents that have so high expectations, but there's less drama. Fewer pregnant teenagers, less violence over drugs. Didn't you know? Rich educated people get prescriptions.

So where do you think you'll find the better teachers? Where do you think you'll find better teacher retention and thus teaching stability? Which school do you think could even afford to pay less, yet get good teachers, because the teachers would prefer it?

So it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you have an uneven school system, it gets out of whack. It's not even about the money, although the money will be part of it. And no, private schools are in no way any different, nor do vouchers help at all. The issues stay exactly the same. The schools that get a good name have an easier time getting money, vouchers, teachers, "good" students, etc etc etc. 

The only way to fix it is to not have bad schools. At some point, things are "good enough" that other things take precedence. But to get there you need to fund that, and you need to really respect education.  That's Finland.
Conjecture (with some evidence): People who do not participate in the public school system - whether home schoolers, private schoolers, parochial and religious schoolers, or just plain people who don't have kids in school (retired, childless) - vote to reduce taxes for public schools. E.g. a rich homeschooler family can spend 1$ on their family's homeschooling and get full benefit, or can vote to increase their taxes by 1$, and get less direct benefit because their tax payments are redistributed to the less well off.  E.g. voters in a rich school district like Lake Oswego or Dunthorpe might vote against a state-wide tax increase for education, but vote for a local school tax levy, because they (perceive) more direct benefit.

(I don't want to get into an argument whether there is more or less benefit to spending money or your children's education or the local school district versus redistributing it.)
+Todd Martin the "American Dream" he refers to is the myth of poor people being able to make themselves rich with a bit of hard work.  Which is, as Linus says, a fairy tale.
And being concerned about major disparities between education within a country is what I'd call a second world problem.  And the USA is rapidly collecting 2nd and 3rd world problems.
Yep, and this whole situation makes struggling cities less appealing. Rust belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit are both trying hard to attract new residents, but families with school age children don't stay because the public schools are so bad. They move to a wealthier suburb with better schools. But the schools can't improve until the cities make enough money to improve them through property taxes, which won't happen until more people move to the cities.

This is unfortunate, especially since Cleveland, a strugfling city which is getting better in many ways, is successfully attracting young people, but they often move out of the city when it's time to send children to school. 
There are a few suggestions about home schooling. There are a couple of  problems with that. 1. Not every parent has the time nor the preparation to do it. 2. If you do it you might save your kid, but the idea is to educate every one well. After all, you pay for it Home schooling is a good solution for those who can, but you shouldn't have to do it to get your kids a de3scent education.And Todd, you are forgiven for your outlandish comment. After all you're the product of a US education
Pulic schools are only as good as the teachers, kids and parents.
That's why I home educate mine :-)
Linus, you assume public schools are to teach children.  Not so. American schools exist to indoctrinate children in statist political doctrine and to enrich left wing politicians through the teacher's unions.  50% of the delegates to the DNC are teacher union members.  They even outnumber attorneys

This week's controversy over Chicago school closings are a case in point.  The teacher's union is out blaming the mayor (who they give money to) for closing schools.  What temerity they have when the teachers closed them down themselves when they went on strike to break the bank with their last contract.  To make matters worse, they refuse to have performance evaluations or take proficiency tests in the subjects they teach.
And yet yanks still believe that they have the right to tell every other nation on earth that they know better and that they should be in charge...
If US school's system is supposed bad, come to Costa Rica and see a total disaster in School systems
Great quote: "The whole school bake sale is a part of the whole American psyche (and I'd be a big proponent of using that funding method for the military too, but somehow it never works that way)."

And yes, that sounds like a pretty messed up system.

And speaking of Finnish education, I recently found this book, which I'm looking forward to read: Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?.
+John Wilkinson that's only a few of us.  Most of the rest know that we've got a lot of learning to do.  Unless it's about killing people, and then we actually do know more than everyone else on the planet.
+Nathan Palmer U mad bro? As far as international politics go, +John Wilkinson is right. Unless he's wrong and you want to expand your highly intellectual "STFU" into a sentence with some arguments in it?
Excellent summary of how US school systems work.
I still think it would be fan-fucking-tastic if you ran for office +Linus Torvalds - and I am not saying that as any kind of a sycophantasmagorical suck-up like we see on a lot of your posts (sorry, it's true.) If I never disagreed with you then you would be the last person I would want in office.

You are the kind of person who can set a goal, achieve it, then set it to auto-pilot and get the hell out of its way.

I'll never mention it on one of your posts again, but that's what I think.
+Linus Torvalds I was homeschoolled until I was 17, at which point my parents divorced, and I was forced into public schools. After a month, I withdrew myself and got a GED. The school curriculum was super simple and mostly taught to standardized testing, which from my point of view, was at least four grade levels below my homeschool curriculum had been. I'd finish all my work and homework in fifteen minutes or so, and then be bored out of my mind for another forty-five minutes per class.

My wife and I bought a house in an excellent school district, but because of my school experience we are still planning on homeschooling our children, just because even if the district is good, thanks to teaching to the standardized testing, I don't trust my children to be getting the best education possible, in public school.

I am glad I live in a state where homeschooling your kids is legal. Although the federal government is starting to talk about making homeschooling illegal. Super disappointing to me.
+Daniel Sprouse I concur! 

Normally I abhor any notion of anybody being in charge of any Government. But in this case I would go with it.

Anymore I would say Google would be a good "Governing Body". But with Linus, perfect!

But! Who or which Country would get him? It would be terribly unfair for one Country alone to have him. What about all the other poor saps? They would still be stuck with the usual conglomerate puppets. 
Actually +Jake Sebastian-Jones people who go through the school system will admit it's pretty crappy... Maybe not people who went to one school their whole life and graduated there so they can't see the difference in schools, but for the most part, people do see that. The only thing worse than an illiterate person is someone who just talks on about something as if they have the experience, but in reality, they have no clue what they're talking about.
+Linus Torvalds It is just as bad, if not worse down here in Eugene, OR. There were a couple schools in the metro area last year that the school board declared ran over-budget, the state refused to fund them, and they had to cut the school year early by two weeks to a month depending on the school, grade, and neighborhood.

It was the worst public education fiasco I have ever seen, and this is coming from someone who lived in Florida all my life and went to school under president (George) and governor (Jeb) Bush who education policies were abysmal.
+Jason Anderson: honestly, while I'm sure homeschooling works for some people, it really isn't the answer. Not only do not most parents have the resources (or inclination) to educate their children well, you often do end up with problems in socialization and/or breadth of education.

There's a reason people specialize. 
Shawn S
There's nothing wrong with job security, but when a school can't fire an incompetent teacher without going through 200 hoops because he's a union member; the children are the ones paying the price. I've seen this happen more often than I care to remember. 

Letting the parents decide where their tax dollars go and where they can send their kids would fix the problem real quick. Schools that don't teach, or are not up to snuff would close in a hurry.
+Daniel Sprouse I went to several proms. Homeschooling doesn't mean cut off from society. I dated, played sports, was a boy scout, went to summer camps, acted in plays at the local theater... I had plenty of friends. They just went to prison for adolescents seven to eight hours of the day.
Thank you for living in Oregon, Linus, and thanks for making a difference there. I'm excited to raise my son there following in your footsteps. So, my question is: what do we do next? More citizen involvement? Secession into Cascadia and take funding out of the federal equation?
Linus I have a question for you. How much is the income tax i Finland? In the US you have to choose the best education. This will cost you. I think th income tax may be the difference.
+Dan Swick Linus isn't paid to operate this page. It's his own page, and he can say whatever he wants on it.
We should all do the Chinese revolution and Institute Linux as the main os for all. Capitalism is brainwashing the youth to buy shit software like mac os, and Windows 8.
Oregon is not alone. I'm a retired foreign language teacher in NJ. It was a disgrace to watch students graduate nearly illeterate. For them there was no tomorrow, just instant gratification. What did the school systems do? Take the easy way out and blame the teachers. There were instances, where grades were changed to maximize number of graduates in order to look good.
education should be free and avaliable for everyone !!
It's not about money or districts, it's about the parents being engaged in their children's education. However, if there is a correlation,  it is that people with money are generally more educated, or value an education of some sort. Thus schooling becomes an important fact of daily life. Poor communities have worse schools because the parents have a general uncaring nature for education or are indifferent.

While I would like to blame a lot of our problems on politicians, the Department of Education, and unions, this is only part of the problem.

+Linus Torvalds, your children will do better in school because you took the effort to ensure they did so. Picking the right district for schools is just one step. I'm sure you also make sure they do their homework, and you watch their grades. This is something that parents who don't have an education or are generally poor don't do, and the districts in these areas have the numbers to show this.
+Duško Simidžija No, I'm not mad. It's just wrong. That's the bottom line. You really think Americans just walk around with a smug look on their face going "Ha, I'm the police of the world, we own everyone!" all day? If so, than you're just another stereotype and/or you believe everything you hear and see about Americans on YouTube. Congrats. It doesn't have to be put in a "highly intellectual" response, it's pretty much just common sense if you've ever lived it. We don't walk around acting like elitists who control everything or act like what we do is best just because it's 'Merica. By the way, you said it's true in international politics, the person I was replying to said this is how "yanks" are. You said two different things and then said he's right. Pick one You can also refer to my last comment. No one is mad about what Linus said, because it's mostly true... It's those who are just acting like they know exactly what it's like when you really have no idea. It's just asinine, ignorance is the most accurate word I can think of to describe the point that you are driving at. You talk like you have experience when you don't, chances are, someone will tell you to STFU. Acting like you know what you're talking about and saying someone else is wrong for being an American... Well, now you're just being a hypocrite.

How is that for expanding on my STFU comment? Is a text wall good enough? Good.
I think we need to stop funding public schools and let the private sector fill in the gaps. The American governments (including state governments) are terrible at governing anything, least of all education, but our private sector is amazing at almost anything it touches. Before the government got involved with college, a private school was almost as cheap as a community college is today. Government regulation just makes things more expensive, of lesser quality, and people still tell me we need to fund it more. 

You don't fix the school system by throwing money at it, you fix it by making schools compete. The government fails at anything related to business, and a business model is what makes a school work.
Please take another look at the "problems in socialization" angle regarding homeschooling.  Even if this concerns you personally, the evidence is pretty clear that homeschooled children do not have any special socialization problems.

Similarly, I have never seen any evidence that homeschooled children have problems with breadth of education.
+Linus Torvalds it's not for every family, I know. However, I lacked nothing from school. I suppose I could have lucked out... Mother, a novelist, taught grammar and history. My father, a software engineer, taught math and science. And to this day, I still have a strong drive to learn and teach.
We get it; you, too, are waiting for Superman! There are a number of problems in America right now. It'll have to wait:

Fresh food labells is a priority. ObamaCare demands all food, fresh and otherwise, have nutrition labels. This means donuts made at local shops, a handful of oranges on the counter, and most everything at convenience stores.

So we'll ship tons of food to the labs....print the labels. So intrusive for the federal government, but people seem to LIKE government intrusion. They keep voting Democrat.

Here's the kicker: ObamaCare decrees that if any of those labels are WRONG, including typos, someone will spend time in FEDERAL PRISON!

The problems with schools will get worse, before they get better.
+Kit Malone, I'm not judging, and it's not about spending time with your kids. It's about the value of an education. If your goal is to be a manager at a local store, you aren't worried about education, you're worried about a strong work ethic. No one in my family has a college degree, and it shows. I was allowed to drop out of High School and generally have no plan for my future. My wife on the other hand came from an educated family, well off, and she was educated in private schools.

We lived blocks apart as kids, but her education and up bringing was so much more complete in this area than mine. My grandfather who pretty much raised me isn't dumb, and in fact he has held patents, however he came from a time where manual labor was acceptable and you could own your home by one man's wage. This is far different from today...

So, the value of the education is what is important, and the more parents that you have in a school that value that education the better off the students are, and it shows in test scores. We send our kids to a different district to go to school, as do many other people in our area. These are the parents who care. The kids who attend the school district we live in are the same kids who are outside all day without their parents knowing what they're doing, causing trouble, etc. It's not about the parents spending time with the kids, it's about their active involvement in their education.
I happen to be one of the lucky ones, who was educated in one of the best schools in Finland. Having married a Philly guy and emigrated to this country, becoming a teacher in the NJ public schools, I found the ignorance and lack of care about the rest of the world astonishing. As this country is "the best and most powerful in the world", there was no need to know about anything else. This mantra seemed to have been instilled in the students from early childhood on, yes, 'the American dream, frightening. - We also moved to an area with a good school system, and are still paying very high taxes for the privilege, although our kids graduated many years ago.
Finland has 5 million people. It's the size of a small state. Education is a state jurisdiction in the US, so talking about it as if it were homogeneous across the US  is disingenuous. 

For every Oregon, there's a Vermont.
+Kristina Michaelis, well there's a reason for that. America has done what no one else has or could, really. However, I don't agree with the mantra of dismissing the rest of the world. I understand many countries look at Americans as "fat and stupid", and while this might be true for a lot of people, it's really not what describes the country that has literally innovated time and time again. Yes, immigrants shaped this country, but once here they became American. That's what makes this country great, because of the diversity and freedom to dream and build.
+Robin Roberts Please tell me what these "non-educational line items" are? Linus is very correct in saying that education is very different in each state. This is because the right to an education is not in the constitution. It is a power left to each state. This is a very wise decision because unlike some countries with a federal education system our history books and other curricula do not change every four years to fit the ideologies of those in power. Local school boards hold most of the power and they are run by elected members. Yes, this means that the education in one state can vary from the one right next to it. I happen to live (and teach) in the state right next to Oregon. In Washington we are facing some of the same challenges as Oregon with income discrepancies between districts. We currently have a law suit against the state (which we won) that is forcing the state to fix the issue. Historically, districts are allowed to raise money through local levies to enhance education. This amount has been growing over the past few decades to the point that the levies are necessary to pay for basic education (special education is a great example of this). If a district does not pass a levy then kids do not get basic education -- not bloated line items as some would like to believe. Where Linus lives I would suspect that federal money only makes up about 7-9% of the district's income. Rich districts get richer and poor districts get poorer. Something needs to change. The bill that Oregon wants to pass is not the answer. It tries to fix the symptoms, not the cause. 
+Jason Anderson: I'm not disputing that homeschooling can be successful.

But it's actually fairly interesting to google homeschooling. There's a huge element of religious nuttery going on there, and you can find a lot of very positive studies on homeschooling, and then when you look at the source for them, they are very often very biased (eg

Statistics from actual educational places seem to say that about 30% of homeschoolers do so primarily due to religious and moral reasons. IOW, we're talking about things like actively trying to avoid teaching of evolution etc.

Excuse me for not being all that impressed. 

(Although it's arguably much worse and even sadder when the same thing happens in public schools, like it unquestionably does. Oh well).
I military and unless you have served your self or are a burn American don't compare our funding to public schools on average a first year public teacher makes more then we do most e1 are lucky if they break $24k a year you don't even hit the 30k bracket until u put on e4 and aunt no dam bake sale going to raise the money for any of my brother's to risk there lies like they do we make so little as it is now a days and as far as education in Oregon goes y'all just messed up. I went to school in Florida and were I attended school I had the same educational opportunities in my school district as others had in other districts so before you put down the public education system of the US as a whole look in to it some states are different then others
+Linus Torvalds, 30% is still a minority. There will always be people who do things for religious reasons, but that doesn't mean we condemn the action completely.
You should see how it is in Texas. I happen to go to a nice school district in a nice city, where a majority of the people have a lot of money, and therefor pay a lot of taxes. But, there is a "Robin Hood" law that takes the taxpayer money from within our school district, and gives it to nearby school districts that don't have the same income as mine.

While this may sound like a good idea, it doesn't work out at all. My school district is about to go into debt when other school districts are thriving. Others give out laptops to every student at the beginning of the year, and our school hardly has a working wifi connection (which is a whole different rant). I'm not really in the mood to explain all the problems with my school district, but I'm 100% with you about changing the way the American school system works.
To Kyle Rose et. al.: I went through the Finnish school system, luckily. Yes, Finland is a small coyntry, but in this country school systems are run by the townships/counties/states, unlike Finland, which has a national system. As you might see from my previous comments, I've taught in public schools in this country, had my kids schooled in this country, so I have a very good comparison. - As far as home schooling is concerned, the very important socialization aspect is missing there. If parents, or other persons giving the instruction are competent enough, OK, but I would still have reservations about it.
+Greg Ryman: 30% may be a "minority", but it's a damn big one.

I'm not going to lump all homeschoolers in there, but I think the people who are proponents of homeschooling should absolutely not ignore the downsides and the ugly truth of a big chunk of it.
There was the same in Texas called the robin hood act it gave all the districts the same, but it got revoked in 2006
I agree with everything you said. Finland has set an excellent example and the rest of the world needs to follow suit. The system here in Canada is slightly better than our American friends but we have a great deal to improve to reach Finland's standards.
I believe there is a huge variety of people in this country, most of which do not have the same academic/educational goals and abilities. There is not an adequate supply of quality teachers and administrators to make the entire system "good" and "fair".  Instead we're seeing quality educators and students gravitate together. There is a common misconception that government, although with good intentions, seek to makes things "fair" but actually create a mass of unintended consequences while doing so. Government attempts to fix those "mistakes" which in-turn creates even more unintended consequences.  

There has to be incentive (typically financial) to bring in and retain quality educators.  The public school system is not able to properly harness incentives because of government regulations seeking "equality" specifically in pay and retention.  The system is, by standard measures, fair and equal to the masses but what some have found is their expectations may exceed the average in this country.  So now, that system of fairness and equality only discriminates against those seeking higher standards.  It's the most unfortunate side effect of government involvement in anything. 
One should not rely on a school system to be good. The whole system is set up to eliminate independent thinkers. That is what Noam Chomsky has to say on the matter and I for one agree with that having been a dropout when my individuality wasn't a consideration at all to anyone in high school. When I went back for my degree in physics and computer science nothing really had changed, all were expected to merely tow the line.
+Chris Dawson
I'm all for a Republic of Cascadia!
Our problem in NYC is that we keep horrible teachers in classrooms regardless of the outcome. Terminate teachers that can't teach, anyone can read and write from a book.
ran liu
My son have to go to school next year, I hope he can on a good school. The education of their children are constantly learning.
+Linus Torvalds just to make it perfectly clear, I'm not a religious nut...

And I may be ok with public schools, if only they taught a good curriculum and not to moronic standardized testing.
Fact that Finnish schools are good has probably more to do with the Finnish culture (cultural norms) than with the Finnish education system. 
I live in an area with very mixed cultures (Black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, White) and you can easy tell how well a school is doing just by looking at the mix of the students in the school. Indian & Asian the best, White in the middle and Black & Hispanic far behind). Same school system, same money, same curriculum.
Why don't the Americans just spend billions on education instead of the military. That is how you train good teachers and fix the system.
To Chris Drake et. al.: once again, yes, Finland has 5.2 million people, but Los Angles, among other communities has its own school system, fairly independently run. Finland has its natipnal system. The difference is, I think, mostly in the prevailing attitude towards education, and thw need to be self-sufficient. We (Finns) went through so many wars against an overwhelming enemy without any help from other countries, survived famines in a harsh climate, that the innate determination has been passed down through genetarions.
(See my other comments.)
The US does use fundraising for the military. Just look at WW2. And nothing is ever free. The difference is just how directly the people pay - on a local or national level
In Maryland you just can't go to a school outside the district where you live. We had to have a gas & electric bill showing our name and our address to get in our school. I understand some kinds do go to school where their grandparents live or something like that, but the schools are pretty tight on such things. And there's a magical line, a certain street, you don't want to live on the wrong side of. On one side you're in a one of two good school districts, on the other side you're not. The houses are tens of thousands of dollars more expensive on the "good" side of the line. It even extends to things like real estate agents. When we were moving here from Germany (I work for the Army), we called the school and they told us not to trust our agent, but to call the school bus office to find out where children at a particular address would go to school. Seems agents will fudge a bit to make a sale. Freedom and capitalism, baby.
+Linus Torvalds well said. The disparity is tragic neglect. It's a crime against children and against our future. Evil. Stupid, self-destructive evil. We all see it. The housing market is our acknowledgement. Just price compare otherwise equivalent houses in different districts. The dollar difference is our acceptance of the Terms Of Service. We agree to the inevitable train wreck.
One of the things that most attracted me to Open Source software in the 90's was that it made quality software available to everyone, not just those who could/were willing to pay the access fees. The possibility of contributing to OSS is not limited by nationality, race, or socioeconomic status, which is very unusual in the US. Indeed, the idea of lassez-faire economics is probably better represented in the bazaar model of software development than in the American implementation of "Capitalism".

I'm not surprised that Linus would observe the inequality in the US public school system with the same distaste as he views closed source software. The motivations behind the implementation of the US school system, and the results produced by it are similar to what is produced by closed source software.

It may be a "first world problem" Linus, but it certainly is not a trivial one.
Linus, next time I'm in Oregon (often) I would like to take to you brunch and discuss this. I'd ask you to send me a PM but I'm sure you're inundated with that crap, so I'll reach out to you instead.
+Linus Torvalds never knew I could disagree with you SOOOOOOOO much! Nice to know I always thought you might be a little more selfish than your big Linux success especially since you admit to it quite often... Then again I don't follow you that much... w.e... #SocialismIsFun  
Background for non-Americans: There is no "US school system."  We have a U.S. Constitution that preserves the rights of the states to provide and oversee public education.
237 cooments is a lot to read so I may as well weigh in with my 5 cents Candian. Was 2 cents worth but we no longer have pennies.

American colleges get more people out to a football came than we do at our professional  football games. Some high schools have larger stadiums than our universities. Point is, perhaps some money should be re-directed away from football and into the classroom. This would include a tax on football tickets at all levels to be directed into education.

Or is this the case? Does the revenue from football go into funding education.

I gotta go back to my hockey game I was watching, when I left the Toronto Maple Leafs were leading Bostpn 2 - 0.
AFAIK, management and funding of public schools is a matter left up to the individual states, more specifically the state school boards - thus, I presume, the inconsistency, possibly more apparent once it furthermore gets deconstructed down to the local school districts, in regards to however each state funds and manages their public school systems and individual schools. In the state where I grew up, schools are funded with property taxes, so far as I've heard. Of course, schools in wealthier and more populous areas may therefore have more funding, then. (I understand that there may seem to be a disparity, there - I may have only lucked out myself that I was able to attend a new high school in a wealthier and at the time, an expanding part of town. Considering the possible disparity of school funding  as a function of local property taxes - that rural areas may have a harder time, with school funding, in such models - I don't know if there may be any practical resolution to it except through other school funding avenues, such as if there could be any kind of federal relief program developed, at least hypothetically. Maybe a quality education may exist not per se in the money trail, regardless.)

Having had some experience living in the midsouth recently, I could like to make any number of difficult sounding comments, with regards to local standards of math, science, and moreover business education - but instead, I think that I may wish to comment instead to the possibility of STEM education outreach in rural areas (and urban areas, alternately) - might like to start working on a grant proposal, I suppose, but I can't help but notice that such as NASA may have a lot of outreach resources already available, for supporting public education. (Also, I myself have no experience with planning or managing of grant programs)

In either regards, I suppose that if I was to try to develop, myself, any single plan for a new outreach program, I would definitely be starting at square one with that - but hey, I guess that could be a fair enough place to start...? :)

Speaking of NASA, a semi-randomly selected (?) resource link:
+Bob Bachelder I guess that explains why schools are bad in some states and really bad in others.
+Jason Anderson teaching to the test is definitely a problem. And it seems to have gotten worse with all the extra testing and school "accountability" rules. Sad.
As a student I have to say school testing sucks. I know that so many of my teachers could make their classes way better if they didn't have to teach the state-mandated stuff in the state-standardized way. I know there's a better way to do education. I think it should be student oriented instead of state oriented. With today's technology it would be so much easier to give students a individualized education and measure progress. Khan Academy is a perfect example of that. If only the people in government had a clue. I bet at least 75% of them couldn't define tablet and yet they are in a position that gives them power over mobile device rules and regulations. PS Linus, ever thought of running for the Department of Education?
If I put a comment here that had real meaning. .. would it even be read? Probably not :D
Sounds like the US's school system isn't much better than Singapore or even Indonesia. Looking at that fact, perhaps Finland is the exception of having a consistently good education system?

It wasn't always so. The Oregon public educational system -- actually, the U.S. public education system -- was great in the 1980's. Since then it's gone downhill, and tragically so. In particular, I think the lack of science education and outreach in the U.S. is very worrisome. 
It is amazing (American) people trying to justify stupid. When Jay Leno interviews teenage kids and those teen age kids don't know who we fought the revolution against, it makes you scratch your head and say WTF. Hint: It was the F'ing British.

 Schools can be bad here. Some are good if you live in wealthier communities or you are lucky to have a school that is well managed.

There is a lot of top heavy administration in many of the schools.  It really makes you go Hmmmm....  No wonder the American dream is just that....a dream.
If I understand the Oregon school system correctly, kids and their parents are not forced to go to a bad school because of where they live. This means the good schools have more enrollment and get more money- sort of a competition among schools. No kid should be condemned to a bad school because that will affect how well they do in life.
Same condition here, so, that's why I always like Europe :)
My pet peeve: intelligent tech wonks that pontificate a position as poorly understood as this seems to be. I believe your Finnish education has created in you some glaring blind spots starting with comparing Finnish vs American educational challenges. I, for one, cheer those that rise above their limitations and challenges and succeed rather than whine about how unfair life is. Seeking to improve the educational system and help those less fortunate is admirable. To whine is unhelpfully annoying. 
The federal government doesn't have the Constitutional power to dictate a national school system like you want. Besides, or country is so large and diverse that a top down system won't work. Local is the way to go. 
Actual background for people outside of the US: The 10th amendment to the US Constitution punts to individual state control anything not constitutionally granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the states. This is, as intended, another check on the potentially threatening power of a federal government.

From there, we have federal laws and even Supreme Court cases that set some additional boundaries (i.e. Oliver Brown, et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, et al.) on the states.

Therefore, since the Constitution and its amendments have virtually nothing about education, every legal public education program is under direct control of each state (and territory!). It is still legal for a state NOT to provide public education at all, assuming STATE laws allow that. Thus, there are no fewer than 56 public school systems in the USA. Our legal framework gives every state and territory enough rope to climb to the stars or hang itself with.

Now, there IS a federal Department of Education, whose role is to allocate money received from federal (NOT STATE) taxes to assist educational programs within each state and individuals paying for higher education. The DoE can only set policy by putting conditions on receiving certain federal funds, but it cannot override what states choose to do.

I am simplifying and leaving out a lot, but this is basically how we do it.
Indiana is very slowly going to a voucher system. If you want to send your child to whatever school you can. Whatever public, private or even a church based. Maybe even home schooled also. But it is still slowly coming and my kids are about out of high school so really shouldnt effect me any.
We just visited the school district in Northville, MI. Two characteristics stood out there:

- Teachers that do not perform well are replaced
- The school can afford extra teachers to help with kids that need it

As long as school districts do not address the  issues with teacher accountability and funding, the education quality will be low.
+Linus Torvalds if I had the option to move to Finland I would. My grandfather is from there and is always talking about how wonderful the economy, and schools are. How there's not a real crime rate, and how if I had my disabled son over there my house would be tailored to my sons needs, and provided by the government; not non- profits, private insurance, or my pocket. Imagine a place where your government taxes work for you no questions asked. If it makes you feel better, California is probably worse than Oregon when it comes to public schools. :/
Sid J
I want the Finnish dream then. 
Public schools are Democratic. Democracy is American. Anything else is exclusionary. Begone with your greedy vision.
Oregon tax base for schools complicated by a couple of factors. Years ago schools were funded purely on a local property tax base. This work for years, but then the in post-spotted owl era the timber industry crashed and there was no funding in rural areas. The state took over funding the schools to level the playing field Then the voters passed a property tax limitation which meant every student was screwed equally. Like other public services, the cost of pensions is a major burden on the system.
This problem is just not limited to US, many big countries have this issue. Come to India you will cone to know what a real disaster means when it comes education....
+Linus Torvalds  Education & heathcare - you should never compare any of the Scandinavian countries with the US in these aspects. For that matter, almost any other country in the world. The Scandinavian countries are in a league of their own in these two aspects and are an example for all countries to emulate. 
Best +Linus Torvalds post in a while and IMHO doesn't qualify for the "first world problems" meme. The US education system is a mess and if they want to stay first world they better start fixing it.
+Linus Torvalds not sure why you dislike private schools so much. Sure some are like you describe, but not all are that way. We scrimp & save so our kids can go to a private school and are lucky to live in such a great community where both the kids and parents are involved in so many actitities. It's by no means perfect, but teen pregnancy, drugs and alcohol are almost non-existent and almost all graduate with some sort of college scholarship. If the us government can't create a successful school system, then I guess I will have to pay for a private one.
Hi linus. I read a article about Finland's education system and how well they are doing compared to our educational system. I understand your concern but as a immigrant from a third world country, I feel that the US education is quite well and that the parents are the root of providing guidance and education to their children.
My complaint with the public school system is instead of actually measuring children on their achievements everyone is given a prize just for showing up.  We tried measuring teacher standards but the teachers unions said that it was unfair to judge their performance based on that of their students.  Imagine if i could send a crew of my employees out to a client site to install a server farm and when it didnt work I still got paid the full amount for the product i sold them even though it doesnt fucking work
Perhaps you should read Hayek's The Fatal Conceit and rethink your communist notions of fairness.
No Joey
Don't you just love capitalism!
When we broke the modularity model (Principal is king, but only of the individual school) and put unions and "offended parties" in charge, we broke the mold.

School needs a structure where people made decisions based ONLY on how well it helps the students. Period. Not following a national fetish for Leftist goals, not ignoring everything so that unions are paid...just education.

But that's too simple, now.
Some of the comments here totally proof Linus' point facepalm (Fox News doesn't count as home schooling)
The US school system is indeed broken. Sometimes I even wonder if this is done on purpose to produce another generation of voters who do not question things. We tried the public school system in a good town for some years and eventually realized that if the kids were to get an education we had to do it ourselves so we homeschooled. What a difference. The kids thrived and became part of a segment of society in which the teens are able to converse with adults on numerous topics (and don't use the word 'like' for every 8th word) and achieve better scores than public schools across the board. Home come parents (without any funding or tax breaks) can teach the children better then schools which get government funding?

The US school system is a joke, and not one the people who came through the system want to hear, as most think that they are well educated. So the general response is disbelief because acknowledging it would imply that they were probably not well educated.
Jon Kim
Woah guys chill I'm getting perfectly good education here
I think the core of the educational problem is that the US has radically shifted culturally in the past 35 years without a matching shift in institution.

Every teacher I know places the blame on overwhelming lack of solid family structure and parental involvement.  And that is something no amount of money is going to fix using the current model.

On the other hand, some people think the solution is to go back to "the way things used to be".  This clownish unreal-ism is largely to blame for failure of institution to catch up with reality imop.

Good is a very important issue.
+Dan Swick
Sometimes it's better to shut up and feel stupid, rather than open your mouth and prove it.
I love all the posts about how you can't compare the U.S. to Finland because of the size and population, yet people don't want to hear that state taxes are what provide funding to public schools. I might add it's not just state taxes that account for public school funding but each district is ran and funded separately, meaning some districts require a separate housing and business tax to fund their local school. Thus making much more expensive to own a home, or business; keeping towns from becoming big cities and keeping outside city "folk" out. So you can't say Linus is comparing the U.S. as a whole to Finland as a whole. After all this post starts out as "Pet peeve of the day: OREGON", not the U.S. Yes, the U.S. today sucks, and that's not me being unpatriotic, it's me being patriotic by saying our economy admins school system has gone to shit while we continue to fund a bogus war, and allow politicians, our government to invest in big businesses that put mom and pop stores out of business, allow the states to put lower regulations on government funded lunches for public schools that are worse than dog food, and if anyone tries to hold the government, states, or country accountable is being unreasonable?! We shouldn't be saying we can't compare two countries to eachother, we should ask ourselves how can we make our communities better so our country will have better education, jobs, and have a well rounded society. There was a time in every country where things weren't that great, but you make it better by coming together as a society, after all there is more of the common man than the government. "When the people lead the leaders, they will have to follow, and all their lies and allibies will they will have to swallow" -Ben Harper
how are the kids in finland? punks like ours? how are the parents? * education takes more than just 1 teacher per 30 students...
+John Long the people in Finland don't get involved in other peoples business without taking care of their own. Pretty rational.
We send our daughter to a private school.  Not one that costs 3x the NCES average for K-12 education (like Sidwell Friends, where Obama's kids go).  Not one that costs 2x the NCES average (like most of the "elite" Triangle schools in the area).  One that costs within $100, or 1x the NCES average.  The difference between our school and the average public school is a two-sigma school-wide average on state-mandated standardized tests WITHOUT TEACHING TO THE TEST.  Kids at our school make their own work plans, schedule their days, spend as much time outdoors as they wish, and they still beat their public school peers by an enormous margin.

The secret?  Science.  Or, more specifically, the science of childhood education, as pioneered by Maria Montessori.  It worked in 1912, and it works as well 100 years later as it did when it was first published as a scientifically observable result.

Of course, Montessori's methods require teachers to treat children as individuals, not widgets, and the American education system would rather construct "fairness" around the idea of treating all children as equal things, rather than as people who should have the equal opportunity to have an excellent education.  Which is why we have opted out of a public education system that is just as expensive as our private school, while producing positively horrible average results.
The problem with public schools may be too complex to fix in the US.

A student's environment does not necessarily make a better student. There are students who fail, get suspended, and expelled from private schools too.

Then there is Abraham Lincoln who was self educated. So the problem probably isn't with where a student goes to school but rather their willingness to learn.

We need more people to inspire students that learning is fun and beneficial to life.
As a parent of homeschoolers, I'd like to observe that we do it because we care strongly about the education of our children. I think it's completely unreasonable to argue it's better or worse than any other kind of schooling. In just the same way that it makes no sense to argue that all US public schools are the same. Homeschooling is an umbrella word for such a wide range of educational approaches it's close to meaningless. +Linus Torvalds has correctly identified a fringe edge of the spectrum. At the other end you get passionate personal tutors and startups like QuantumCamp here in northern California. A great feature of homeschool is how untrapped you are. Socialization, like educational quality are all available, but it's not trivial to achieve them without the heroic participation and advocacy of one or more parent.
+Todd Martin sorry to break it to you, but I don't think Linus is living the American dream. He's living - quite consciously - in the US of A. He attended the University of Helsinki and worked on Linux at the same time. He also served in the military, as Finland actually didn't outsource this task to the economically and educationally underprivileged. At the point he moved to the US he already was a highly skilled (and presumably very well paid) professional. This is not a rag-to-riches story, since the country he comes from actually valued his talent and made sure he's not wasting it washing other people's dishes.
Only the strong shall survive!
+Michael Tiemann that's wonderful that you see your daughter as an individual, as that's how it should be. The problem with Montessori schools is they also require students have a certain level of "unrequired" attention, meaning a child with a disability, whether it be physical, or mental usually can't attend private Montessori schools. Let alone the costs of them, even if they are a little more affordable than some private. The simple fact is unless your given the gift of societal intelligence and money then you can have a great education, otherwise you're lost with the masses and will forever be another number. I don't see how this philosophy or way of classifying people helps our economy. 
I do have to admit that Oregon has been pretty craptastic about their whole education system for years. One major concern for my family is that my brother is autistic and he was in the Oregon special education program. Instead of focusing on teaching my brother the skills that he could function at, they instead focused on teaching nothing but life skills like how to cook and such. Now mind you, this was during high school. He never even got taught how to read or do basic math. Those skills came from the lessons I personally taught him and the software that I set up to help him. They wouldn't even let him take a basic shop class that he really wanted to take. It is infuriating.
+Michael Gmelin Yeah, it really is. The hardest part about teaching him when I really got involved with the situation is that at that point he was 16, couldn't read, and was really just a normal kid. He was huge into video games but could never read them. Most of the programs that we tried out were all to childish to keep his interest for long. But amazingly enough the two best pieces of software for him to really "practice" on were games. Typing of the Dead and World of Warcraft. Other than that we mainly used a lot of screen reading software and dictation software. And LOTS of patience :)
+Jesse Harlan right on! That's awesome you helped your brother like you did. I completely understand the frustration, my son has cerebral palsy, and if I didn't have the right advocates for him and demand that he be taught in an environment where he receives an education in the "least restrictive environment", he would be learning only life skills as well. As a parent you constantly have to demand, and hold the school system accountable, after all if my kids have 3 unexcused absences then they sure as hell make sure they report it to the truancy board and fine you $100. Wish I could fine the board of education in California sometimes. 
+Kit Malone They don't have time to inspire their kids to make use of the local library, but I bet there is plenty of time set aside in the family for enjoying dumbball and reality TV.  
The thing that really gets me about this bill is it's not really solving the real problem. If we make the PUBLIC SCHOOL system better, perhaps the large-scale private school thing won't be necessary?
+Linus Torvalds , thank you for posting this. I think your post crystallizes the whole travesty that is public education in this country in a way that no one else had. My wife and I are going through the same issues and will probably have no choice but to send our child to private school because there  just aren't any other options

The saddest part is that those of us who grew up with this madness are used to it.
It's gotten alot worse in the past 30 years...alot worse...
I agree with the bill. Public schools should be free, they're paid for in part by state money. If the school has extra spots (that they likely have to fill to keep their funding level), they should be free for those picked in their entry lotteries.

The charging for cross boundaries sounds like a classic keep the poor poor policy. Going to a better school could be a good opportunity for someone from a poorer and lower achieving to get a head start towards their future - charging just means some other wealthy kid gets the spot.
I don't feel my taxpayer money should be funding sports.  PE, sure, but if the jocks want to spend their time giving each other concussions, they can do it on their own dime.
This country was built on the premise of individual independence and self reliance, and pulling together as a community to take care of your needs. Because of who we are, any government service is destined for waste, excess, and failure. Look at our schools, look at welfare. All of it horrible, all of it destroyed when people stopped caring about their neighbors, forcing the government to step in and make everything worse for most of us so the few could be raised.

That is, after all, what governments do. The pull down on the rising high so the low can be raised.

You say it sounds ridiculous that your communities have to pull together to raise the funds the government can't provide, that's by design. The government isn't supposed to provide any. By trying, it just drags us all down even farther.

Worst part, once the government takes something, not only will they never let it go, but we become so reliant on them giving it to us, we wouldn't be capable of doing it ourselves anymore, even if we had a chance. 
Yes but what happens when a majority of the parent in low income areas refuse to better themselves and prefer to live off of welfare all their lives because they know its there.... That doesn't help their children.... It hurts them by showing you don't have to work hard for anything ....

Err, +Ryan Gunn, in a country whose government is by the people, for the people, it's how we pull together as a community to help each other.  I think you fundamentally misunderstand how this country is constructed.
That's What happens when democrats have had control in Oregon for 30yrs. 
Yep. The American Public School system is a mess. Hence why my parents homeschooled me all the way through. 
You could apply this to any state.
+Dan Swick
· Finland is not an island.
· Between California and Alaska is Canada.
· Linus Torvald is not paid to mouth off. He creates.
· Linus Torvald is also a pretty smart guy. Your sarcastic pretense that he doesn't understand about cultural gaps makes you look stupid, not him.
· Your post is, in intent, telling him to shut up. I'd rather hear from from a Finn that comes from a country that knows how to deal with education than someone who tells that same knowledgable person to shut up.
Points addressed. I bet you don't learn a thing. You already KNOW too much.
It's about personal responsibility. If you want your kids educated, educate them. If you want the government to educate them, then hand them off to the system and you get what you get.
We're not a socialist nation in it together, we are all independent people who have a social contract with each other where we are willing to go in together on some things 
The educational system in the United States is completely broken and unfair, and depending on your placement in it, your education will be taken seriously or like a joke. This man is completely correct, there's people that have to uproot their lives for the hope their children might get educated fairly. Thanks for making light with a very firmly stated opinion.
Appreciate your words about public education. Once again, we get what we pay for in a corporate-controlled class society. The American Dream has become an Amerikan Nightmare!
Funny you should mention that, +Pedro L.  +NPR ran a story on that.  Turns out, that's a great way to get exactly the same results as a public school, but at much greater cost.
I've always hated the school system where I live but that's because I was screwed over time and time again by it. 
+Dale Moore I like that last paragraph you said there, would be ideal if our society was a little less self absorbed and more humanitarian. But the fact is, unless something directly effects us usually we turn the other way. Personal responsibility is often not enough, it also takes government responsibility to work for the people, and that's not happening right now. 
Hate ipswich.its a terrable place
They stole my lives work n just told me to f off
I think most people tend to forget that it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure that their children learn. I live in a modest neighborhood and make a modest income. My children will go to an adequate school and I as their parent will instill their drive to succeed. No, not every school is equal. My freind s children will be going to a "better" school. But my friend feels it's not his job to teach the children it's the schools. That is where he will fail his kids.

As for cookies and bake sales. That is the result of school systems running off of unrealistic budgets and voters having no idea what it costs to run a school.

Lastly, most Americans take there education for granted and never really look into the financial responsibility they have to pay forward to the next generation.

I am proud to call myself an Oregonian and I am proud to watch as my Kids grow to be adults and give back to the people, school and children of there community. 
Thank you for posting your Educational peeve.  IMHO, a solution is to give parents vouchers for their children to attend a school of choice, and abolish teacher tenures.  Over time, these two steps may increase quality of education.
+Sam Matsoukis tenure is ridiculous, it doesn't allow the school to evolve and be competitive with other schools in this world. We have that problem here in California, where many teachers have been in the same school for 30 plus years and haven't changed their lesson plans for about the same amount of time, and don't excite their students or like them for that manner. How's that for quality? 
No matter how honest your criticism is, you'lI always have to fight the guys with why-do-you-hate-america syndrome. Carl Sagan dedicated a whole chapter to denialism in "The demon haunted world" and I think it is the biggest problem in the US. 
The standards, requirements & credits vary greatly from state to state. That is i.e., a student in 10th grade moving to another state will find themselves without the requirements or credits to advance as they thought they would....
Good for you stevy
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I don't think Linus is saying he hates America, only some of us are going to see that. Thank goodness for that. We should however question and strive for better especially when things aren't that great. "Denialism" is infact being unpatriotic and just plain stupid. It's funny that a "Fin" shows more concern, and patriotism than some Americans. Yes, I said "some" because those who can't take criticism of America aren't being a true American; this country should be in a much better state rather than being in debt to a former communist country, in turn allows us to continue to sink below the bar for our children. While other contries continue to surpass us. 
Hear hear
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I love america
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Schools should be privitized. Doing so would create competition between schools and solve so many of the problems the U.S. education system has. This could even give us the best schools in the world again.
I'm going to keep my response short here b/c 1, it's late and 2, I could go on and on.  I grew up in Ireland and have to be honest - I feel their educational system is better in a lot of ways than America's (for example, essay exams versus multiple choice are a far better way to test someone's understanding of material and teaching math as a whole instead of breaking it into algebra, geometry, etc, is more complete in my mind).  I am American, however, so I will not bash my country any more than that.
Onto my defense!  The bake sales are typically used to fund extra-curricular activities, not the actual school.  Clubs and sports do not have a lot of funding and kids need to raise money for those.  We could definitely spend more on education, but many states are working to reform educational spending.  They are requiring more schools to spend more in teachers and less on buildings, for example.
To address the issue of tenure, let me just say that ANY teacher can be fired.  It is up to the administration to make sure the teachers are doing their job.  All teachers must do continuing education, so they are learning new techniques all the time.  Do they always use them?  No. Does your boss change his/her ways all the time?  No!  As soon as administrators start coming down harder on teachers tenure will be more tenuous than it is and you will see tenured teachers stepping up to the plate.  Furthermore, many tenured teachers are excellent at keeping the kids' attention and knowing how to teach each child in his/her classroom.
Ha, so much for short!  Sorry, I feel very strongly about this issue!  That's all I can share tonight, though.  Thanks!
I'm in the UK and I can tell you my experience of school was a nightmare, and they failed me and others in a big way. Yet what I've heard about schooling in the US is all good
Something to be given consideration,,,, and i am not being anti immigration here,,,, but with a large influx of immigrants coming to our shores for refuge & a better life for their changes the whole ball game.....things are different now...but...America its still seen as great educators to the world at large, even with some stagnant policies....
And France saved our ass in the financial crisis with forgiven debt and monetary aid, +Paul Frederick, or we'd be well past $20 trillion in debt by now.
In my country the education is free. From grade 1 to university (undergrad). Free books and uniforms are provided too. But there are private schools too. Being a 3rd world country, have some drawbacks in the system. Some rural areas doesn't have necessities like labs and computers. But I'm glad I was born here. But unfortunately this system is being corrupted by monopoly of private schools and dirty politicians. What can I do to stop it than commenting on this post hoping for best?
+Paul Johnson this government hasn't seemed for the people in a long time. Besides, it wasn't the federal government that was supposed to be responsible in the first place. Families, communities, local then state governments. Everything is blurring together, melting together as one big government, instead of one unified body working for the unity and defense of the individual parts. When the government takes administration of things, they degrade. They were never supposed to step in. 
+Ryan Gunn: Well what the hell do you expect?  This country has a third of a billion people in it!  Of course it's going to take some serious manpower to manage a country this size.  Quit voting for Democrats and Republicans and vote for someone left of center for once and we might start getting some change back towards what was intended.
Ask any student...Some teachers are just better at teaching some subjects than other teachers...oh, budget....wasn't all that money from the lotteries supposed to go toward education....what happened to all those lottery proceeds??
+William Young: The Oregon Lottery also benefits, among many other things, the Oregon State Parks, attracting businesses to the state, etc.  We're also talking about a state that just doesn't have a lot of people that are making it.  Unemployment is rampant, job security is nonexistant, and Oregon leads the country in hunger (1 in 5 Oregonians don't know where their next meal is coming from) and homelessness (approximately 40,000 Oregonians don't have a home):  Oregon just doesn't have money to gamble with.
Everybody has been a student, and many are parents of students.  That makes everyone well qualified to legislate about schools, regulate schools, and armchair-quarterback our schools' problems.

Of course most people have visited a doctor's office, too...
And I'm sure as you've realized the US system isn't one where they'll try something, see if it works, and stop doing it if it doesn't. Instead a law is passed, which breaks something. Because of this another law is passed to fix the first. Instead of oh, I dunno, just removing the first.

So please give us an update on the next law they pass to fix the issues this law will inevitably introduce.
+Trevor Norris: This is Portland we're talking about...they still have laws on the books that say you can't bathe without proper attire or wear roller skates into a restroom.  The last good idea to come out of Portland was to make a sales tax unconstitutional statewide.
+Paul Frederick Everybody likes Europe :D That's why if one who has French accent, one will be specially respected.
+Paul Johnson i hear your really must be hard for college aged people to pay on their student loans without hope of a secure job...let alone start a family...i just heard that in Grant county Oregon, the biggest school is supplying a transgender bathroom....that's kinda a waste of funds....Oregon doesn't have a sales tax but they enforce state income tax....
I'm not really going to fault them for that, +William Young, since schools already tend to have unisex facilities.  It's not hard or expensive to change the sign on an underutilized faculty restroom.  Especially when transgendered individuals have been a class protected from discrimination under the state constitution for decades.
+Paul Johnson I expect us to continue blindly voting for Democrats and Republicans like there's a difference between them, continue to crumble as a society as we have been for the last 70 years, and, as we seemed to pass the point of no return a couple years ago, crumble, dissolve, and be reborn as the 3rd world country we are rapidly becoming.

The Feds have far over stepped their bounds, and it won't be long until we reap what they've sown; I doubt the States can survive it. Our course is now set; the only question is how long until the USA collapses under its own weight.

+Lars Christoffersen Christians are for that, but willingly, cheerfully. When it's forcefully taken from you without choice, resentment builds. That's the root of the 'selfishness'. You take, I have no choice, so I'll do everything I can to hold on to as much as I can. 
+Ryan Gunn: I'm so glad I live in the Cherokee Nation, and thanks to our neighbors to the south (Muscogee and Choctaw) and west (Osage, Sac and Fox, and over 20 other nations), it's at least a two hour drive in any direction from my location before US politics even come into play except as a foreign spectacle here.  We get to vote, we have representation, but we're sovereign from it.
+Lars Christoffersen fu-k this place I'm moven to!... Seriously it's up to the young people who are going to college or just getting out of college/universities to come together & make changes on a multitude of issues...
The US public school system can't be that bad. A guy named Dennis Ritchie came out of the same public high school as I did. He wrote the C programming language and UNIX. Where Linus would be today without him is anyone's guess. We didn't go to school in Oregon though. Nope, we're Summit Hilltoppers! He used to talk down at the Scotch Plains LUG sometimes. Local boy, I'd see him at the A&P all the time.
+Linus Torvalds The US spends more per student than all other countries except Switzerland.  Around 30% more per student than Finland (~64k vs. ~92k -- Mercatus '09).  It isn't a funding problem, it is a spending problem.  It is a cultural problem (students, parents, teachers and unions), it is a accountability problem, it is a hard problem in a diverse country with 80+ million enrolled students.  
As an American, I just want to confirm what Linus says.  Quality of education is determined by the class of parents of the children your children go to school with.  If you send your kids to school with the children of poor parents, they will have to swim upstream simply to be successful and self-sufficient in life.  The best thing you can do for your kids' education is buy a house in the richest school district you can afford.  As a result, school district is a major determinant of real estate prices.  Check out the movie "Slums of Beverly Hills" for a fictional illustration.  For a real-life illustration, I knew a woman who spent almost her entire income on the rent for a crappy one-bedroom apartment, with almost nothing left over for food, so her daughter could go to a good elementary school (where she excelled.)  If her mom hadn't been a willing martyr to her education, she would have gone to a crappy school where the best case scenario would have been that she learned nothing at all.  Granted, most of what you learn in school is determined by the cultural background you come from.  A kid with savvy, educated parents will have a leg up on a kid with uneducated parents no matter what school they go to.  Still, a kid going to a poor school will have to fight hard against the prevailing current, while a kid going to a rich school almost can't help but be swept along with the other kids into a selective college and a bright future.
Linus has a good point. I've seen the American school system, and it's horrible. It all comes down to administration, which is almost always messed up. And god forbid Germany takes this approach, cause than we are really screwed.
In all fairness, those who benefit the most from education will seek it out if they strive for intelligence. Though I do wish the people around me weren't so idiotic, but hey... Somebody has to buy all the Hannah Montana lipbalms and Justin bieber posters. Can't have smart consumerist when babies gotta eat... Big macs and shit. 
I'm from Riverdale and me and my friends agree this is all BS and there's rumors going around that the lady who brought the bill up has a personal vendetta against our school for some reason.
Good rant.... Even from over sea we can see it's broken.... In Sweden we do our best to catch up.... catch up with US, not Finland unfortunately.
In all seriousness, teachers make the least amount of money out of all degree requiring professions. The smartest teachers are most likely to produce the smartest kids, yet why would anybody want to choose a teachers salary over a doctor's, a engineer's, or hell even a college professor's? They don't, unless they sacrifice their time to invest in our youth.

IMHO, its really a two way street though. Our youth isn't motivated to learn anymore. Ive offered plenty of kids my age computer science lessons for free, and nobody has the drive. Music is the same situation, and the few students I have taught became exceptional musicians after they put in the work to learn and practice.

You can only throw so much money at the problem until we realize there are other short comings to take into consideration. For example, are the parents smart enough to help the kids with ever more complicated material? In south Korea, yes. America, no. Parents are the number 1. educator in a child's life, and we need a smarter parent generation. My parents couldn't help with my homework past 9th grade. Fortunately I didn't need the help, but other kids might need all the extra help they can get. 
+Roger Roach a large percentage of the students attending University here are from Korea, they pay twice the tuition......the smartest Americans don't work, have not been educated, don't want a job & collect substantial income from's not lean might be just getting by...but maybe better than going into massive debt to become advisors are now informing young people not to go to college....
Hmmm, +Linus Torvalds  I think you missed the part about the US being a free market. And that includes the "public" school system. The american dream is about hard work to maintain your competitive advantage, whether you become rich or not, supposed to be a by product of that hard work based on your competitive advantage. A lot of people have forgotten the value of education and they basically have left it to the government to run it for them which basically is a formula for mutual "ruin" the school and the neighborhood. But, education is not free and it has never been free in the US. If you read a little of the american history you will find that the higher education system was born from a very competitive doctrine, you hired the best teachers and kept them up to date in educational topics (invested in them), but these schools were not everywhere and not everyone could afford the education, so the "public" system was created as a way to provide an "opportunity" not as a mean to provide all the answers. So, just as the wealthy invested in universities to increase their property value and wealth, your neighborhood school has a huge impact to the value of your property, which means that you better be involved making sure the personnel is qualified to teach and provide financial support to maintain that personnel at their top performance. Then your property value will rise and then you will eventually live in a privileged neighborhood and yes, it does require hard work and commitment but that is what the american dream is about, keeping your competitive edge. And this starts from the lowest level of poverty to the highest level of wealth, find your competitive advantage and work on it, but you got to start somewhere. I hope you look at your neighborhood school with new does matter.
+Linus Torvalds I know I sound like a broken record, but yes, vouchers. It will solve the problem.

"The schools that get a good name have an easier time getting money, vouchers, teachers, "good" students, etc etc etc. "

Yes. That's the whole point. Good schools get the money, bad schools do not get the money, and are hence either forced to get good, or forced to close.

The worst schools in Sweden did go away thanks to vouchers. And generally not by closing, but by being forced to stop being bad as they saw all the students disappear to schools where they could actually get an education.

"The only way to fix it is to not have bad schools."

And the only way to not have bad schools is to have vouchers.
+David Huebel, I would have to disagree with you: on G+ you can always tell the comments from well-off kids and adults : they are badly-spelt, lack syntax, lack vocabulary are unresearched, and are full of envy, hate, and use obscenity and profanity at every opportunity: they lie and deceive themselves claim to have done things they haven't, never learn from their mistakes and are rude and patronising.Worst of all their incessant obsessive activity on G+ makes it very hard for genuine posters to network . Bad news, David, really man you need to wake up!
This kind of legislation is to ensure changes come from the top-down, and not the bottom-up. Which isn't surprising that government wishes to support it's own broken process.
+Okkar Kyaw That article ignores that Swedens old system, that was similar to the current US system but with less private schools and less economic differences, valued equality just as much as Finland. And was a disaster.

In other words: The valuing of equality over excellence is not the reason for Finlands success. You can't just take one thing that happens to be true in Finland and claim this is the reason for success. One data point does not statistics make.
I finally understand why some Americans bring their kids to move in a different country. 
When I was learn in Turkish high school, there was great, but after I get learn in normal school - it was just time killing! (Semipalatinsk,Kasahstan). So I think home school it is best of school, but you must interest and know what to learn, and where you will work then.

Когда я учился в Казахско-Турецком лицее, там было круто, очень хорошо учили, а затем я перевелся в обычную школу - там не учат, я лишь потерял время. Я думаю, что лучшее образование можно получить только дома, но надо Реально учиться, и знать что учить, и думать где ты будешь потом работать что бы применить полученные знания
I think I have to agree a little with Linus.  Our schools are rated low even compared to Canada next door.  I'm curious about where all this American pride is when Obama apologizes for America.  
+Lars Hallberg Today's Swedish schools are a clear improvement in the state of the early 90's. Vouchers saved the Swedish school. Of course it can get even better, but denying the improvement is not constructive.
Seems a sad attempt to legislate aiming for the lowest common denominator rather than the highest. Unfortunately an all too easier way to ensure a 'level' playing field than more aspirational legislation.

Proper state funding of schools works in other countries, differences in scale notwithstanding. And 'freedoms' that a significant number of people fail to benefit from, and that end up costing those that can afford it more than it would if state funded, are no freedoms at all.
Paul Aburn
Dumbing down has been going on so long now (I put 1970 as the year it really got under way) that no-one understands what the highest COMMON denominator is. I see no possibility of reversing the downward trend since it is self-replicating!
Equality and standardization in schooling is a main aspect of the Finnish school system. Almost everywhere else, parents are playing a sort of school lottery system. Finland takes equality very seriously. There was a news report once about the lunch lady who was fired for making her specialized healthier lunch, a deviation from the guidelines of the ministry. Such a system is far easier to troubleshoot and understand for all involved.

Regarding infrastructure and resources. Both Oregon and Finland have enough resources and funds to educate their children. Finland has a total state funded schools, while Oregon relies on multiple different community funding mechanisms.

The most critical factor in school performance is the human aspect, the curriculum and guidelines for teaching, and the social status of the educator. Are the ones who impart knowledge to the children the highest representatives of the community or are they just part of the lowest profession akin to the role of a babysitter? The competitiveness among educators must be as much tested as the students themselves are. 
If you think that's bad just be glad that you don't live in San Francisco.

The city, county & School District of San Francisco all cover the same geographic area (SF & Honolulu are the only places where this happens, to my knowledge). So any extra taxes, etc go to all schools. However, the wealthier families are still able to. donate more to their kids schools than the poor. As people prefer for their kids to go to nearby schools, the schools in the poorer neighborhoods didn't have many donors.

The geniuses in city government decided that what needed to be done was to randomize the schools that kids get allowed into. They thought that this would redistribute the donations across all schools and create a more equal outcome.

This means that if you live in a nice, safe neighborhood your kids might be sent to a school in the ghetto. Siblings might not even get to go to the same school.

This has resulted in a boom in private schools & many families moving out to Marin, or the Peninsula, when their kids leave middle school. SF has a much smaller population of families with high school aged kids than you would expect.

With the wealthy opting to leave, or go private, public schools in the city receive even less money than before this amazing idea was put into place. 
+Lennart Regebro Granted, the early 90's is after I left school and before my kid entered... But my sister had kids in school and it did'n look to disastrous. But I guess it started about then...

* one, going from a state run school to a commune run one, the devil is more likely in the details then the principle.

* two, The private school reform that systematically under fund public schools.

* three, micromanagement... This have always been a problem but it used to be based on knowledge about learning... since 2006 it's based on political opinion that's, even worse - actively discharge knowledge of learning.
+Peter Froehlich parents here in Munich too try to find the best school for their kids. You don't need to live in a specific district, but at some distance having your kid attend some school will be impractical.
The "poor" need to stop wanting to be in the "rich man's world"
That's where the problem is: "poor" people should understand the reality of that awful idolatrous world, switch off the rich man's tv - and stop paying him for his hideous garbage - and learn to create their (our) own world not governed by envy and resentment 
+Linus Torvalds do you know how much Finland spends on education per child? I'd be interested in seeing how it compares to the ±$9,500/pupil/year that we spend in CA. 
As a Finn, this was an interesting read. (To see how someone from our education system views the American system - seems it's pretty much as I preceived it.) ...But!

...On the topic of "first world problems", the whole thing is a joke gone bad. :P Just because we lucky / few / fortuitous ones are in "first world" etc, does not mean that our problems would be any less real or less concerning. It is also wrong to imply that in the "third world", once you get them food, water and shelter they would be forever happy evermore after that? Problems are problems, issues are issues, no matter the "degree" of them.
Electricity for an example. Not really a problem for the home village of my Friend, in India. No electricity for three days here in Finland, during winter? Or in America? People would die. And even in the warmer countries, when your mandatorily-chipped Visa credit/debit card purchases could not verified, when you could not withdraw cash, you could not call / IM / email anyone ... how many gas stations even have a manual gas pump anymore? ;P
But hey, electricity or the lack of it means nothing really, it's "just a first world problem", right? ;P ...Just saying.
In terms of social systems (schools, insurance, helping jobless people), the US are far behind other countries.
All of this is why I am a huge advocate of home schooling. BTW, I'm not particularly interested in canned, lame responses to home schooling that have been refuted time and time again: "but what about socialisation!" and "it's not for everybody!" Well, of course it's not for everybody, but then again, neither is public education that is of low quality. It really comes down to the choices you make as a parent. We need healthy, robust public education in America, but we also need healthy two-parent families so that choices are available. One of the best and most effective ways to break the American political hegemony is to live in a rural area and homeschool, avoiding the oppression of high property taxes. 
+Linus Torvalds The reason that you recognize "religious nuttery" pervading through the homeschool movement is that a great number of parents who homeschool are in fact religious and have recognized -- rightly, I think -- that the public school system is opposed to them.

So leaving alone your discourteous "nutter" label, I will simply point out that many parents who are religious wish to bring their children up in the nurture of their belief. Homeschooling allows these parents an escape from the system that they find repugnant and has attendant benefits to moral upbringing and academic achievement frequently.

If someone is opposed to the idea of God then that would obviously not be among his reasons for doing it. And a measurable percentage of homeschoolers are not religious, so there are other reasons that it might be the best option for one's child.
+Petri Salmela The Atlantic just takes the what the Finnish ministry of education says when he is patting himself on the back as the truth. As I already pointed out, Sweden and it's system up until the early 90's also puts equality before excellence, and that was in fact a big part of why it was bad. The focus on equality is not the cause of Finlands success. It's something else. It may be something as simple as an attitude difference. In Finland if you are educated it's seen as a good thing, but in Sweden the Jante-law means that if you know what you are talking about, you are automatically seen as a stuck-up know-it-all. That's not exactly good for education.

The Smithsonian article is too long to read for me at the moment. But the first page talks about a focus on the individual, and giving each kid what it needs. That seems like a much better analysis. And this quote is very important:

“We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test,”

If that is true, which I honestly find hard to believe, then that's the difference. And that would make Finnish schools more or less unique in the world, outside Montessori schools. Which is why I find it hard to believe. But I desperately want it to be true.
+Lars Hallberg Not all schools were bad. Just as not all public schools in the US are bad. And just as not all schools today in Sweden are bad.

The problem in the 90's were that some schools were utter failures and complete disasters. And they just got worse and worse. This was typically schools in big cities in poor areas with many immigrants. Just like the bad schools in the US are in poor areas.

The voucher system fixed that. These disaster schools are now gone. Problem fixed. The same could happen in the states, if the democrats would just stop screaming "Not invented here" and see that vouchers is an equality reform.

Now we in Sweden can try to fix other, much less serious problems. But blaming those problems on the vouchers, something which is so popular in some circles, is just ignorant.
You Americans should be happy, in India the public schools suck to hell that most of the parents prefer sending their kids to private schools
It's one of the reasons why competition in educational matters is such a brain damaged idea - you don't want to have to select the "best product" for your child's education, but rely on a high standard no matter where or who you are. It's becoming more ridiculous when you've got children of different ages who go to different level schools - what are you supposed to do if, where you live, one kind of school is very good, while the school your other child needs would be a lot better in another state? Split the family? And put the kindergarden child in yet another state because preschool offerings are best there? Brain damaged to the nth degree... but you get nobel prices (light/economy) for backing this sort of bullshit (Friedman...)
Great write up +Linus Torvalds , I think this is what most Europeans (excl. GB) feel when they're exposed to these inefficient education systems, especially visible in Anglican class states.
It's unfair for the kids.
Great write up +Linus Torvalds , I think this is what most Europeans (excl. GB) feel when they're exposed to these inefficient education systems, especially visible in Anglican class states.
It's unfair for the kids.
+Gedeon Stol FWIW, the USA hasn't been an "Anglican class state" since 1776. We're no longer colonials, you know.
This reminds me of how some cities here in silly valley think they can improve public transportation by regulating how much parking space companies can build for their employees - i.e. they don't address the problem, instead they just make it harder for people to deal with it.
In the UK most school are at least reasonably good and you only pay the normal taxes plus meal costs (if you are unemployed your kids get school meals free) and the school that I go to is quite good even though I live in a town that is full of idiots (I mean they are intellectually stupid)
"First World Solution" pay indirectly millions US$ for kids education (I agree with Linus that US response-> buy home in that district and create unevenness in wealth spreading!)
+Daniel Krippner "<You want to> rely on a high standard no matter where or who you are."

Exactly. And then comes the question: How do we make sure there are no substandard schools?

The answer, unsurprisingly, turns out to be vouchers. With vouchers, parents can flee the substandard schools, which forces them to get better, or close. TADA! no more substandard schools.

This is not only theory, but exactly what happened in Sweden. Problem solved, kids from poor areas can now go to schools in rich areas, etc.
I get why its especially hard on you since you grew up in Finland, one of the richest and most advanced countries. Other people envy my country (Switzerland) but I envy the Scandinavian countries. You guys just set the right priorities (like, education). To Americans the military is more important than their schools and this is thr result.
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United States of America, country of liberty and fairness, but only if you have the money. It's not a capitalistic country, despite the façade that the American people put up. It's what Richard Stallman calls extreme capitalism and what I call plutocracy. It doesn't even resemble capitalism. It is screwing the rich out of their money while fucking the poor. And even the rich are lucky if they can manage something resembling good education. If the US wants to ever get something resembling decent education, they will need to replace the entire education system by something more akin to some European countries. I'm from a country where half the 16 year olds know basic calculus (that is, know most about integration and derivation with 1 variable). Seeing MIT level schools that still have to teach the basics is just sad. The only people who do not know basic calculus are those who are considered not willing or intelligent enough to ever attend a university. I think having a system with clearly divided levels like the Netherlands has and a nationwide, or at least statewide, control to make sure that the levels are achieved would be good. We have vmbo levels for those who will never attend university and get a fairly practical job, like bicycle makers but even some of them programmers, albeit with little knowledge on any other field of informatics, havo for those who want to get a bit more theory and later attend what is called a university of applied sciences in English (this is not considered a university in the Netherlands), and vwo for those who will later attend a MIT level university. Note that vmbo, havo and vwo are high schools, attending one of the three is obliged and none is spectacularly more expensive on a yearly basis than the other, although vmbo takes 4 years, being the lowest level, while vwo, the highest level, takes 6 years. Who attends what level depends not on money, but on things like personal goals and intelligence. Also, a school can teach at multiple levels. My own school had vmbo classes as well as havo and vwo. By being educated on a scientific level, vwo pupils can easily get into more advanced stuff when they go to a proper university. They don't need to be taught the basics anymore, since they were already taught it in high school. A similar thing goes for havo and vmbo. And there is a nationwide system that checks if the levels are still properly working. No levels that are called vwo and should be called havo. There is a huge system that was put into place for the sole purpose of making sure that the schools maintain these levels properly. This way, each school has a minimum level of education that must be achieved. Any less than that will mean an awful lot of trouble for a school. Schools can't just do whatever they want. They can do some things on their own, as long as a certain level is achieved. Also, within those levels there are different profiles, such as a biology profile with subjects like biology and chemistry and an economy profile. Schools support all of these profiles. At some point during their education, pupils have to pick a profile. Some will prefer technology/physics, others will prefer societal. All of these profiles can be chosen, at every level and every school.

It is a system that works, that guarantees everyone gets an education that suits his level of intelligence and his preferences, guarantees quality and guarantees education is relatively efficient. 
If we were to make US system like Finland's, i.e., make all schools fairly good, I wonder how much it would cost the tax payers. This is why it's difficult to fix the US system because Americans inherently hate high taxes and are on the far right of the political spectrum compared to Finland. Fixing the system boils down to making the US a more socialist country than it is now, something Obama is trying to do on the health care side.
Good post. Have you read "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools", by Steven Brill? Very illuminating.
+Wisnu Wurjantara  The Finnish system and the US system is similar. The main reason that Finnish schools are all fairly good is probably that the economic and social differences between different areas in cities aren't as large as in the US. So in a sense you are right. To fix US schools in the same way as they have fixed Finnish schools you have to eliminate much of the social differences, which would indeed require higher taxes.
So, what's your solution Linus? I'll grant you, the US government can't find its ass with both hands. Everyone knows the public school system is broken, but nobody seems to want to offer a solution.
+Richard Blalock The solution has been offered for a long time. However, a large amount of people calling themselves liberals don't want to listen to it because it gives people the liberty to choose schools.
Actually it is. It is no less his task than it is yours or mine. We have a word for people who complain about things but are unwilling to do anything about them. That word is whiner.
To those repeating that the US is the country of personal responsibility: I don't think this applies in this case. Children are not responsible for their parents and obviously they can't be held responsible for their educational choices (at least up to certain age, when it's usually too late to catch up). Therefore it's not personal responsibility.

In the end what you're supporting is the idea, that - by birth - many have far lower chances in life because their parents are uneducated, irresponsible or whatever other circumstances might keep them from providing their children a fair chance in life. This way whole families get stuck in a vicious cycle of inadequate education, poverty and social security dependence. Home schooling isn't an option for those families either, since it requires the parents to be educated themselves, have the time and be extremely responsible.

So in my opinion saying "visiting an appropriate school is a matter of personal responsibility" is cynical.
Someone just has to scream "Good schools? That sounds communist" and the entire US will never have any reasonable level of education anymore. Americans seem to consider everything not far right to be "communist". They will eventually destroy the country, but at least without "communism". Of course no one knows what real communism means (and I think neither knows what capitalism means), but that doesn't matter. The US will have a far right country's doom instead. It is considered preferable over becoming just ordinary right. 
I see lots of comments with more or less with following point 'Finland - small, US - big; comparison cannot be made. That is pure none sense.

Ethics is not size matter. Or would anyone be willing to give up criticizing China about their human rights violations because the country happens to have roughly four times the population of US? The fairness of education is not quite the same as running tanks to place of protest, and shoot own citizen, that is why the problem has first world label. And that is why other government heads will not come to tell 'insert broken educations system here' country that you must fix your issues, or.

Just because there is no external force driving 'an area where politics take place' to make things more fair does not mean such is a bad goal to have.
+Wisnu Wurjantara In my comment (way in the middle of this long thread), I explain how it is possible to spend no additional money and get +2 sigma performance compared to the average public school.  The solution (in case you don't have the time/energy to search): ditch the industrialized school model invented and promoted in the 1880s and replace them with schools based on the scientific principles established by Maria Montessori in 1912.

I don't doubt that many schools in America are failing because they are being starved for resources (some variation on "it's not Christian to give charity to those who should be able to help themselves"), but most are failing because the model is just broken.  That we have any educated people at all graduating from our public schools is mostly in spite of, not because of, the industrial education model.

For a more detailed (and peer-reviewed) perspective on this, read "The Science Behind The Genius" by Angeline Lillard.
Please make better schools so that we don't have to have the cheating hackers that like to insult people's intelligence thinking they're better than one.

+Linus Torvalds HB2748 seems fair... Although I have no children I sympathize for parents like my neighbor who live in Portland. Because the current scenario allows kids from other areas outside of Portland to come to school in the PPS district it forces parents who actually live in the district to have to go through a lottery to get their kids into preferred schools in their own district because parents dont like the schools in home districts.

If she can't get her son into one of the three local schools she will actually end up having to move and pay for private school. How is this fair when the schools are filled with out-of-district students to the point it creates inequity for in-district students?
+Linus Torvalds  You have every right to do that rant on any educational system. There are unfortunately only few countries including Finland who did that right and results are remarkable. 
+Michael Tiemann in countries such as the Netherlands, which have quite a share of pure Montessori schools, that system does get its share of criticism. Often there us too much focus on what a student likes to do, to the point that the student has almost one extremely well developed skill, but nothing else. Most schools aren't Montessori, for that reason. However, high schools are actually somewhat based on the ideas of Montessori. There are different levels of education, those for less intelligent or ambitious people, those for the true scientist, and a level in between the two, but within each level there are different profiles: biology, economy, society and technology/physics. There isn't complete freedom in what a student can do, but he can choose a level and a profile to make sure he has always gets a reasonable set of skills that are close to his preference. It solves the problem of a student possibly just picking one skill, but still gives him the freedom to follow his preferences. A certain amount of extra subjects can also be chosen, for those with broad interests.

The government has well developed methods to check if a level performs according to at least to a certain minimum, if not better.

It's not perfect, but it still works pretty well. I daresay a system based on Montessori, along with such ways to check if a school performs well enough and compare it to a certain minimum, would be a big improvement. 
Maybe in big countries people think that it is enough to find all talents from the mass and educate them. Finland has population of only 5.3 million and we don't afford to waste human resources. For us it is much more efficient to educate everybody as well as possible. Educated people are much more capable to take care of themselves. So not just "left wing socialism", but a way to have useful people as much as possible. And capable, happy people yeald also safer society. That will benefit everybody and I think that's why also rich people should pay their taxes with smile.
Any parent who has the means and ability to be able to homeschool should do it....Or....Don't have kids.....A disaster with the school systems today for sure....
+Dan Swick The "tiny bit of land" is called Finland. Finland is a part of "The Nordic" often also called Scandinavia after the Scandinavian Peninsula, which is more or less Sweden and Norway.

No reason to swear just because you misremembered. :-)
+Linus Torvalds thank you for your insight. I always wonder what school systems are like in other countries. I live in Ohio where the state supreme court has rule that funding via property taxes for schools in against the state constitution 3 times! All attempts to change that have been half hearted at best and all have been undone. 
Shawn S
+James Mason I think it's probably the way the american teacher unions are run. I posted a chart further up that shows how much america spends on education compared to test scores over the years. All that money goes to salaries, not furthering education. It's sad to see test scores flat but we keep dumping money into a broken system.
+Linus Torvalds we live in Va and the public schools ar good, but we chose private school. Very expensive but my daughter is in 2nd grade and has an 11th grade reading level. She ended 1st grade testing on a 4th grade level... she's coming to work for you one day! 
Well the time of an overhaul, is now...
The differences in education between economic levels is HUGE. I spent birth to 16 in inner city Baltimore schools, when I was in middle school we didn't have an English teacher for 2 years, yes my parents got involved, but they couldn't do anything esp not pay for a teacher out of there own pockets. The news reported, our local congressman came out and still no teacher. When we got to eighth grade, 80% of my class ended up not matriculating to high school because they couldn't pass the English exam needed.
Fast forward, my family moved to a well to do area in GA (I know GA?) that had one of the best school systems in the state. Predominately white, upper middle class and my classes got harder, and none of these classmates or teachers could understand why I never had a personal textbook or supplies for my electronics class. Their only problem was the new construction to expand the football stadium was completed. First world problems for real. Across town, city and state borders, the typical American dream and life is vastly different. I wished I had been educated in the better school system, but my experiences in a poorer school system give me a more global compassionate view of others. The education crises is just the beginning of a series of injustices against poorer classes. 
It's why my child went to private school.
Shawn S
+Tim Gray +whitney warren-jones This is kind of my point. If you could choose which school your tax dollars went to, the system would be very different. Tim, I bet your parents had to pay local taxes for the public schools PLUS out of pocket for the private school. There's really no choice for a good education for most people.
We live in an "A" school district, cream of the crop in Miami-Dade, yet we don't send our children to public school. For whatever reason, many children from other lower income neighborhoods are bussed in. 

We home school.
A bit late, but chiming in anyhow. This is why we unschool/homeschool :) I was unschooled, and am now unschooling my boys. Its a blast. Its not expensive (we use the web & library - we did splurge on a couple of museum memberships, but thats about it). Its time consuming I suppose if you don't like being around your kids. But if you enjoy learning about the world, and watching your kids do the same, if you like to go on field trips and check out workshops and story times and science centers and museums constantly, then whats their to worry about? Pack a lunch and go. Its not hard. Anyone can do it. 
足似天朝。china is almost the same,or even worse
+David Huebel
 Another option to living in the richest school district you can afford: move somewhere with school choice. In Indiana (and several other states), parents can select any school district in the state, a charter or magnet school (these are specialized public schools) or can opt for a voucher to send their child to a private school. The private school option really levels the playing field...

There is an immense gap between private and public schools... even a rich public school's "gifted" student population will at best compete with the general student population in a private school.
+Alex Agranovsky
Maybe keeping everyone at mediocre level is good for those who never go beyond that level, but are influential, so they don't stand out.
+Dan Swick
You DID write that Finland is an island. Denying it when it's right up there in print is futile.
And that "tiny bit of land that connects to mainland Europe?
Finland shares a border of 1,313 kilometers (816 miles) with Russia.
Saying, Fuck you," to someone because they have made a point you asked them to make and showed you to be incorrect is juvenile. A simple look at Google Maps would have shown you the truth but you were too lazy and voluntarily ignorant to do even that.
And now I'm bored with you.
An educated electorate is the politician's worst enemy.
Great post +Linus Torvalds After the Solidarity Break in Poland, since 89 year, there is a huge emigration from Poland to the western countries, about 3 million of young people emigrated,  and serious crisis in Polish education - and it is all because we just copy "American dream" with closed eyes, and without single notice that it is not working at all! In fact our education system is destroyed now, and I suppose there is np hope, except huge riots or so. Politicians just represent private lobbies, and in fact they do not want society to be egalitarian at all. So last 20 ears for Poland is rather lost time, the only thing we have there is cheap simply works and big unemployment - which is considered by every Ministers of Finance as good, because need for job keeps wages at low level. That is how it works.... 
I'm all for better public schools here, but I haven't a clue how to begin to fix them, an in the mean time I'm more worried about my kids. And... well... my kid didn't want to go to school. And I can't blame him - I hated school too :) So, we're unschooling, and its a blast :)
+David Harrison-Rand I pulled some old stats from 2009-2010, to give an idea (likely it's few hundred more now days). The sums are per pupil per year

Primary school: 7240€ (~$9400)
High school: 6260€ (~$8100)
Vocational school: 10000€ (~$13000)
University of Applied Sciences (former Polytechnics): 7900€ (~$10300)
Couldn't find the info about University/Collage, which are also free for students.

Then there is of course the "student allowance" ~500€/month (~$650) that students gets from government for rent and living costs. The sum is for those in higher education, it's few tens of euros smaller for those in High school and vocational school (+ most don't get it since parents' income will be considered for those under 18 (unless you have kids, that hopefully is the case on that age)).
The problem with the schools is a lack of competition.  
If you think American school system is a disaster, try the argentinian one. It's awful! 
Schools aren't the problem, parents are the problem. When people accept that it's their responsibility to assure kids get an education that's when it will change.
Parents need to make their children accountable.
There so many factors involved in a child acquiring a reasonable education. We as a society need to partner with parents and the eduction system to provide a child the environment and resources to accomplish that.
To blame educators for America's dismal performance in academics is foolish 
+Ray McLean yes. but you risk loosing all those kids who's parents just don't care. and the difficult question to be answered is: can a society afford having to deal with a bunch of unskilled young adults a few years later. and reproducing ...
My biggest problem with US Public schools is the teachers association.  They make it nearly impossible to promote really good teachers and fire poor performing teachers.  It's all about time in service and not about merit.  It's a socialist based system where teacher's have minimal economic advantage to become the greatest teacher in the world.  Once teachers lose that initial spark, it's generally the status quo.
If I were you, I would get back to Finland. As you said, US education system really sucks but some universities.
+stephan herschel Not at all, it's like crowd immunity. When parents who care can choose their children's  education, the worst schools will have to close for lack of students. That improves education even for those whose parents do not care. Everybody wins.
Home school is a good answer.  Sure it is costly (although mostly it is "opportunity cost") and time consuming.  But what are you willing to sacrifice for your kids?  A lot (is my answer).
USA resident here. I very much agree with Linus's post and comments, not to mention posts by numerous other people in this thread (too many to list!). Many nails were driven by many hammers, hitting them squarely on the heads, but I'd like to try to drive one more.

As has been mentioned, some of the likely reasons for this educational malady include parents and children who appear for all the world to be uninterested in learning and growing up, preparing for the world at large. For crying out loud, we have thousands of websites dedicated to relaying stories and videos about people who behave this way! Parents who are clearly only interested in themselves and can barely even bother to at least appear to care for their child in general, much less actually do so; and parents who are so deathly afraid of actually being a parent and saying no to their child once in a while, even if it means a tantrum.
Why else would we have so many Facebook posters who can't spell to save their life (God help me if I make a typo now), 9-year-olds with iPhones (not being generic there) who have no need for them, and the likes of selfish teenagers who flip their lid if there's a little more fat than usual on their 18 oz. sirloin? (Exaggeration, yes, but it sure feels like that at times.)

And then there's the money. Dear God, the money. Yes, it's far from the only factor, but in communities with plenty of wealthy folks, it sure packs a punch.
A church I attend and work at got a new pastor a couple of years ago, and he has put a lot of work and money into renovating the place in an attempt to not only keep it alive (it's a 100-year-old building), but attract new visitors and spread the message of our faith. But some of that includes new worship styles and music (read: modern-style worship over classical-style 50s' "stand up and sway" hymns), as well as the introduction of newer technologies. (I certainly wasn't complaining about adding a beefy Dell XPS to our multimedia system, even if it is running Windows.)

But the problem is, the majority of our church's withering membership is comprised of people who have long since retired, to put it mildly. Most of them are playing the role of the stereotypical "old fogie" who resists change and newer electronics like the ideas themselves are satanic. But they're also the members with the most money, and the top contributors toward the place. Either the pastor appeals to them, continuing to attract no new members while the current ones grow old and pass away .... or he sticks to his current plan, hopefully attracting new visitors while angering the older members, potentially causing them to leave the church for one that will appeal solely to their worship style, and cutting funding in the process. Either way, the remainder of the church body loses in the end; from what I have heard, it's like that in many areas across the country.

I think the state of the USA's school system is, like many things in the country today, a reflection of the sorry state its people have let themselves fall into. That's all it boils down to.
I live in San Francisco, and here the students aren't allowed to go to schools in different districts. I've heard of students who pretend to live with their grandparents so they could go to a good school, but the city works to detect and expel students who do that.

It's amusing to watch the conflict between parents trying to give their children a good education, and the school officials trying to promote equality.

Even if you get your kids in a "good" school, beware of bad curricula. Here's an article from an extremely biased source, but the takeaway I got from it is that you really should watch your children's education. Even private, Catholic schools can suffer precipitous declines in quality.
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