Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finland, Finland, Finland...

Linda Darling-Hammond has taken to various publications to talk about Finland's educational model.  She did so again in the fall in NEA Today.   While the article presents a great many ideas that US policy makers should take note of, and while many aspects bear further investigation (doctorate, here I come), one particular point jumped out at me, grabbed me by the ears, and started pounding me in the middle of the forehead.

     All students receive a free meal daily[...] (Darling-Hammond, 2010, par. 19.)

Imagine if we suggested something like that here.  No, really.  Think about it for a second.  Envision it.  Every student gets a meal.  You walk into school, you get lunch.  The ramifications are kind of staggering.

Start with the un-shaming of the free-and-reduced-lunch program.  You don't have to be ashamed of not paying for your food.  Nobody does.

Move on to lower-middle-class income families.  Parents who skimp on school lunch because they can't really afford it stop trying.  Their students eat a decent meal.

The upper-middle class families continue to send their students to school with lunches from home.  Sometimes, though, the students eat the school lunches, because for whatever reason they don't bring one.

Some parents talk about "charity," and how they won't accept it.  School officials and policy makers simply state that it is now the policy of X state to provide every student with a good, nutritious meal at no front-end cost.  Besides, the parents are still paying for it, just like they're paying for physical improvements to the school and teacher salaries.

Initially, a great deal of food is wasted as students who have never eaten school lunches before try them.  The issue of taste comes up at school board meetings.  At the same time, health-conscious parents take a closer look at the contents of school lunches.  This brings about a push for school lunch reform.  As a result, school lunch improves in nutritional value and tastiness.  This reform applies financial pressure to the companies that currently produce large amounts of, let's say, pre-packaged cinnamon rice.  This, of course, doesn't happen everywhere at the same time, and it happens last in urban districts with high levels of poverty, where most students are already receiving free and reduced lunch.

I once had a student from Finland in one of my Spanish classes. I told her there was a song about Finland.  She didn't think it was funny.

Also, no mention of school lunches.

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