Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Education in Sweden and Finland

After learning about education in Sweden and Finland, two things stuck in my mind more than anything else: the ideas of education going side by side with nature and getting kids to want to learn. Based on the results in these school systems, I think these two ideas are clearly fantastic. I wish I had the opportunity to grow up in a school like that. I definitely agree that spending even minimal time outdoors reduces stress levels and increases respect for nature. After growing up experiencing nature everyday, I think most people would feel way more compelled to act in every way possible to conserve it.
As far as wanting to learn goes, I know for a fact that I would much rather be watching tv (as sad as that sounds) or at recess than doing multiplication tables when I was little. Taking the emphasis off of grades, and ensuring every teacher is properly prepared to teach children is certainly the right way to go. I think every school system should seriously consider switching to a similar format.

Internships in Sweden

I think it was great to hear about the opportunities available to study/work abroad in class today. It sounds like our two visitors really had an enjoyable time, and also took a lot from their respective experiences. Many students feel that their classes sometimes lack a connection to the real world, however, it was clear that their knowledge of the Swedish language and Scandinavian culture was directly applied to their experiences abroad. It was nice to hear them joke around about the cultural differences, and what they enjoyed and what they found a bit unique or bizarre. As a sophomore, studying or working abroad is something that I am definitely considering, and it is good to know that both of our guest speakers had a great experience doing so.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Education in Scandinavia

I found learning about education in Sweden and Finland and last week extremely interesting. I was amazed to learn how different the education systems are from what I grew up with in the US. I am jealous of the children who get to go to preschool outdoors. It sounds like a great experience.

I found myself questioning though, what it would be like to be a more advanced student in that kind of eduation system. It seems to me that this would cause a great deal of "slacking" on the part of the brightest children. The system seems to lack the push that is somewhat essential for bright minds to thrive and grow.

I thought it was particularly interesting that Swedish students are some of the most rowdy students in the world. It is interesting that the teachers there, especially in early education, have the patience to teach with that kind of dynamic. As I consider my own school experience, I wonder what I would have turned out like had I been able to freely go about questioning my teacher's thought process. I think I would probably be a very different person and perhaps would not have developed the drive to be able to go to school at U of M.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Education in Sweeden

Fist of all, I want to give props to the Sweedish school system. After what I have heard in lecture in regards to the philosophy and organization of their system, it have to admit, I wish I had undergone elementary school in the sweedish fashion. I think it is great to have children begin interaction with other peers with play. Not only does it keep kids active from the start of their lives, but it also teaches them how to act in society and socialize with others. Focusing on human interaction from a very early age gives the kids more than just the ability to easily make friends, but also, to feel like a functioning member of a loving society. This, in turn, equates to peronal confidence and a foundation for much growth in later years. And, when the kids are eight years old, they begin learning how to read/write and do math, which is great, because their reasoning and motor skills have been properly ripened so it comes easily to them. In all, I think the groundwork that the sweedish school system accomplishes is unsurpassed by other countries. Figuratively speaking, isnt constructing the proper foundation for a house going to keep the house standing for longer than one without one in the first place?

Education and Nature in Swe/Fin

I found it very interesting how there is a connection between education and nature in Swedish and Finnish culture. It was refreshing to hear a uniquely different approach to education and early childhood development. To me, it makes complete sense that preschools and elementary schools should allow student more time to run around and enjoy the fresh air. Every single day is vital for the social growth and development of children, and the Finns and Swedes allow for this to be as organic and fun as possible. This, in turn, allows them to maximize classroom efficiency by placing a higher value on the teachers and curriculum than the United States does. It amazes me how Swedish and Finnish students spend less time in the classroom and take fewer standardized tests than American students, yet they far surpass the US in every benchmark in the education arena. I really hope that federal, state, and local educators and policymakers are paying attention to the successes seen in Scandinavia. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The Education presentation was extremely interesting. To be honest, I think the education success rates have a lot to do with early education. The fact that students are not actually graded until middle school years, and aren't taught reading or writing until around age 7 in the education system is a brilliant idea. I liked the comment that it seems the education system introduces children the will to learn, and explore at a very young age in nature and in the classroom. The early emphasis on bringing the kids outside, exploring music, drawing, etc. Finnish education really seems like an efficient, methodical process.

Carl Linnaeus & Scandinavian Education

I thought the presentation on Carl Linnaeus was very interesting and detailed. In particular, I was unaware of his humanitarian and medical efforts. I thought it was interesting that in the 18th century a well educated individual on a tour of Scandinavia to see the wildlife primarily would take a great interest in the well being of the Sami people. It seemed very forward-thinking that Linnaeus made note of how the Sami were expected to conform to standards that did not fit their lifestyle nor living conditions. Additionally, the prestige of his medical practice which gained initial notoriety from treating STD's and went on to be the physician to the admiralty and the royal family was something I found particularly noteworthy.

After the class discussion and seeing the articles and videos online, I was really intrigued by the success of the Scandinavian school system because it appears to conflict on many levels with the American school system. Particularly the late start policy, which I think might be viewed as a hassle for parents in America who are eager for their children to read and write from very young ages. I did think the community responsibility associated with education, particularly in the Finnish School System video, was great. Families, and also international corporations, seem to take pride in educating children and watching them succeed. If education was a source of pride in America, students and family alike may take it more seriously.

The outdoor schools were the most unique, in my opinion. While I liked hearing about them and reading the article on the Danish schools, I doubt I would have liked that kind of education as a child and I think many Americans are far too worried about the dangers of the outdoors to support that type of education for their children. One of the primary differences that could make outdoor schools in America successful, in my opinion, would be higher education levels for teachers. Day care providers in America often lack the credentials that would make such a project successful. Though not outdoors, I think many small-scale American day cares, such as those found in private homes, also focus on developing team work and social skills through play and foster positive educational experiences for American children.

Education in Scandinavia

I loved hearing about the successes of the education systems in Sweden and Finland. Both of my parents taught grade school overseas as well as in Detroit and I'm basically used to hearing a lot of negativity surrounding the functionality of schools.

I was especially interested in how students were essentially guaranteed the same high level of education regardless of their socioeconomic status. There are plenty of people who would not agree with me, but I would support higher taxes to better our school systems here in the States -- the quality of our education here relies much too heavily on which school district you happen to go to. The Swedish/Finnish people have come to appreciate that the money they put into their schools (even if it does not directly benefit their own children) is moving their country forward by creating a more educated general public.

BBC videos

After watching this video I was wondering and thinking how interesting it would be to implement a Finnish/Swedish school system for either a school or school district and follow that school for x number of years, in comparison to an American school. The question really is whether a scandinavian school system implemented in the U.S. would be effective because the cultures outside of school are so different. It would be interesting to see if the American students in a Scandinavian style school did better than in an American school. The school would have to be run by either Swedish or Finnish teachers, or teachers familiar with the school systems there for it to a successful project. I think that asking to implement a Finnish or Swedish type school system in all of the United States is asking for way too much, because facing the facts, the US is a lot bigger than Sweden or Finland. I do think that individual cities or states could reform on their own though, and run an effective school system, similar to the Swedish and Finnish school systems.

I really enjoyed watching this video, and wonder if a Swedish daycare would last in the US.

Education in Finland and Sweden

The lecture on education in Finland and Sweden is my favorite lecture so far. I was able to relate to a lot of what was being talked about and to compare my four years of school in Sweden as well. Having attended both Swedish and American schools, I can say that the Swedish schools were my favorite by far. I only attended school there until 4th grade, but when I visited last October, I attended school for a few days again, and still the Swedish schools were my favorite.

The school system, both in Finland and Sweden, is so different from ours, yet I believe is so much better. I started kindergarten as I was about to turn 7, and at that point I knew absolutely no Swedish, and obviously could not read either. The teachers were only concerned with getting me to speak, and I did not start reading at all until 1st grade. In kindergarten, we played outside a lot, spent a lot of time drawing and painting and sewing, and spent a lot of time just playing with the other kids. I think that because of this, the Swedes develop better social skills at a younger age, because a part of school there was learning how to be social. There are so many other differences, the hot lunch there was so much better, classes were fun and interesting. During my time in school, I don't remember being graded or worrying about grades once, but once we moved back to the States, I remember my sister in 2nd grade worrying about grades on book reports. The school system, at least in Sweden, is more laid back, and I think that at a young age, children are generally excited to learn and excited to go to school and are not burning out as fast as American students.

Carl Linnaeus

I also really enjoyed this lecture. Carl Linnaeus was someone who I had learned about in Biology last year, but we did not go into great depth in covering his accomplishments and achievements. I recognized the name and the face on the money from living in Sweden, but was unaware of everything that he had done. It was really neat to learn about his travels and discoveries and the pictures that Sarah had to accompany the lecture made me want to go and hike in Scandinavia.

Having spent half of my childhood in Sweden, and half in the United States it is always really interesting and fun for me to compare the two cultures. One of the things that I miss the most about Sweden and definitely one of the biggest differences and culture shocks upon returning to the U.S. is the amount of time I spent outside in Sweden. We would play outside, rain or shine. In my three years of school there I can not remember a time when they had us stay inside for recess. The whole culture is based around spending time outdoors, we would eat outside and have picnics outside and go on walks with the whole family, or with family friends. We would spend the day in the park, or outside by the water. During school hours we would go on nature hikes a couple times a months and in the winter, we would go cross country skiing one a week. The thing I miss the most about Sweden is probably the emphasis that is placed on nature and the outdoors.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Early Years Education: Sweden

I watched the 3-part video on the Swedish education system (posted under resources on ctools) and couldn't help but compare the Swedish students' to the American and Korean school system of which I'm accustomed. The most notable differences were the heavy state subsidies, long preschool availability (open early/closes late) , and the mix of individual attention with the loose lesson structure.

American preschools are expensive with strict hours and, often, Americans view strict lesson plans as an indicator of productivity and future success. This is even more pronounced in a country like Korea where even young students are sent to cram schools every evening. No level of Korean schooling is free, either; families are responsible for paying for all levels of education.

More so, the Swedish early education system seems very flexible and catering to the needs of the parents. Swedish preschool hours give both parents the opportunity to work and, like Prof. Eriksson mentioned in class, a Swedish stay-at-home parent is very unusual. Perhaps the fact that many more American mothers (and significantly more Korean mothers) are staying at home is a factor preserving the current US preschool system. Just think, there is less demand in America for early education systems to cater to families as there is often a parent who is available to take care of the child as needed.

Near the end of the episode, the video asked an interesting question:
"Can we afford to invest as much as the Swedes do in personal education?"

Of course, everyone wants to invest in education because, as cliche as it is, children really are the future. However, I question whether large nations such as the USA would take to higher taxes and school reform it would take to model the Swedish system. There would also be the mental and cultural change that many families and students would have to adapt to (whether it is superior or not). Talking of change is easier said than done.

Carl Linnaeus

I knew Carl Linnaeus was a Swede that was famous for being the Father of Taxonomy, but I really knew nothing else about him. For instance, I didn't know that he was one of the most famous scientists of his time and that people all over the world knew about him. I was surprised to learn how much he traveled. It was cool to hear about his trip around the Gulf of Bothnia and his interactions with the people of Sweden and Finland.



I was surprised on how different the education system in Scandinavia is from our own. I had read that the Scandinavian countries are leaders in education, so I should've guessed that they used different methods of teaching.

Tarja explained that teachers don't test their students. Instead, they evaluate the students themselves and grade them accordingly. That seems like a much better way of teaching, because a lot of students aren't good at test-taking and it it is more fair to grade students based on what they have done in the class as opposed to how well they can do on a test.

Another cool part Scandinavian education systems is their teaching of foreign languages. Soon after children start school, they are taught one foreign language, usually English. Then when they reach middle school, they learn another foreign language. As Tarja said, starting students with foreign language when they are young makes it easier for them to learn more languages throughout their lives.

After learning about the Scandinavian schools, it makes more sense that they are leaders in educaton.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Scandinavia - Education

The lecture on education was my favorite so far. From the very beginning of a Finnish child's life, the methods the Finns use seem to be superior to those typical in the United States.

The lower emphasis on tests seems really effective, and like I said in class, if children love learning, it's easy to teach them. I think fewer tests contibute to that.

Outdoor pre-schools are a fantastic idea; I've read a few studies and have personal experience about what it's like to grow up in the woods, play outside often, etc. and it really is a great place to learn and develop skills. In the U.S, there are many strange rules and customs (behaviors, things we take for granted), like all the prescription medication children are taking, and how rain keeps us indoors. In that regard, the Finns holistic approach to pre-K education is really refreshing.

As for free higher-education, if the majority of the people in Scandinavia don't mind the taxes, I see no problem with it. It also makes for a more selective application process within the Universities.

Good lecture ^-^ Very interesting overall.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Carl Linnaeus - Sam

I found Sarah's lecture and slide show on nature and Carl Linnaeus very interesting. He was a great ecologist, botanist and was very well respected, enough to be a face on their money. He got to travel all over Sweden and Finland and even some parts of Norway and write many books on his studies.

I really admire Scandinavia’s relationship with nature. Starting at a young age, the kids are forced to create a bond with nature and live outside for portions of the day. When I visited Sweden, I loved how we always had meals outside, went on hikes all over Öland, and basically did as much as we could outside. Also, whenever possible we would walk or bike to our destinations, not drive unnecessarily large vehicles. I had a type of culture shock when I returned home and saw the huge TV with too many channels and several computers in my house. Everything in Scandinavia seemed so much more natural, more desirable and I really enjoyed it and miss it.

Scandinavian Education - Sam

I really enjoyed the Tarja’s lecture on education in Scandinavia. It was really interesting to see the differences between Sweden and Finland and the United States. One of the things I found really interesting was that they don’t even start school till they are six or seven years old. There isn’t that pressure to learn and read as soon as possible, which is how it is in the U.S. in most cases. And even though they have a ‘late’ start, they catch up and actually according to some international tests surpass Americans. Also, the fact that their college tuition is free amazes me. I feel like that is how it should be here. Everyone should have the same opportunity to go to a great school, whether or not you can afford to go to college shouldn’t be a problem. Another thing that the U.S. really needs to learn from Scandinavia is the benefit of being outdoors, and being active. I love how kids are basically kicked outside to play, no matter the weather. I really liked the encouragement of maternity leave and even paternity leave in Scandinavia. That is how it should be here as well, because I know of many people who feel like they have to plan out when it is most convenient in their job to have a baby and are fearful that when they go on leave they won’t have a job to go back to.

I went to a small private school outside of Chicago, and they do some things very similar to how they do it Scandinavia. Even though I started school at the age of 3, we had lots of naps and play-time. We also started studying a foreign language at 3 years of age. We were also forced to take Latin and art classes throughout elementary and middle school.

I feel like overall, the U.S. has a lot to learn from the education systems in Scandinavia. And I agree with Alex, college should be free!

Carl Linnaeus and Finnish and Swedish Education

I found the lecture on Carl Linnaeus very interesting and informative, because I didn't know very much about him other than that I could recognize his name and associate it with taxonomy. I didn't realize how much of an impact his work had, and how much recognition he gained during his lifetime. It was neat to see all of the different plants and flowers and examine Linnaeus' life through what he saw and experienced during his travels and comparing it to those same places today and how he is honored throughout Sweden.

When we compared and discussed the Finnish and Swedish school system versus education in the United States, I realized I would have preferred to have gone to school in Finland or Sweden! The emphasis on learning for the sake of learning and fostering a natural sense of curiosity was definitely not a big part of my education as a kid. There was constant grading and expectations right off the bat, and interaction with nature/the outdoors was minimal, and decreased significantly until it ended with a final P.E. class in the beginning of Freshman year (highschool). I think many students under this system might have felt the way I felt, extremely stressed about grades and "doing well" and probably not getting enough exercise at school or at home as there was only time for homework and studying. I can also say that I don't feel like I learned anything that stuck with me, it was always a process that included memorizing everything for an exam, and erasing that knowledge and repeat the process. The Finnish and Swedish students seem to have gained a more cumulative and well rounded knowledge of many aspects of life. I really enjoy the outdoors and wish it had been more incorporated into my education and I really admire the Scandinavian emphasis on learning about nature and getting the opportunity to explore it freely!

Those Finns!

I first heard about the education in Scandinavia while on a bus in China. My friend explained to me that he had taken this ScandCiv class and loved it. The conversation went on to discuss education, civic, business, etc. It was truly a survey of the course. On that day, what he told me about the education system was most intriguing. The basics, such as, no focus on reading until age 7, outdoor pre-schools. and the encouraged parental leave. Fast-forward now, 2 months, I walk into the class on education.
I was surprised with the parental leave system in place. In the US, I don't feel our jobs are as connected with the gov as they are in Scan. The fact that you receive a stipend from the gov is mind-blowing and a great way to relieve the financial burden of your leave on the business. I was confused about how long this stipend lasts and if the child receives stipends? Heard a few different things in class so clarification would be great.
Growing up in Ann Arbor, I think our education system is different then most of the country, additionally i went to a private school from k-8th grade. In that setting, we had 40 kids in a grade that were always divided into two classes. I can see similarities in this setting. We always had a long recess, classes outside and projects to complete outside. We would often walk/run in the surrounding bush and in the winter go sledding and have snow-ball fights. So it was encouraging for me to know that I was schooled in a slightly unique way compared to the rest of the US.
Don't you think college should be free in the US!? Hearing that they are in Scand just makes me laugh. By having free schooling, the incentive to go to school is soo much greater. It affords students who are financial oppressed to have a very equal opportunity for advanced education. If the US made schooling free or substantially cheaper, I believe it would change our country and potentially the world in incomprehensible ways.


I was really interested and intrigued after the lecture on education. I think that it's marvelous that people can go to school for free, however, there is a cost (high taxes). I wonder what type of resources the universities have. When I visited universities in Greece, their libraries, and schools were very under-funded and it seemed as though that because it was being funded by the state the facilities were not as nice. However, they are also dealing with big time economic troubles, and many people don't pay the high taxes in Greece. Additionally, I was impressed that there is a school for everyone, and that everyone plays outside. I think it is a really nice model, and seems very foreign to the way the American school system is run today.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Norse Mythology Response- Matt

I've always loved Norse and Greek mythology. Beyond letting us peek into their cultures, both simply make for great short stories. I think they are very similar in many ways, but my favorite part about Norse mythology is that nearly all of them involve some kind of trickery. It's almost as if each time I read a new one, I'm just waiting for the trick to come, but they still amaze me every time. I also enjoy the symbolism that Maria pointed out. And, as I believe someone mentioned in class, a lot of the symbolism is very applicable today. The Gods tricking and taking advantage of the Giants is very similar to the relationship between modern day humans and nature. I really like having a guest speaker present in class and getting to hear another voice on their subject of expertise.

Response to Norse Mythology - Mackenzie

I have to agree with what Chris said. I think we all appreciate that Maria Gull came in to class to present and talk to us, and she had some really interesting things to share. I really enjoyed having a guest speaker, and think that the format will prove interesting throughout the semester.
I also found some comparisons between Norse mythology and Greek mythology, and found some similarities and differences between the two. I am taking a class on Greek civilization right now, so it is interesting to see how they correspond. I would say that one major difference is the role of women in society. Where in Norse mythology women played an important role, and could even engage in combat, in Greek mythology, besides for the goddesses, women were viewed as weak. I also agree with Emily and Sam's responses, finding it interesting to learn that the women were treated so well in both the norse myths, but also in their society. Women were respected, able to fight, and the king and queen ruled jointly. I think that the vikings were progressive in the rights of the people in their society, and it is interesting to think that the women in their society had so many rights, when women all over the world today still don't have those rights.

I found the whole presentation interesting and enjoyed learning all about norse mythology and the vikings.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Norse Mythology Response - Chris

First, I found it neat that Maria Gull took the time to visit our class and give us this presentation, it makes for a cool format and atmosphere in the class. Norse Mythology is something that I had no prior knowledge on, but I feel that it should help us all understand the history of Scandinavian civilization, and also allow us to better understand how Scandinavian civilization has evolved and changed since the days of the vikings.

I also found it neat to compare Norse mythology to Greek mythology, as they are both very revealing of their respective cultures and opinions on social identities such as gender. I am curious what similarities or differences people found between Norse mythology and Greek mythology???

Norse Mythology Lecture Response - Emily

As many of the previous responses noted, I was really surprised by how egalitarian Viking society was, particularly in allowing women to engage in fighting, or become powerful queens. Women's ability to elevate their status in society by being the only individuals able to contact the gods was also interesting. Women were respected in both myths, as they controlled death and the places people went after they died, and in their earthly roles. The female burial mounds, including boats, and many treasures were also good measures of how valuable some women were in Viking society. I thought the Viking gender equality was very progressive, especially considering it was over a thousand years ago and modern women in American and many other cultures lack the same liberty and respect; for example, American women are not allowed in many military combat situations. Overall, I thought Maria's lecture presented a lot of really unique information and that Viking history deserves more than just a brief mention in history classes, because of their engaging myths and the ways in which daily life mirrored them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Response to Norse Mythology - Sam

I found Maria’s lecture on Norse Mythology very informative, especially since I previously knew very little about the subject. Just as Dylan and Ben mentioned, I was really surprised at how important women’s roles were. They were allowed to step up and be seen as strong, and when there were no men in the house one of the women had to step up and become the man of the house. Many people in the community relied on these women who would come by and tell them their future and treated them very well because they were the ones in contact with the gods. I also liked the fact that the king and queen ruled jointly.

Another part that I found very interesting was the respect they had for nature. I think that the Scandinavian people at the time had a great outlook on nature; they were humbled and driven by the fact that they couldn’t battle against nature and win.

The other little fact that I really liked was that the whole idea of myths is to compete with missionaries.

Christine's Mythology Reaction

One of the things that stood out to me the most about Maria Gull's Norse Mythology lecture was the outlook of the Scandinavian people.  They were humbled by nature and the knowledge that every one will die, but instead of letting that be a hindrance to achievement, it was a motivation to do their best.  I thought this was a very wise thing to live by as a culture and it is prevalent in their successful conquests and innovations.

However, I did think that the idea of warriors dying in battle because they were the best fighters was a little counter-intuitive. Though I'm sure it was a comfort for the families of Viking warriors as well as a point of pride.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Norse Mythology Response

I think people have made a really good point about how Norse mythology reflected real life values. It's a very important source, it seems, for understanding their culture and the way they lived. What I find most interesting about their gender roles is not only that both genders merited equal power and respect, but also that these very roles were interchangeable, and in this sense did not even exist at all, because there appears to not have been a general definition of expected and socially accepted male and female societal roles and characteristics.

Introduction: Nina Randorf

Hello Everyone!

My name is Nina Randorf, a second year Civil and Environmental Engineering major. I hope to concentrate on construction management within my degree and work on field sites overseas. I took a gap year after high school and met so many people and made many new close friends from all over eastern Europe. I registered for this class a bit late because of a mix up with my degree requirements but, considering my background, I am a extremely happy to be able to take this course. I've spent a lot of time with East Asian studies and engineering so I'm looking forward to a change of topics! This is my very first (and last?) U Michigan humanity course, so I guess this experience will be bittersweet.

See you all Monday,