Kids — I’m off today for a week-long trip to Helsinki, Finland where I and some other DC-based policy thinkers and writers are going to be guests of the Finnish government to learn about their education system. Finland is a world leader in PISA scores and other measures of educational success, so as the United States tries to reverse the current disturbing trend toward declining educational attainment, it seems that perhaps we have something to learn not only from how Finnish schools function, but from the larger social and economic policy context in which children learn.
In general, I think the United States has a lot to learn from the social models prevailing in northern Europeans countries such as Finland. Finland’s per capita GDP is roughly the same as America’s, but Finland’s gini coefficient is far lower, suggesting that typical Finns enjoy higher material living standards than do Americans. Add to that longer life expectancy, lower crime rates, and lots of modernist design and architecture and it seems like a nice place. On the other hand, they have worse weather. I once spent an extremely long layover in Helsinki Airport where I was surprisingly well treated by Finnair rather than given the usual “we’ve stranded you here and it’s all our fault but we refuse to apologize or take responsibility” schtick one usually gets form airlines, so I’ve long felt a deep appreciation for the Finnish way and I’m very eager to see some non-airport portions of the country (the view from the terminal looked nice).
At any rate, you know the drill — blogging will continue, but on a reduced and somewhat sporadic schedule. Of course you should expect some commentary on Helsinki’s public transportation (metro, tram, and commuter rail — a veritable trainapolooza) system.