The Tour de France ended yesterday. We’re huge Tour fans in my house. We’re talking lycra-clad fans at 5:45 a.m., huddled around our TV to watch live.
So attribute this post to sleep deprivation and croissant overload.
Coming in last of the 145 finishers yesterday was Wim Vansevenant, a Belgian rider for the Silence- Lotto team.
And I assure you, gentle readers, that if 99.9% of you went out to test your meddle against the 145th ranked rider in this competition, he’d kick your butt. Leave you in the dust. Humble even the fittest of you. Cause you deep pain.
And after 28 days of riding in one of the most grueling sporting events in the world, the distance between #1 and #145 was merely a matter of a few hours. And Wim is and remains an incredibly talented cyclist. And he’s ranked last today.
So I believe, deeply, that discourse about public education in the U.S. would be well-served if we moved far beyond the often dire ranking of the average kid in the U.S. with the average kid elsewhere, as in this PSA that’s getting a lot of press this week:
CEOs are not sitting around looking at the relative test scores of 15 year olds as they develop their strategic plans. Rankings tell us next to nothing.
But those CEOs may well be devising ways to increase profit margins by, say, cutting employee medical benefits, leaving five year olds without medical care.
So speaking of Finland: If we’re concerned about test scores, why are we not talking about high quality medical care for everyone; universal, high quality preschool; and a system of schooling that understands that a well prepared teacher with professional autonomy will take kids places that weeks and weeks of testing every year never will? Do we really believe that those things are inconsequential in the relatively high achievement of kids in Finland?
Good jobs moving to Finland, with a population lower than that of New York City?
American “schools” are not failing our kids. Poor kids in this country go to poor schools. They go to school sick and hungry. They go to school having been shut out of preschool that is the birthright of middle-class kids.
The Finns understood years ago that they couldn’t rely on schools to level playing fields rendered so uneven by unemployment, illness, housing, and discrimination.
We think that we can get to #1 through school alone.
Wim Vansevenant only finished 145th, but he finished an unbelievably challenging race in no small measure because he had access to some of the best support available to professional athletes anywhere. He had personalized medical care (just skip the doping smirks, ok?), a nutritionist, a comfortable bed every night, sponsors who provided him with the very best equipment available regardless of his ability to pay for his bike himself.
You don’t finish the Tour on your own- even when you finish 145th.
So if we’re worried about the Finnish kids getting all the good jobs, we really shouldn’t expect poor five year olds in the U.S. to navigate school essentially on their own either. Because Finnish kids are enshrouded in layer upon layer of support as they make their way through school.
Much like professional cyclists.
Even the cyclists who come in dead last.
Because the rankings tell us next to nothing.