This Is How Scandinavia Got Great

The power of educating the whole person.

Comments: 270

  1. I admire everything about the Nordic model, including their strong commitment to education. This is why I support Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. I support Warren because of her emphasis on improving public education and her pledge to appoint someone who was a public school teacher as head of the Department of Education. My second choice is Bernie Sanders because he wants to improve our economy in part to mirror the success of these countries. I take it by this glowing overview of how the Nordic countries best us in so many ways, including education, that David Brooks will be voting for one or the other of these great candidates himself in the NY primary.

  2. @avrds The world must learn to unite in order to combat climate change. We are all in this together. The US adopting the Nordic educational model would certainly be a step in the right direction. It also wouldn't hurt in developing empathy for universal health care in America.

  3. @avrds I support public education too, which is why I would never put a public school teacher in charge. Teachers are deeply wedded to the existing system; our system needs to change. Our public education system is failing our children as it directs them to "University for All", only to see 70% of them fail to get a bachelors degree. What's more, we have plenty of people getting bachelor's degrees, more than we need. Sweden, Germany, and other Nordic countries strive to teach useful skills to their young people so that they will be worth paying high wage rates; they have apprentice programs. Their teachers are not all liberal arts majors who have never learned any useful skills to pass on to their students. We need to wrest control of our public schools away from the teaching establishment. Sweden, by the way, has a school choice program that allows parents to use a voucher to choose from many different school programs, run by many different organizations, only one of which is the government. That's the kind of 21st century Democratic Socialism I can get behind.

  4. @Tom Meadowcroft/ Swedish vouchers are not at all like vouchers in America. Private schools have to teach the national curriculum and are held to the same standards as the public system.

  5. The flip side is our current United States, where we refuse to invest in the education and health care of our young.

  6. @Wayne Doleski It's difficult to overcome the lack of value that education, or any investment for that matter, has in many American communities.

  7. @Wayne Doleski The US is among the highest spending nations in the world in terms of educational spending per student. We may not be getting value for our money, but the amount of spending is not the issue.

  8. @Jared I'm not sure where you got that information. If you refer to page 258 of the OECD 2018 report and specifically to the table titled "Total expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP" you will find that the following countries spend more than we do, as a percentage of GDP, which is a good measure of how much a country values education: Norway, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Columbia (yeah, seriously), Chile, Israel, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Korea, Belgium, Finland, Mexico (which way should the wall face, actually?), Sweden, Portugal, France, and Brazil. We did spend more than Lithuania, Austria, Estonia ... That's what the data says, anyway.

  9. It's the immigration. Scandinavian nations have generally had no more than a 3% per decade increase in population over each decade since the mid-1960s. For example, Denmark has never had an increase of more than 1% a year since that time, and in most cases less than 1/2% per year. Also, they're monocultures. You can do a lot with countries with educated populations that are monocultures that manage their immigration. Sweden has mucked around with this model in recent years, and seen a massive loss of social capital and rising antisemitism in its immigrants. Here are the popuation figures for Denmark.

  10. @Snowball And that comparison complety fails to even tie the two together. That argument is so ridiculous that I never got an answer how having a multicultural nation prevents having a good education system that is not just about producing drones. That's coming from a multicultural nation with very, very good grades and social mobility (although not on a level of Scandinavian success).

  11. @Snowball OK ... but there has indeed been immigration to the Nordic countries as of late. How do they respond? With 200-page studies by the Nordic Council of Ministers with analysis and suggestions how to integrate immigrants into their labor markets. How do we respond? Well, just listen to the likes of Steven Miller. If we, as a nation, could understand the net benefit that immigration has had on our country (well, let's say the economic engine - let's leave out the effect it has had on the environment for the moment), starting with the people who showed up here from England in the 1600's and 1700's to the people who showed up here in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the people who showed up here in the late 20th centuries, and maybe if we had initiated policies to help them in their quest to become Americans throughout those periods - then maybe we would be a much stronger, happier, and educated nation than we are now. It's not too late. We can make a change for the better by voting in November for a candidate that believes in education - even for immigrants.

  12. @Snowball Being ethnically homogeneous does not necessarily guarantee cultural cohesion. You've missed that David's article details the work the Nordic countries undertake to ensure it's adequate despite differences of locality, occupation, wealth etcetera. Their citizens aren't all close relations, living in the same village, with the same simple form-of-life and narrow interests. They're free, modern and complex societies of flawed and individual human beings like here and in the US, not utopias, but bound together more harmoniously than we are.

  13. Congratulations David Brooks. From your Second Mountain, the world is much different. I too admire the culture of my ancestors and hungry to learn more in what time I have left on Mother Earth. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  14. So many of my students think that the degree or evidence of completion will be all they want or need. It is hard to convince people there is a better way to educate. Educate the whole person and not just their day jobs.

  15. The Catholic education model here is likely the best (even when the catechism is removed). It's because they repeat and build on basic essentials: phonics, grammar, math, geography, civics...all the subjects that have been rerouted under the new regimes. And most importantly, completing projects completely and on-time. We just don't have this here broadly enough.

  16. Any homogeneous society will have an easier time keeping its cultural/educational values intact. I lived in Denmark and Sweden for 10 years and while there is much to admire, one needs to remember that a) These are small still relatively homogeneous countries, which by the way do not tolerate different cultural attitudes very well. They may talk a good line, but when it comes down to it, they are just as racist/xenophobic as anywhere else.It just comes out in different ways ie: freezing people out socially, as well as in work situations. I spoke the language well, and had an excellent job, but found their mindset to be intolerably provincial which is why I left.My expat friends tell me it is still the same. The Nordic model is good in some admirable respects, but there is always a price to pay. Either mentally, societally or in their somewhat infantile and uninformed personal worldview. Big brother is alive and well, psychologically, culturally and informationally.

  17. @GT Maybe, but the article was about how they value education. We simply do not. On page 258 of the OECD report, the US is below not only all of the Nordic countries in terms of education investment per GDP, but below Columbia, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico. We just don't value education.

  18. @GT I m a Dane who immigrated to the US when I was in my thirties. I visit family and friends in Denmark every year and so feel reasonably informed about developments after the mid 1970s when I left. I agree with GT that Scandinavia has struggled with integration first of the guest workers, and more recently with the influx of immigrant from far flung countries and cultures. I also agree that a certain reactionary and bigoted attitude has won votes in parliament. This said, I do take issue with GS's blanket generalizations and characterizations of ALL Danes as "just a xenophobic/racist as anywhere else" and Danes having a "mindset that is --- intolerably provincial ...infantile and uninformed....". Such strong statements require data to be believable. What is GS's data source? If there is none, I deplore my fellow citizen's ungracious and unsubstantiated denigration of an entire culture.

  19. @GT Please elaborate on what you term "their somewhat infantile and uninformed personal worldview". That sounds like what our current occupant of the White House possesses.

  20. Let's extend publicly funded education from the high school level to the college level. In the 19th century, many people only went to school until the 8th grade. Later, having just a high school diploma was enough as millions were able to find gainful employment after high school. Now, as the world has gotten more advanced and the need for greater skills is a must in a competitive global economy, we should, as a society, invest in our children, our future. Publicly funded college would only cost about $70 billion a year. We just gave Trump and EXTRA $133 billion for military spending. The money is obviously there, we are just choosing to spend it on the wrong thing. Think of the savings for parents and students to have that extra money in their pocket to spend on a house, to start a family, to retire sooner or more securely. Why we do what we do and make our lives harder and more miserable when other countries have figured this out is a mystery to me. Some people would say it's the American way. Freedom. I don't think crushing debt and a lack of education is freedom. It's just the opposite.

  21. @FXQ : Definitely. Right-wingers moan about "out-of-control government spending" and claim that "our country is broke" when it comes to anything that might improve the lives of average Americans, but then they turn right around and act as if military expenditures are paid for with cereal box tops.

  22. Have spent the last month visiting the nordic countries. What stood out to me from visiting museums was historical wealth accumulated from centuries of earlier wars and spoils resulting from that. Wealth moved from the ruler to the protectors (military) and the surrounding upper class. Democracy and social welfare comes later - relatively recent history.

  23. Scandinavia didn't get great; it is great. It is great because it is Scandinavia.

  24. That’s it. That’s why Bernie Sanders wants to emulate the Nordic model but you keep mischaracterizing him, sadly.

  25. @Jackson Bernie does not "only praise Cuba." Where did you hear that lie?

  26. Sweden has a great view and system in place for educating their citizens. But their population is the same as Los Angeles County with 10.2 million. The majority of Sweden are Swedes, well over 90%. We're a nation of immigrants with a population of 325 million. I'm not sure if David is advocating the U.S. fashion it's society and educational structure after Sweden, but if so, where to start? Good or bad, the U.S. for it's size is unique in its demographic makeup. We represent the world, we're not Swedes, we're German, Somalia, Samoan, Columbian, we're everyone. We're not just one tribe, or a few, our tribes surround the globe. Of course if we replaced Trump, we could at least funnel some more funds into our sorely lacking public education.

  27. @cherrylog754 And even within Los Angeles County Beverly Hills spends about 50% more per student than Compton. The way we finance schools (and health care for that matter) is designed to perpetuate inequality.

  28. @cherrylog754 I think I would start with hiring some people to run our country that could approach the fact that we are nation of immigrants intelligently, and instead of vilifying the immigrants in a xenophobic way, and seek to oust them at every opportunity. The Nordic Council of Ministers issued a report last year titled "Integrating Immigrants into the Nordic Labour Markets." 200 excellent pages. That's their approach. And they issued it because due to the recent humanitarian crisis from the middle east, the Nordic countries are a lot less homogeneous than they were just a decade ago. We can only imagine what Steven Miller's position would be on such a topic. I shudder to think of it. As you say, replacing Trump would most certainly be a step in the right direction.

  29. @cherrylog754 If your hypothesis has merit, then why aren't our most homogenous communities and states the ones with highest educational scores? Why aren't places like New Hampshire, West Virginia, Iowa, Idaho, and Wyoming the states known for overwhelmingly brilliant students?

  30. Sweden has a great view and system in place for educating their citizens. But their population is the same as Los Angeles County with 10.2 million. The majority of Sweden are Swedes, well over 90%. We're a nation of immigrants with a population of 325 million. I'm not sure if David is advocating the U.S. fashion it's society and educational structure after Sweden, but if so, where to start? Good or bad, the U.S. for it's size is unique in its demographic makeup. We represent the world, we're not Swedes, we're German, Somalia, Samoan, Columbian, we're everyone. We're not just one tribe, or a few, our tribes surround the globe. Of course if we replaced Trump, we could at least funnel some more funds into our sorely lacking public education.

  31. Think this is possible because these countries don’t waste resources on things like building walls along their borders or spend 12 times the next nearest country on military “preparedness”? A little re-evaluation of our priorities would go a long way toward improving social benefits!

  32. @Bud Griswold - Right for example the perfectly smooth highways on which my 21st Century Bus4You is rolling as it takes me across Sweden this morning. Or the city-wide renewable energy system that right now is delivering water at 80 C to every building in Linköping, one of them my home. World's most adanced system for using solid waste as fuel and biowaste to make biogas that the city buses run on. More @ Citizen US SE

  33. @Bud Griswold : Traveling in Norway with Norwegian relatives a few years ago, I couldn't help contrasting their utterly smooth roads with the cracked and potholed roads we have in the U.S. (The worst I have ever seen, by the way, are in the New York City area. What is that wealthy city spending its money on?) Here in Minnesota, state officials blame the winters for the cracks and potholes, but Scandinavian countries have winter, too. Perhaps they place a greater priority on keeping their basic infrastructure (including transit systems and bicycle facilities that make it unnecessary to own a car in the major cities) in good working order than in maintaining and even fattening up the world's largest (and most ineffective--hasn't actually won a war since 1945) military establishment.

  34. @Jackson let’s be honest, the US has wanted to be the world’s military leader. With 800 bases in 70 countries, ‘protecting’ Scandinavia is insignificant in your country’s military quest. And yes I know, we Canadians also depend on the US for protection given we don’t spend enough on our military. But at the end of the day, if Canada and Scandinavia increased its military to a much greater extent, would the US cut back on its spending? I doubt it.

  35. Any nation that affords its people a stellar education and universal healthcare is going to be better off than its competitors. Foster that with no great wish to be a big global player, and the travails that go along with it, and you have a freedom and happiness unknown to Americans. Example: The biggest necessity for Americans when looking for a new job is healthcare. In that, many choose to keep their existing jobs rather than to move and find something better, or perhaps do something entrepreneurial - you know, the smaller businesses that start and grow, break monopolies, and keep countries competitive. Then, of course, is the lack of debt that Scandinavians start out with, enabling them to buy homes earlier and be happy with less stress; and therefore healthier. It's a joke that Americans still cannot grasp what socialism is and what is isn't. Universal healthcare and education is not socialism because people pay into it and it benefits everyone. American corporate tax breaks, however, are socialism because that takes money away from the people for no benefit to the people. The opposite, in fact, it directly harms the people financially, and demands that higher taxes be paid locally to pay for roads and infrastructure when federal funds are cut. Did all this come from education? Nope, it came from basic common-sense. The better education is a by-product of that common-sense.

  36. @James Devlin I second everything my fellow Montanan said. And there's another benefit from investing in a country's people rather than putting more money in the pockets of the rich. Quality education means that you have a better informed electorate, one that can make good decisions about their lives and about the future. There is nothing radical about wanting a healthy and educated citizenry. Indeed, it is radical to want to limit their access to those basic human rights.

  37. @James Devlin Thank you so much for pointing out what seems so obvious. One of the key reasons that single payer health care is universally decried by the corporate class as "socialism" is to control workers with families. The level of entrepreneurial talent that is being "locked up" in corporate offices is staggering. There is a reason that wages do not seem to rise even in times of low unemployment, you are being paid in a currency that you have no way to obtain.

  38. @James Devlin Excellent post - please run for city council or beyond up there in Montana and spread that common sense to the voters of your great state!

  39. "But Nordic nations were ethnically homogeneous in 1800, when they were dirt poor." This is the biggest red herring of all. Japan is a very homogeneous society. So is North Korea. Homogeneity is not a guarantee of anything. Nor is being a small country. In America the attitude has been one of gluttony when it comes to money and wealth. Them that have don't want to share or to help. Leona Helmsley said it best: We don't pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes ... If only little people pay taxes there will not be enough to go around to improve the country. That attitude needs to change at the very top and it hasn't. In fact we have a president and a party in charge that are doing everything possible to keep the wealth with the wealthy while cutting social safety net programs that can and do help a lot people. I'd like to see our country change its attitude towards corporate welfare and welfare for the rich. They don't need it. We do. We need to provide for all our citizens and residents rather than for some. It's time to stop playing the games we play when it comes to throwing around the words elites, undeserving poor, welfare queens, etc. Those words define nothing but do obscure the real problems. 2/13/2020 8:29pm first submit

  40. @hen3ry Indeed. I just checked with my accountant, and she informs me that I paid more for my Amazon Prime subscription in 2018 than Amazon themselves paid in taxes. I know it sounds crazy, but I would happily pay double for Amazon Prime if they could be persuaded to actually pay their fair share of taxes. But somehow I don't think Jeff B is listening to that line of thought.

  41. @hen3ry -- you wrote: "In America the attitude has been one of gluttony when it comes to money and wealth." Excellent comment and excellent points all the way through. Wish I could hit "recommend" over & over & over again.

  42. @hen3ry Actually, I think homogeneity likely plays a role in this philosophy. When the people are homogeneous, there is less of a desire to "get yours and fence the others out" like there is here, as manifested in gated communities and the Republican party. I'd be interested to hear about how the Swedes, for example, view the recent large influx of immigrants in the context of their Nordic model.

  43. David Brooks is now an expert on Nordic history, social systems and educational models? This is absurd. Additionally, free education is 'Welfare' and a core component of any 'welfare state'. So glad David supports increased welfare systems in the US. So clearly he must support student loan forgiveness and free college education. Next he will advocate voting for Bernie.

  44. @Steve Wow, Steve. Tone down the rhetoric would you? Brooks doesn't make any claim about being an "expert", so you have no justification for claiming so other than in an attempt to mislead readers to further your own argument. IMHO, a huge contributor to the success of haters like Trump and his sycophants (i.e. The Republican Party) is that there are so many people in this country who are not educated, so they're often easily confused by arguments such as yours. Additionally, the immense adverse impact of student loans on our economy is undeniable and dealing with the problem is of paramount importance - even if it means finding a way to forgive all student debt.

  45. The countries mentioned didn't strive to make empires in the 19th century the way we did. They didn't exploit slaves, women and native peoples in order to build themselves up at the expense of others either.

  46. That is simply not true. Sweden and Denmark both have long histories of this.

  47. @DaveD And how is that supposed to prevent building a system such as this? Cultural bloodlust? Craven non-sequitur here...

  48. As admirable as the Scandinavian success story is,it's just so much easier to achieve in a basically homogeneous society with a common culture, common values and identity than the very heterogeneous country that the USA is.

  49. @Susan Except many countries with a large variations in ethnicity manage well enough to nag at scandinavian models in education. It's basically a cop-out to claim variation is preventing this; especially when the crux of the article states that kind of learning supercharge differences into a more well-rounded individual. You are practically calling it quits before even trying.

  50. @Susan With Canada having the most educated populace in the world, and student learning outcomes equal to or exceeding those of the Nordic nations, your excuse for the U.S.’s failure to keep up is illegitimate. Canada is as, or is more, heterogeneous than the U.S. Stop making excuses!

  51. @François I don't know what people who say our ethnic diversity is an obstacle to high quality education possibly can mean. Is it that schools that practice equality will be firebombed by racists or accused of communism as happened from time to time to the racially integrated Folk Schools of the American South, perhaps?

  52. Nordic education was greatly influenced by the theories of N. F. S. Grundtvig, a 19th C Danish pastor who believed in education for life (including adult education) and founded the Folk School Movement, which emphasized practical skills, and the arts, such as writing and performing plays, and choral singing. At the turn of the last century the movement took hold in the American South, where labor organizing was emphasized, as well as voter registration among other citizen skills. Two important figures who attended the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee were Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King. The song, "We Shall Overcome" originated from there. Lee Hays, later of the folk group The Weavers, attended a folk school in Arkansas, Commonwealth College, if I recall correctly. The Grundtvig programme is the name of the Lifelong Learning Program of the European Union.

  53. The problem in our public education system is that our now decades-long emphasis on a deficit model in our children has led to an extreme test-driven culture which harms children’s spirits and sense of self and community and limits their creative energy and agency. All children deserve the humanistic approach as described here that Scandinavian countries provide, and all children would thrive in it.

  54. This is nuts. I'm agreeing with David Brooks with increasing frequency. Although, as a speaker of German as a second language, I can't entirely agree on the connotations Mr Brooks ascribes to 'die Bildung'. Some posters here claim the US spends a great deal on education. Rubbish. We rank 65th in terms of education spending as a percent of GDP, according to one relatively comprehensive, but not entirely apples-to-apples, source: OTOH, Germany -- which has many of the same positive attributes of the Scandinavian nations relative to education, while also being more diverse ethnically -- spends less than the US per unit GDP. And, many small nations (including Cuba) spend substantially more than Scandinavian. So, spending per se is not the entire story.

  55. @Albert K Henning Bildung may be a German word, but the German public schools are nothing like the Scandinavian ones. They still have tracking after the 4th grade (about 10 years of age), based on teacher evaluation without any standard testing - and this tracking follows a child on a lifelong basis - determining his or her social contacts and profession. Grading is very arbitrary, there are no substitute teachers which can lead to something as important as math being left out in the 9th grade when algebra is quite important, and, and, and.... While the public schools here have been dumbed down and degraded, there are still teachers out there who greet all the children with a friendly good morning and don't bang on a desk shouting "order"!! I know, we emigrated to get our sons out of the German system.

  56. @Albert K Henning Your chart is great! Spending as a percentage of GDP seems not very useful. Cuba and Micronesia rank 1 and 2. Norway is the highest ranking Nordic country, falling just behind Djibouti and Namibia but ahead of Botswana! Rubbish! A better metric is how much countries actually spend on students. Try this source: It shows the US typically ranks in top 5, often ahead of Nordics (it separates primary, secondary, etc or adds them up). No, the US spends a lot on education by any standard.

  57. Mr. Brooks needs to read "The Nordic Theory of Everything" by Any Partanen (reviewed in these pages on 7/19/16). Parental leave, subsidized daycare, lots of creative play instead of academic drills until school really starts at age 7, a robust exposure to nature year-round, and a teaching profession which is honored and compensated. This is how the "whole child" is nurtured.

  58. @lee4713 A teaching profession which is honored and compensated AND the autonomy to conduct their own classes. Not micromanaged imposed course plans.

  59. @Anthony Maybe it's different in the other nordic countries, but here in Sweden I don't think a majority of the teachers would agree with that statement. There has been a lot of debate the last 15 years or something, about the state of the teacher profession, how it is not as respected as it used to be and how the course plans have become too comprehensive and resrtricting. So yeah, it's not that categorical.

  60. @David Interesting about Sweden. I was basing my comments on some things I read about Finland and some of their high rankings in student performance

  61. Tired of Scandinavian countries touted as model of development for rest of the world Scandinavian countries are sparsely populated mostly homogeneous countries which rely on export driven economy to bigger countries The education level of its educated population is geared to production of export driven economy The model is not applicable to huge countries with diverse populations with mega cities Some of the mega cities of the world have more population than individual Scandinavian countries No discourse of Scandinavian liberalism is complete without its active discrimination against its indigenous Sami people and difficulties of assimilation of Brown and black immigrants. Sweden in particular has played a dubious role in corruption scandals involving Bofors artillery guns leading to political fallout of ruling Congress party in 80’. At best ,Scandinavia is example for small homogeneous countries with populations less than 10 million but not for huge diverse counties with mega cities

  62. @Azad The point is simply that the United States does not value education as much as it values things like defense spending. And please don't trot out the myth that the world is asking for us to be their policeman. The only reason why we are spending more than $700 Billion on defense is because our politicians will ensure that defense contracts are rewarded so the defense contractors will continue to reward them. Look at the OECD report on how countries fund education as a percentage of their GDP - we are below Chile, Mexico, Brazil, and Columbia - for starters. This is not because our country is so huge and diverse with large cities - Mexico city has more people than any of our cities. It's because we don't value education. Something that is patently obvious and which has led to a leader like Donald Trump, and a party like the Republicans to support him.

  63. @O : percent of GDP is a ridiculous measure of education dollars! We spend MORE per child than almost every other nation -- more than $21,000! My little inner ring suburb is now spending $27,000 per child! What would be enough for you? $100,000 per child?

  64. "But Nordic nations were ethnically homogeneous in 1800, when they were dirt poor. Their economic growth took off just after 1870, way before their welfare states were established. What really launched the Nordic nations was generations of phenomenal educational policy." The educational model is certainly important, but I would argue that ethnic homogeneity does have a lot to do with Nordic success. Consider the classroom photo. What really sticks out? Everyone is white and has blond hair. Iceland is an even better example. Phonebooks list people simply by first name. That's because everyone is essentially related to everybody else. That means the entire country is basically one big "family." In the US we stress the importance of family. But what does that really mean? Does it essentially mean one's immediate relatives? For most people, I think the answer to that is yes. And that creates an insular society with an us-versus-them mentality. It becomes the family unit against all the "others." America is such a vast melting pot that it's not surprising we have developed such a society, as a defense mechanism against the "trauma" of diversity. We hail the virtues of diversity (and rightly so), but it takes real effort to make it work productively. We must first acknowledge that the US and Nordic countries are fundamentally different before we can truly determine how to properly learn from the Nordic educational system.

  65. American schools reward superstar performers. America's education system as a whole may have less quality, but only because American initiative awards those who can motivate themselves to study and produce breakthroughs. Whether this system is sustainable longterm is anybody's guess. Bernie Sanders wants American education to help motivate everyone to be a learner through equalizing access to higher education. It would be something if more people realized they could be the future ideators of the world. So many either give up early or can't afford school that we may never know exactly how they can change the world.

  66. Our President actively promotes distrust. You can't have the social cohesion found in the Nordic countries if leaders sow discord. And if the principal goal of a nation's leaders is to reduce taxes, thereby starving social institutions such as public education, you don't have the conditions that allow working people to thrive. We may be the wealthiest nation in history, but our values are impoverished by people like Donald Trump.

  67. Schools in the US train children to do what they don't what to do by rewarding them for not doing what they do want to do. Then, the adults they produce are able to do what they don't want to do and to not want to do what they had forgotten they did want to do. This I know, for I was a public school teacher and had to stick to a curriculum that stressed the things the students should have wanted to learn and turned them away from the things they were really interested in learning about because it wasn't on the test. Then I retired. Retired, I learned that I had been successful at doing things I didn't really want to do by turning against the things I had wanted to do. That's no way to build a democracy because it's no way to build a person.

  68. @Max Shapiro To clarify: The value of "the whole person" in education is found in the Declaration of Independence, where each person is not a means to another person's ends (equality) and freedom from the pursuit of property is the freedom needed to secure democracy and happiness. What schools in America teach is how to be the means for somebody else's ends (education as a means for attaining employment, not developing the freedom of imagination for entrepreneurship) that defines the course of life as the pursuit of property, not happiness, as Jefferson had written. When education is to meet the demands of a test, children are reduced to the means for the ends of a school system. Teachers, by teaching this way, subvert the essential meaning of what it means to be American. Governments that go after power turn individuals into means and deny them the respect of being ends in and of themselves. School systems that teach impressionable children that being the best possible means for another's ends only further corrupt the anti-democratic forces that the power greedy government abuses us with. Scandinavian culture is one where each individual humbles themselves to the value of the pursuit of happiness, not the pursuit of property. The feel pride in working toward the pursuit of that goal. The pride in pursuing property is in successfully diminishing one's neighbor's property. That's American pride.

  69. Thank you Mr. Brooks. I have been an educator in the state of Arizona for my entire 23 year career. Collectively, this nation is letting down its young people for decades with the attack on public education. In the era of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education, we should be realizing that America's wealth elite have been attempting to dismantle public education. Why? They want to eliminate that which tries to level the playing field. In addition, regulations that rely on a single measurement as the measure of how well students are being educated has forced teachers to abandon practices that educate the whole student. I implore everyone, starting with those who read this comment, to engage in civic action to save what could be the greatest single institution the world has every known, American Public Education, by electing pro-education candidates at all levels of government and then holding them accountable by making sure they live up to their promises to today's children and tomorrow's.

  70. @Peter M Blankfield. I agree as to what you implore but citing American Public Education as what "could be the greatest single institution the world has ever known" is American exceptionalism again and hubris. The sort of thing that makes much of the rest of the world privately roll eyes, just as with the claim that "the US is the greatest democracy on earth". Does a person with a reasonable education in the many nuances of our past and present world ever need to boast that my country is better and best?

  71. @Fisherose you are correct that I am demonstrating hubris. I apologize if my passion for what I do comes off as a bit egotistical, but please note public education has been part of the culture of this country since the Puritans passed the first public education legislation in the late 1630s. Maryland followed suit in 1649 and most of the other Northern colonies by the early 1700s. In addition, The Land Ordinance of 1785 made sure that every township that was laid out contain two grid-square design for the public good: one for a school and the other for a church. Furthermore, the better life that immigrants have come to this country for for generations has included the educational opportunities that existed for them and their child. Finally, it remains a reason people still wish to come to the United States. So, I guess I am arguing that there is historical evidence to support my hubris, at least a little bit.

  72. @Fisherose You are right to criticize any and all comments that attempt to extoll America's exceptionalism. However, historically America has nearly a 400 year history of free public education, which only challenged by a few nations across the global, with China being one. In addition, I concede that our system is not what it use to be. My argument targets the indifference Americans show for this tradition and to inspire as many people as possible to give the institution the respect and support that it truly deserves. As to your comment about the greatest democracy in the world, America has never truly been a democracy, so anyone of my fellow citizens who make that claim are woefully misinformed. America has been an oligarchy since Hamilton and Madison included the Electoral College as an element of our governmental/political structure. Until we as a nation move to one man, one vote-eliminating the Electoral College, I do not believe that we are a democracy. At best, we are a republic that serves only a small minority who hide behind a facade they call "The World's Greatest Democracy." Finally, I appreciate the discourse that your comment has initiated and hope that a reply is in the offing. Thanks! Peace Love and Harmony from Tucson.

  73. Well half of Norwegians (several of my great great grand parents included) and a good portion of Swedes and Danes left their homelands because there were no opportunities. So I'm not sure i'm completely buying this story line. Seems like a nice fantasy as we continue trying to make Scandinavia into some sort of utopia. Look at their politics closely, the are fragmenting as a society today as well.

  74. @GermanMajor the migration was primarily due to lack of food and only having one short growing season. After the famine 1867, the region was living with lingering starvation for 30-40 years that only changed with better technology and better weather. Two years of bad weather often meant you were doomed.

  75. That's the whole point. They were poor countries with limited opportunities despite being quite homogeneous, but they was able to turn things around and became more diverse, more rich and provide more opportunities for their citizens

  76. Are you seriously suggesting Norway, say, of 100 years ago tells us anything useful about Norway today?

  77. Funny. I had dinner with a Dane last night and he said the secret to Danish happiness is this: they have low expectations so they are always pleasantly surprised. ;)

  78. "... the secret to Danish happiness is this: they have low expectations so they are always pleasantly surprised. ;)" In America aspirations are conditioned by our culture and politics to value moderation - actual and political moderation. We seethe political moderation rather than aspire. Aren't we happy!

  79. Well, you could say that Americans have high expectations. Isn't that not what propels the "American Dream". Once the dream turns into a nightmare, then you are just left with an angry American.

  80. Remember to disregard the callous sophistry that states, somehow, not being ethnically pure prevents any and all common sense about building a good education system backed with robust, efficients tax code and government entities to make it work. Scandinavian countries also have a history of colonialism and violence. That did not prevent them to grow past it either. And so does having a larger population does not prevent having such a system. All else being equal, it means a larger tax pool and a bigger melting pot of ideas to prevent stagnation of culture. If guidelines are the same, you can reproduce it even in a federalistic society (as many other countries have).

  81. One wonders how persons with Down Syndrome, and their loved ones who live with them, feel about the society of Denmark. I suspect that "great" is not a word that leaps to mind.

  82. Could you please elaborate.

  83. @BR A very odd comment. Do you know something untoward about the way the Danes treat those who are physically or mentally challenged?!

  84. What is the budget for war in these Nordic countries? My guess is it is insignificant to the amount spent on education and healthcare and social services. America has spent the last 70 years since the end of World War II building empire and fighting wars over oil. Enough with endless war. Time to invest in our children. Time for repairing our world. I'm voting for Bernie.

  85. @Innisfree It is funny/sad how often Brooks espouses Bernie's beliefs, yet fails to make the connection. NotMeUs

  86. @Innisfree the Scandinavian countries and others can afford not to have a defense budget because we are in essence keeping the entire free world free. See how many tyrannies develop if we abandon this duty.

  87. Though not necessarily Scandinavian, Erik Erikson anyone?

  88. The "bildung" that Brooks seems to admire so much seems part and parcel with a sense of national identity, something that we've never had in the US apart from "try to get rich". Or if we did have it, it's been torn to pieces by identity politics and historical grievances. Homogeneity is, let's face it, good for nations. People have a stake and are willing to chip in because they all share a similar set of morals or traditions. The US is too large and too fragmented to ever achieve anything approaching the Nordic model these days.

  89. Then split up the United States into smaller countries, e.g. Texas, New England/New York, California/Oregon/Washington, etc.

  90. Are you saying that the US has no values? So, all this talk about 'American values' is nothing but empty chat?

  91. I would agree with David Brooks that there is much to admire in the bildung concept that promotes such levels of interpersonal responsibility and connectedness. But as is hinted early on in the column, it's a lot easier to do that with an ethnoculturally homogeneous population. Humans are still tribal after all these years, and it's a lot easier to say "we are all responsible" when there are also not a lot of opportunities to say "not one of us". And it is no accident that Sweden and Denmark in particular, in the aftermath of increased immigration of those who come from different cultural backgrounds, are having somewhat more problems with social cohesion and shared sense of mission and purpose than they used to.

  92. One thing I believe is often overlooked when talking about the success of Scandinavia, and Europe in general, is the fact that for most countries, a large defense budget is unheard of. Why? Because America has been responsible for their protection for decades. When a country doesn't waste time on things like war, it can advance in other, more important categories. What makes it difficult for we as Americans to follow their model is that we dedicate much of our money to the military, including the defense of these nations. I'd be curious to see where we'd all be if America had invested more in Americans, rather than the defense of our allies.

  93. @Christopher Loonam I believe that the expectation that American is the word's policeman ended long ago. We do not spend $700+ Billion on our defense because Denmark is asking us to defend them. We spend $700 Billion on defense because all of our politicians - and I believe a fair number of Democrats fall into this category - are beholden to the defense contractors who are enriched by this budget. How else to explain this last budget by Trump? He is the person who promised to look out for the little guy and "get us out of endless wars." $718 Billion dollars is what he wants now - and billions and billions in cuts to social programs. He is also the guy who is constantly whining that European countries aren't paying enough for their own defense. Why is he asking so much, then, for our defense? Hasn't be been successful in pushing back on them? Has he failed? Is that why he wants so much more now?"

  94. @Christopher Loonam I hope you read the reply to your comment by O. It's not the Europeans and your other allies that keep your defence spending so high. I think it's so funny that Trump urges the Europeans to increase their defence spending to 2% of GDP when if the US reduced its defence spending to 2% of GDP that would give them every incentive to heed his request wouldn't it? Currently US spending is at 3.2% of GDP I believe. Personally I think the US alone spending more than double what Russia and China spend combined is insane. Of course, if you include the spending of your committed allies alongside US spending then even that seems crazily excessive. Currently you spend alone more than 3.2 times what Russia and China spend combined (according to some judges anyway).

  95. @Christopher Loonam Oh, please I live in Canada member of NATO and the European countries pay their share. Did they cause the Vietnam War of which I was apart, back Saddam Hussein, invade other countries like in Central and South America. Invade Iraq for no real reason. So most of the military the US pays for has nothing to do with protecting everyone else. It has to do with the arms industry here, greed and taking something when someone stands up to us. This nonsense argument grows tiring. Jim Trautman

  96. I lived and worked in Norway for a few years in the '70s, and I found many admirable things about the country and its people. But the idealized portrait presented here does not correspond with anything I experienced. Such unbalanced portraits fail to do justice to other countries or to Americans trying to understand the realities of foreign cultures.

  97. @William I am also looking for balance, but apart from the fact that David is giving us a cumulative portrait over time and you are recalling your experience of 40+ years ago, you have an abstract response -- without any counter substance provided. Would you care to elaborate with some specific, solid examples from your experience to lend a corrective symmetry to David's essay and show us why they might still be relevant?

  98. Love how Brooks extols the virtues of Nordic countries while at the same time he reflexively remains blindly faithful to the abstract conservative dogma that has driven America in exactly the opposite direction of these countries he loves so much. Reminds me of the robber barons marveling at the tremendous productivity of their Chinese workers while snickering at the idea that they should enjoy equal rights; like we used to say, I love my sister, but obviously women shouldn't have the vote. Just common sense cognitive dissonance, seeing the truth, but being unable to recognize it because of preconceived notions.

  99. There is no disputing this essay. But I am going to go a little further. The education of the "whole" person begins during early childhood. We speak of our elementary, high school, and college educations, but we must not overlook that crucial age between 0 and 5 years, pre-K. The Scandinavian countries, and I would also like to include the Netherlands, have provided the resources for parents to afford the social as well as the academic tools crucial toward the growth toward maturity, to becoming responsible and capable adults with the knowledge of right and wrong, what is ethical and what is not. Our nation is failing miserably in providing for our future generations, and I include accessible and affordable health care as well as assuaging the ominous and man-made global warming phenomenon. It is hard not to bring politics into this conversation. But I will say what needs to be said: This Trumpian Era must end. We can not emulate our partners across the Atlantic if we do not give ourselves the chance to do so. And right now, it is but a fantasy with Mr. Trump at the helm.

  100. @Kathy Lollock I agree. Unfortunately, the continuum of educating the whole person in lower grades ceases to exist starting around 6th grade due to the ridiculous regulations that measure learning on one data point.

  101. @Kathy Lollock I find your comment very well worded. Sixty years ago the school board in our city expressed the goal of public education as being to teach citizenship. The schooling started by teaching the young child to function in a kindergarten. Through the years of schooling the citizenship world of the student was enlarged to teach the student skills for working in larger groups. By the time students completed high school, they were considered ready to begin participation as voters and in the economic world of the city. The educational emphasis worked for the individuals and for society. Today we have a population flooded by messages. People seem to be not very adept at criticizing persuasive messages. Our education system seem to have failed in that regard. I am hopeful that the future will bring more schooling in how to deal with messages that are counterproductive to human societies. Thank you for articulating your thoughts.

  102. The media is obsessed with the success of the Nordic nations: small, homogeneous populations with long, shared histories and strong social cohesion. We actually don’t have to cross the Atlantic to find a better paradigm for our large, multicultural society. Canada has an even more successful educational system, with decades of top ten PISA scores and the highest proportion of post-secondary achievement in the world — despite having one of the highest proportions of ESL students. Their approach, which starts with well-paid, respected teachers and consistent, regionally-balanced funding, provides a much better blueprint for updating our uneven, parochial educational sector. Why don’t we want to look at the answers in our own backyard?

  103. @Mike L Canada's post secondary achievement is driven by immigrants who are selected for that very thing. This has resulted in a glut of people (usually from diploma mills) flooding the job market, depressing wages and causing qualification inflation. What job in the US usually requires a bachelor's degree, in Canada it's a masters degree or a PhD. You get Indiana salaries on metro NYC cost of living. In addition to this, public post-secondary education has increased, grants have gone down and it's become technically the same or cheaper than state schools in NY, VT, etc. As for teachers being well paid? They're on rolling strikes in Toronto right now, arguing over pay and hiring priority. The public teacher unemployment rate is 20%-30% in Ontario even 5 years after graduating teacher's college. Look in your own backyard, indeed!

  104. With due respect Viv, your rebuttal is a little wide of the target. Using internationally accepted measures, Canadian children out-perform their peers in almost every county in the world — and beat ours soundly. Canadian society is benefiting from the balanced, civic-minded citizens this system produces. I don’t know the source of your wage and employment data, but it’s probably worth noting that Canadians are also consistently ranked among the happiest people on earth.

  105. @Mike L With all due respect, PISA scores are baloney and aren't validated by any other scores or measures of literacy. That doesn't mean public education in some parts of Canada isn't better than some parts of the US. But let's stop pretending that PISA scores mean anything. And by the way, I speak as a Canadian who's actually lived in Canada and been educated in Canada. You don't have to take my word for anything. Check the stats for yourself.

  106. As someone born in another part of the world, I have to say this: what has always intrigued me about the United States (as opposed to other places) is the immense hyper-individuality which permeates the society here, if it can be called a society. Everywhere you go, people greet you with a with broad, cheek-to-cheek smile. Seconds later, they disconnect abruptly and their facial expression reverts to its original state. What emotion is expressed is not authentic and only exists on a surface level. To me, this is intriguing. I come from Singapore. A few years ago a poll ranked Singapore as the 'unhappiest' country. Not long after, another poll ranked it as the 'most emotionless' country. Here's the thing: in Singapore, less people may smile at you openly. But I know that when they smile, they mean it. I know that they are authentic about it. And I know it isn't just part of some outward persona they keep up. People I have met in both Europe and Asia are, by and large, more authentic. They may not engage as readily in small talk as Americans, but they are not swift to disconnect either. They value authentic interactions, not fleeting ones. And they have a stronger sense of responsibility towards the societies they live in. Japanese companies try their best not to fire workers even in economic downturns. And when China' Geely Motors purchased Volvo, the Swedish government made sure the new buyer pledged to protect existing jobs in Sweden. Does this happen in the US?

  107. It should be noted, as well, that Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland all provide almost the entirety of university funding via public expenditure (89.5%, 94.5%, 95.9%, and, once again, 95.9%, respectively). Providing higher education free of charge is inarguably beneficial for the development of society (including business and industry), making it not a commodity, nor a private investment, but a civil right.

  108. @Matt : it is free or very inexpensive but not everyone gets to go. Only the top 20% of students. The others get vocational ed or nothing. It is a very unfair system.

  109. @Matt It is not a civic right. You have to pass an exam to get it.

  110. The basic understanding of truth and justice is the key. And that comes only from quality public education, which must not be vased on any religious or political dogma. Current downfall of America started around 1976, and the rate grew exponentially after Teagan became our President. He polluted both our public education and public policy is Christian fundamentalism. At the same time he promoted crony capitalism. Both of it destroyed our basic understanding of truth and justice. as a result a person like Trump became our president.

  111. Thanks David, however I do not believe you have identified the essential facts. The Scandinavian countries became industrialized later then the big European powers - Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary. By the time industrialization really hit Scandinavia, around 1900, labor/union/socialist movements were already quite strong across Europe. This had a big influence on how industrialization unfolded in Scandinavia. The Nordic capitalists had to contend with very sophisticated labor leaders and socialists from the very outset. They did so in a way that was much more inclusive and less contentious than in the rest of Europe or America.

  112. Well, I rather like this Bildung idea, but I can’t imagine it taking hold in this country. Our ideals include selfishness, winner take all competition, us versus them, and knocking the opponent down to get to the goal line. We might evolve to embrace Bildung, but it will probably take longer than the planet has left. Rather than describing a way to save us, Brooks is more likely describing why we’re very likely to fail, because we’re more likely to take up suicide as a national pastime - we’ve actually begun to trod that trail - than to take up Bildung.

  113. Americans and the people of the Nordic countries define freedom differently. In this country we conceive of freedom as a right enjoyed by the individual, and as such, it tends to pit each of us against the rest of society. We develop our own sense of identity by distinguishing ourselves from the people around us, often including our parents. This approach to personality development can stimulate creativity and foster a strong commitment to individual achievement, but it encourages only a loose sense of community. Nordic culture and education appear to emphasize each person's role as part of a community. The citizens of those countries enjoy as much freedom as we do, but the exercise of that freedom is restrained by a sense of responsibility to the rest of the community. This relatively strong sense of solidarity helps explain the willingness to use government to improve the lives of all sectors of society. We can learn much from the Nordic approach to education and from their generous welfare systems. In the absence of a dramatic change in our conception of freedom, however, we cannot transplant their culture and sense of community to our shores. There is more than one good way to define an individual's relation to society.

  114. @James Lee There is a phrase in law enforcement. If you have nothing to hide, why not open the door. That is meaningful in America but not Scandinavia. The concept of freedom from government is largely unknown. Scandinavians go along with government, whether arbitrary inspections, a cashless society, or whatever. I have spent a lot of time in Sweden and like it, but it does not support my sense of personal freedom.

  115. On a day when Trump was pancaked by two aides, AG William Barr, and ex White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly, Mr. Brooks gives us a profile of the Norwegian education system. Poor timing, perhaps not your fault, David. But it really was an extraordinary day! Which is more remarkable, for Barr to to push back on Trump's intrusion into the Justice Department's criminal actions in Barr's case, or General John Kelly essentially endorsing Lt. Col. Vindman's decision to report what he thought was an illegal order to his supervisor? General Kelly stated “He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave.” Was that a message to Trump and the nation that our elections will be not be voided or Trump kept in power by the military? They will, as we say so many times, do their duty, just like LTC Vindman. This should give everyone skittish about our president using the military roughly as he has used State and Justice lately some confidence that Generals will make their own choices. I breathe a deep sign of relief today, after reading General Kelly’s comments because I know what it means—Generals have no intention of obeying an illegal order from a commander of chief they don’t respect. And Barr essentially threatened to resign if Trump did not stop interfering in DOJ active criminal cases. What a day! Norwegian schools are very interesting I'm sure to Norwegians especially. But when the wheels are coming off the bus, I am thrilled the brakes work fine.

  116. I hope this essay becomes a book. This is exactly what America needs to recover from the political and educational mess we're in now. We shouldn't underestimate, though, what kind of cultural shift is required to make this happen in the United States. First, we have to overcome our historic anti-intellectualism. And then we have to overcome an educational culture that has never been up to its responsibilities. Except for a brief period during the Sputnik panic, education in America has been mostly an afterthought. Much is said but little is done. I've been out of school for forty years now, and my kids are going through pretty much the same program I went through in the 70s. Yuck. One way that the Nordic countries prioritize education is by prioritizing educators. Finland draws its educators from the top third of its college classes. With a few rare exceptions, ours come from the bottom third. I don't mean to say that American educators don't try hard. They do. But it's going to take our best people doing their best work to pull this off in America. A book from Brooks would surely help.

  117. @Leonard Flier : A friend of mine did a research project on math education in Japan and came away with three major conclusions: 1. Only math majors are allowed to teach math. There is none of this giving the football coach an algebra textbook and telling him to stay one day ahead of the students 2. Only the best students are allowed into teacher training programs 3. Public school teaching is the highest paid job a four-year graduate can get

  118. I was fortunate to grow up in a small town in northern Minnesota, predominantly scandinavians (Finns) who immigrated to the US in the early 1900's. Despite a harsh climate, I had a great upbringing.Education was highly valued, as was hard work, independence, and family/community bonds. On many Saturday's my grandparent's sauna was the meeting place for our neighbors, undoubtedly strengthening community ties. Mr Brook's comments really hit home with me,and sadly social cohesion in the US is gradually being replaced with hyper-partisan anger.

  119. This was a very interesting piece, Mr. Brooks. I'm glad you wrote it. I think that the net result of these "...generations of phenomenal education ..." is a level of thoughtfulness and compassion in governance that our country could only dream of. To gain a little window into what I mean by this, check out any of the publications issued by the Councils of Nordic Ministers. For instance, there is a 200 page report issued in 2018, which consists of 6 major scientific studies surrounding the concern of income inequality. Likewise , they issued another 200 page report in 2019 titled "Integrating Immigrants into the Nordic Labour Markets." In this last detailed series of studies, plenty of very useful information that could lead to smart policy decisions were offered up, and something tells me that intelligent policy decisions will be the fruit of such scientific inquiry. Contrast that with the way we do things, here in our country. For instance, our approach to immigration. Think of the people currently running our government - and by that I mean the executive branch and their approach to complex policy decisions, as well as the Senate's approach to actual governing. And then consider the fact that about 97% of own electorate, as well as a very large percentage of our leaders would be incapable of digesting a thoughtful set of documents like those just mentioned. You are right - education is everything. It's a shame we place so little value on it.

  120. @O Tangential to your comments, the Nordic educational system encourages leadership to look around the world for best practices, adapt them to their own needs, and to deploy new ideas at home. Comparatively, the US suffers from the 'not invented here' syndrome.

  121. Great point, Dave. Now try to pay for it with austerity economics.

  122. You can not separate their education/social policies from the overriding foundational fact that their population was and continues to be overwhelmingly, homogeneously white. As soon as there was significant immigration they began having the same issues we have. It is exponentially more difficult to reach the same outcomes with a diverse and disparate population. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. It’s just harder. As all the Scandinavian countries are now finding out. Also, the nearly homogenous population of all(!) of Scandinavia is about the same as one(!) US state- Texas. This constant comparison of the US to Scandinavian countries is meaningless without taking into consideration these fundamental differences.

  123. Hello American girl, If you replace scandinavia with the Netherlands, you will still find about 99pct of the essence of mr Brooks’ story while deployed in a country that is as diverse as the US. It’s more the question of being open to the opportunity and go for it. Just as much as are you willing to pay for all of this as this concept comes at a societal cost of higher taxes with broad educational benefits for all in a socialised way.

  124. @American girl When I was in Norway last year, it was pointed out to me that there still isn't single Norwegian language. There are at least two official dialects, but it was not that long ago that many Norwegians were often unable to communicate with other Norwegians, local dialects being so different from each other. And that in a country with a much smaller population than New York City. And while yes, it is more difficult to create a the kind of society DB is talking about with a heterogenous population, a heterogenous population also gives you a much bigger reason for trying. Comparisons made between Scandinavia and the US are not meaningless because the two are different. Nobody thinks we can simply transplant their system here. The point is, we can learn something from their experience.

  125. As I said in my comment, I believe the kinds of Scandinavian educational and social well fare (spellings intentional) supportive programs can and should be enacted here. But not acknowledging the exponential differences in both population size and diversity is counterproductive and makes achieving these goals just that much harder.

  126. Public education is a good measure to achieve trust and social cohesion. When countries have disfunctional models, based most upon private and very expensive schools, childreen grow up in cristal spheres, unable to develop empaty and respect for their fellow and less fortunates kids. Build up trust requires common values, share a common view of the future and share responsibilities upon everybody’s shoulders.

  127. I agree our educational system is largely to blame for almost half of Americans supporting our current president despite his autocracy. Unfortunately it's too late for them! The US needs a reformed educational system that keep teaching values of individual freedom but adds strong appreciation and responsibility for the community at large. Also critical thinking. How can our entire system be fixed so both the right an left agree on reforms? Bring back civics classes that used to be common and required for starters perhaps with a national template.

  128. When all persons in a society are educated, healthy and working, a society may be more successful with change and growth. People would feel that they are invested in the country with no apology or defensive statements. The fact of illness of whatever kind would be better handled with educated people. No shunning or piteous glances but a realistic understanding that human evolution left us with a boat load of genetic problems plus our own particular thought processes. Acceptance of people and their abilities would be healthier - no looking down or up at any person when all people at work are needed. Perhaps that is the "complex pluralistic society" meant and America has it. Americans have not yet managed to incorporate all we have.

  129. The Scandinavian approach would not account for such mavericks as Max Stirner, Cagliostro, Baudelaire, and Nietzsche. At the same time, the Scandinavian approach apparently avoids the shoals of Individualism, a false principle damaging to family and society, and the reefs of exceptionalism, no less pernicious to law and ethical integrity.

  130. In the US, the teacher unions own the politicians in Democrat strongholds and team up, to oppose any changes that would help the kids, like vouchers. That's why the major cities have a drop out rate of over 30%. If we want to change these horrible educational outcomes, we have to put an end to this monopoly that is run for the benefit of the unions, who keep the democrats well funded.

  131. How vouchers could improve the education? If the country has just few good schools, it will be just not enough with vouchers or without ones. You need more good schools, not vouchers.

  132. @sob That is goofy.

  133. @sob Kind of missed the point entirely, didn't you?

  134. Actually, there is an English equivalent, “formation.” But, we don’t use it in that way, and we certainly do a poor job of forming individuals in the US. Here individuality (individual freedom) is seen as paramount. Doesn’t matter that they are dysfunctional members of society. In Scandinavian design, form follows function. In Scandinavian societies, individuals are benevolently “formed” to fit into, contribute to, and benefit from a society.

  135. And yet their philosophers are dead. Despite their insistence on educating the whole person, despite their ability to pass down knowledge from one generation to the next, despite their insistence on solid mathematical and scientific ability... they lack the ability to create meaningful contributions to the world, the kind of innovation that stems from disagreement, a natural state of war, of conflicting opinions, desires and thoughts. What exactly has Scandinavia done? Let them meander in a state of self-satisfying bliss, their never ending state of now.

  136. @Edison Answer: live happily ever after. Answer 2: Maybe you are correct, but you don't see their destructive side either, or public corruption on the scale of most the Western Hemisphere. ps: most of the philosophers we discuss now are also "dead". If you mean irrelevant, well, who's to know?

  137. I’m not sure that the existence of corporate tech monopolies somehow renders my life more meaningful.Nor does the fact that Jeff Bezos has a net worth the same as the GDP of Hungary make everyone else’s existence somehow richer. And if you think the Nordics are smug, give a thought to constant platitudinous praise of American exceptionalism— and this in a country that cannot bring itself to sign on on the Rights of the Child, the International Landmines Treaty, the International Criminal Court, and that, along with Papua New Guinea and some other outposts, cannot even manage paid maternity leave for its citizens,

  138. Long ago, even foreign observers such as de Tocqueville and Martineau were able to see a connection between America’s corrosive hyper-individualism and the early influences of what would become an equally corrosive capitalism. Yes, de Tocqueville admired American individualism, but he also believed that a society of individuals lacked the intermediate social structures such as those provided by traditional hierarchies. de Tocqueville also warned that a society of individuals can easily become fragmented yet, paradoxically, uniform when “every citizen, being assimilated to all the rest, is lost in the crowd.”

  139. Because we teach competitiveness at each other's expense. Another model is we can help each other succeed. I can have happiness without costing you yours.

  140. Americans (and, indeed, all of Western civilization since the Greeks) have regarded education as the deliberate fashioning of the whole human. This is not uniquely "Nordic." At issue is the unity of the underlying society regarding what properly and desirably constitutes the whole human. Over the past half-century or so, schools have had to deal with conflicting orders from parents, religious groups, political interests, conspiracy theorists, etc. etc., pulling them in all sorts of directions. Schools don't suffer from a lack of financing, small class size or inadequate Nordic inspiration. They suffer from a lack of a social & cultural clear mandate about what it is they're supposed to do.

  141. My late wife Tina and our children spent time in Sweden, Norway and Denmark and cannot agree more. I like the point about their economy they are counties that are social democracies and I get tired of Americans and others going on about their high taxes and their programs. Well here is a clue they believe in capitalism but controls put upon it where everyone shares in the hard work and the CEO who sits behind a desk all day does not make millions. Also here is something to break the myth they have great advanced economies because without one they could not afford all the social benefits. The other key not mentioned is the political one they have social democracies with multi parties. One party generally does not win enough seats to form the government so parties come together and make deals and agreement who will be the PM, Finance etc. people vote in large numbers because everyone knows their vote counts and not only that as the article talks they believe in the society it is their duty to vote and make their voice heard. Interesting Trump wanted to know why we don't have more immigrants from Norway why would they want to come to the US simple answer. Interesting Norway, Denmark, Finland all have young female heads of state. I believe being young and female rather than old white men makes a big difference. 30% of the cars are electric in Norway, wind power, solar power and the article in the Times about Alberta the banks of those countries out of the oil sands. Jim Trautman

  142. @trautman : they don't come from Norway because Norway has luxe benefits from the TRILLIONS AND TRILLIONS they get every year from NORTH SEA OIL. If the oil ran out or we really went carbon-free….Norway would be as poor as Rwanda.

  143. @Concerned Citizen : That doesn't explain Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, none of which have oil. Also, Norway's safety net predates the discovery of oil.

  144. As usual, Brooks overplays the importance of culture and underplays the importance of economics. What makes people in the Scandinavian countries so much more content with their lives than Americans is not social cohesion alone. Rather it is the willingness of homogeneous societies like theirs to tax themselves for purposes of financing a variety of social services like education and medical care for all its members. The availability of these services increases social mobility, which, contrary to American delusions, is now much greater in those countries than it is in the United States. (Oh how I hate the stock, misleading phrase "only in America could a person like me from so a poor family have made it so big.") I dare say people in Scandinavia were far less happy with their lot before industrialization however unified they were, than after industrialization and the sharing of its benefits. Brooks badly needs a course in economics.

  145. Scandinavians who emigrate to America do better than those of similar background whom they leave behind. Moreover, people often claim that America looks worse on this, that, or the other scale when compared to Scandinavia. But when you make American demographics closely mirror Scandinavian demographics, America does every bit as good—and often better—on most of these comparisons. America and Scandinavia are incomparable. No place tolerates difference, innovates, changes, and provides a pathway to success like the United States. Absent the stratospheric taxes, Nordic economies (which are often less regulated than ours) could well be doing better than they are. And cohesion existed before their welfare states were erected; the former facilitated the creation of the latter. America is a different society, and it is simply absurd to imagine that we can transform it into a Scandinavian society—though if we could, it would take massive immigration change, which would be labeled, quite rightly, white-nationalist restrictionism. In fact, you admit that homogeneity enabled social-democratic policies to flourish, all while claiming that economics is more important than culture. Isn’t that a slight contradiction? Culture is more important than economics, even if the two are ligatured in ways that aren’t easily disentangled. The Marxian appeal of seeing culture as somehow a manifestation of economic structure is tremendous, but wrong. Nordic “lessons” are—mostly—inapplicable here.

  146. @David L, Jr. If you read my comment more closely, you would see I did not claim economics is more important than culture. What I said is that Brooks undervalues economics, and so my "slight contradiction" disappears. I agree that social homogeneity is a factor here. Indeed, I say that it contributes to the willingness to provide social services to all citizens. So your implication that I fall prey to the "Marxian appeal of seeing culture as somehow a manifestation of economic structure" is totally bogus. My whole point is that unless social services are widely available, social mobility will be negatively affected,and "happiness" reduced. Nowhere do I say we should or can transform American society into a Scandinavian society. For one thing, we have a more diverse population. But that does not mean social mobility and "happiness" could not be increased if we adopted a more robust social program that reduced the growing gap in wealth and life chances. In that respect, Nordic "lessons" are, indeed, mostly applicable here.

  147. @David L, Jr. There's major objections to your - if I may paraphrase it - "The USA can't be like the Scandinavian (or the other Nordic) countries 'cause its much more ethnically diverse" argument. Those major objections have names, they are "Canada" and "Australia". Why are Canada and Australia much more like the Nordic countries than the USA despite having as much ethnic diversity as the USA? By your reckoning West Virginia should be doing as well economically and socially as Denmark or Sweden. You describe the USA as a "can do" kind of place. Let me quote you: "No place tolerates difference, innovates, changes, and provides a pathway to success like the United States." So why can't it emulate the Nordic countries as best it can like Canada and Australia? It seems to me that, rather, the current US is a place ruled by defeatism and cynicism, packed full of excuses.

  148. A factor Brooks and commenters have not mentioned is Americans' view that their children are their property, that parents get to define "bildung" for their children. In this way, the Nordic model and American model of education are diametrically opposed. For Americans, education is a matter of "consumer choice" not subject to societal values and aspirations. And so we see the results. Our better educators are deeply aware of this issue. We have a responsibility to our country to cultivate the talents and strengths of our citizens, starting in 1st grade. We cannot allow our future leaders to be corrupted or led astray by small-minded parents. But parents rule, and we see the results in the present state of our society. By the way, I don't buy the homogeneity argument. However, there is an argument to be made that the U.S. paid for the defense of Europe from the Soviet Union, allowing Europe to increase funding social services including education, and pressing us to decrease such funding.

  149. My great-grandmother got as far as the 8th grade in a one-room public schoolhouse back in the 1880s. But in those short eight years she learned elementary Latin and Greek, translated some Homer, learned algebra and geometry, and spent an awful lot of time learning civics. I know this because I have her notebook from her final year of school. My guess is she was better educated, better read, better at critical thinking, than most college graduates of today. So what did that one-room school in upstate NY have then that we’ve lost since? I’d argue there was a focus on the essential western canon of knowledge, a belief that students can be challenged with hard intellectual problems and rise to meet them, a purposeful instruction on the importance of civic responsibility. Perhaps in the Citizens United world of today, the desire to graduate digitally native, tech-savvy cyborgs who will work for deciles of Bitcoin in the gig economy, has obfuscated the real purpose and value of education: to create confident, independent, deep thinkers.

  150. When the ruling class, the privileged members of society, ride public transportation, they make sure its good. When they send their kids to public schools, they make sure they're good. When they walk the city streets, and their kids play in the public parts, they make sure they're safe. When they live in gated communities, riding in their cars everywhere they go, and send their kids to private schools, &c., public transportation, public parks, public schools all go downhill fast. When it is possible and even easy for the privileged to live apart, this is the result. The rich would rather spend their money on themselves alone. But when they have to live in the community, then they are willing to pay higher taxes so that everyone may benefit. It's what was once called civic pride, public spirit, patriotism. Now we are plagued with, "why should I be taxes for the public schools, I don't have kids" and similar attitudes.

  151. @Bejay You describe the white flight from urban areas of the last half of the past century which reduced the tax base and almost guaranteed urban decay and poverty. Cites have bounced back with gentrification, but the damage was done.

  152. Education is important, but more important is the trust in the Government. My theory is the tough natural conditions decreased ability of individuals to succeed, so it forced the population to value the communities as a safety net. In America the emphasis is on individuals more than on community. Billionaires are national heroes, while the workers who helped them to earn their billions are disregarded. It is like a bad team when the whole team works but only one person got the credit.

  153. Sweden has an average annual temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The Lapland area of northern Scandinavia is virtually snowbound. How much tougher can natural conditions be?

  154. In Scandinavia, “there is no bad weather just bad clothes”... meaning you are not dressed appropriately for the weather

  155. It never ceases to amaze that David Brooks and other conservatives never accept responsibility for the social degeneration that they now lament. Post Work War 2 conservatism is nothing other than the complete denial of community, of the common good--the values you now promote. From the Chicago School to the American Enterprise Institute, conservatives created a civil religion of individual selfishness, where the only good, the defining good, the moral good is increased profit, shareholder value, personal wealth. Making the rich even richer became a Christian value because the rich getting richer would invest, creating businesses that would ultimately employ the poor. Except, the point of business under this conservative paradigm was to make the rich even richer, not so much to give good jobs to workers. So, unions are busted, wages stagnate, communities are abandoned and jobs go to the countries with the lowest labor standards. We have conservative governors pushing underfunding humanities and social science programs because they don't fit the paradigm of selfishness. Yes, Mr. Brooks and your kin gave us Milton Friedman, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan et. al. Now you say we need the Nordic model. You owe us an apology.

  156. @Greg Maybe next week Mr. Brooks advocates for higher taxes on the wealthy. His resurrection may then be complete.

  157. @Greg Exactly...thank you. A little more nation building in our own backyard would have made a big difference in the last 75 years. Brooks always dances and floats above the fray, conveniently ignoring his contribution to Trumpism. At this point, I have long since given up on an apology, but would gladly settle for a mere acknowledgment.

  158. @Greg, could not have said it any better...Bravo!

  159. Again, a super sociological analysis. It is important to note the "nagging guilt" Minnesotans feel is derived from what Weber named 'protestant ethic". The point is that "bildung" thrives in a social context that is hospitable to ethical norms and values.

  160. As someone with relatives in Sweden It's deeper than education. It's the culture. It is "we all sit in this boat together" vs. American culture "each person for her/him self" Second the Swedish model is misunderstood by Americans, including Mr Sanders. Sweden eliminated the inheritance tax was in 2005, the wealth tax in 2007 and taxes on residential property in 2008. What sets Sweden apart from the US is massive transfer payments from those who get income from wealth to the less well off.

  161. The reason wealth tax is no longer needed there is because the wealth gap in not nearly as wide there as it is here.

  162. I don’t know how much the Nordic model of education is responsible for the success of their societies. But I do know that if we tried to emulate it as you describe, to seriously teach children a sense of social responsibility & cohesion, the Republicans and the right-wing media would go into overdrive accusing the schools of brainwashing, ideological indoctrination, & socialism.

  163. @Martin Quite true. It is by no means an accident that the Republicans have been anti-education for the last 40 years. And they have benefited mightily for it, which is something that is terrifyingly obvious by what happened in the last election, and what will happen in the next. I'm referring to the recent article that appeared in the Atlantic regarding the $1B disinformation campaign that is being unleashed on Facebook and elsewhere by the Trump re-election campaign. Most of that money would have been wasted if we had a generally more educated electorate, because that faction would be much more immune to the lies and deceit that is the meat and potatoes of the campaign. But what has happened is that the careful cultivation of an uneducated electorate has made possible the current administration, and also explains very well the 40+ % of people who actually believe that our current president and his policies are good for our nation. Historians will write a fascinating tale about this period in our county's tale, and I can only hope that some of them are American historians. It would be a shame for my kids and their kids if there were no literate historians left in the U.S. because the Republicans were completely successful in their bid to erase intellectual inquiry, growth and literacy.

  164. @Martin I think that you are correct about right wing resistance to anything good for our humanity. It is also worth mentioning that our ubiquitous racism would sure be in conflict with any enlightened educational system.

  165. @O Smart people ask too many darned questions. Is this column a joke? David Brooks and David Frum, among others, wee the first to be miffed when the party they blindly support demeaned and denigrated 'the educated'. Anti-science, anti intellectualism, anti-everything. There is the gop, and still they win.

  166. Scandanvians are also among the least religious people in the West and they have a very low marriage rate. How does David Brooks explain their social cohesion and sense of responsibility for others? Maybe marriage and religion are not the key to a well functioning society. Since their schools take the role he believes religious institutions provide here, it is refreshing to see that he is convinced that secular institutions can successfully fill the need.

  167. Mr Brooks’ GOP had decades of castigating Scandinavia as socialist, free love and a welfare for all system that would inevitably bankrupt these countries. But Mr. Brooks has learned a few things after multiple studies confirm what republicans will never admit: Scandinavians lead the world in many indices, including happiness despite awful winters with darkness all of about six hours per day. Who knows, perhaps with this new recognition of Scandinavia, Mr Brooks might consider that Democrats are much closer to the ideals that he admires so much. Could this be the start of Mr. Brooks endorsing the Democrat for president? Or will Brooks fall back to equivocating?

  168. @JT FLORIDA I've often thought that Brooks is a confused Democrat.

  169. Some would say that the so-called Nordic education model is essentially what's called the code of the north, from Sami to Inuit to Norwegian, et al: people die unless they share. This isn't altruism but genetic imperative. The further north humans live, the more inherent this belief: that you must help a neighbor because you've got to be able to count on him. It still operates during life threatening conditions in our northern states. When resources are too scarce or too many people compete for them, the Scandinavian ethos tended to result in looking further afield...Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland in one direction, England, Normandy, then Normans to England and Sicily in another. They probably put the 'Rus' in Russia, too. Education is a resource like land, food, or fuel. In a lot of ways the United States couldn't have been formed without the great Scottish thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries. They, in turn, were the result of a very long-term effort, despite being one of the poorest countries in Europe, to make schools first widespread and inexpensive, then universal and free. Much earlier, Scotland and its islands had millennia of Scandinavian infiltration. So, Northern or Nordic? (Either way another byproduct was John Logie Baird without whose work we wouldn't get to see Mr. Brooks on PBS Fridays. While we're eating hot dish.)

  170. @grennan "Nordic" literally means "Northern".

  171. "If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be." -Thomas Jefferson (1816) 200 years later ... "I love the poorly educated. " - Donald Trump (2016) We have a party that uses "government schools" as a self-evident prejorative, treats expertise with disdain, and alternative facts as an upgrade to truth. ANY proposal to educate Americans in a way that allows them "to thrive in a complex pluralistic society" would be dismissed by Republicans in the same way they dismissed proposals to protect the fairness of elections: "A Democratic power grab". Critical thinking skills, fairness, and inclusivity are kryptonite to the Republican Party.

  172. "The German word they used to describe their approach, bildung, doesn’t even have an English equivalent. It means the complete moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation of the person." Bildung is not just a German word, but it is actually a German system. Hegel and von Humboldt describe and there is even a Humboldtian model of higher education. Nietzsche discussed this education system and viewed aspects positively. Ralph Waldo Emerson in the US was a proponent of this holistic education system as opposed to pragmatic: Is it the panacea for the "selfish school" of education? See Proverbs 22:6. In an ideal world, one educates a child based on his or her particular needs and predilections. That alas is in an ideal world. One size does not fit all.

  173. Great column. However, by noting that the roots of their values about education predate the Nordic high-tax model, you manage to finesse an essential element of the current "Nordic Model": With all of the dysfunctions in the United States' "public educational system" (really 50 state educational systems); radically sub-standard educational outcomes are overwhelmingly preordained by the poverty level of the students. Yes, we should adopt the Nordic model - particularly the Finnish variant. That said, we will get nowhere until our nation pulls everyone out of poverty. Think about it: could you teach a child whose parent or parents work 2 jobs and use the TV as the babysitter as effectively as the child whose parents have time to teach them to read?

  174. As someone who spent almost a year in Scandinavia, I can attest to the strong value placed in citizens. This is translated to paid parental leave (1-2 years), whole child education, and free (eg,taxpayer subsidized) health care, education and social safety nets. Scandinavians often expressed the value of a healthy, informed society to happiness and well-being. The bigger reason it hasn’t worked in the USA is about power. History has taught us how much people who want to maintain power and wealth fear an informed citizenry. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me that, sadly, one political party (R) has endeavored the hardest to diminish “whole child” education and public services. The states with stronger investment in public services and higher quality public education, overall, lean blue, whereas those with opposing qualities lean red. In order to strengthen our democratic republic, we have to invest in our citizens similarly. We should care that every person is given the same opportunity - regardless of background. We can do that by investing in free education, health care, social safety nets and the environment. That shouldn’t be sidelined as a Scandinavian or socialist ideal. As someone here already mentioned, it would cost significantly less to invest in free college education than to build this silly border wall. We can make our priority a healthy, sustainable society, which is also budget friendly. One party has put this on the table: vote blue!

  175. Actually David, we could learn thing or two from their tax policies. That's right .. not just higher taxes, but the right sort of taxes. However, we won't .. and will remain primitive as compared to countries like Sweden.

  176. Very interesting article. Bildung as you call it, I think exists in spots in the US. At least I feel like I was blessed to experience it. Growing up and going to the Boston Latin School as the son of parents who didn't finish high school let along go to college, I not only got a great education (would that more public schools were like BLS) but I also developed a great love of our country and the need for each of us to aspire and try do something great for our society and to help out and give back to America. For me this came about by learning about US history (its' beauty and flaws), its' roots in Greek, Roman and English civlizations, how our govt works (and doesn't), the American revolution,a nd a pride in Boston's role in it, not to mention the old fashioned values of hard work, perseverance, and self reliance yet desire to work together to help the larger community face its challenges. It also came from being mixed up with a bunch of classmates whose parents ranged from alcoholics, to presidents of banks, to gas station attendants, millionaires and food stamp recipients. Call it the "pilgrim" model if you will. i wish bildung existed across the US. The focus on individual freedoms without a sense of social responsibility is really hurting us. At BLS they called it, The Breeder of Democracy.

  177. Boston Latin school was the first established public school in the country, and happens to be in the state (Massachusetts) consistently ranked #1 for education. Howdy from a fellow BLS alum. I too learned a lot from my BLS (and Boston public school) education. The biggest benefit was its diversity of students and the quality of classical and critical education. While it was far from “whole child” education, I wish more public schools provided the quality and resources obviously invested in BLS. We, as a nation, would be better off for it.

  178. 25 years ago I worked in Gothenburg, Sweden for a hematologist who was also doing stem cell research. She was married to a heart surgeon. They lived in a lovely home in a nice neighbourhood and had two very successful children. Next to them lived a Pakistani family, in an equally lovely home and had two very successful children. The dad was a plumber. What is still memorable to me was their friendship and mutual respect for the contribution that each family made to their society. There was no ‘I’m better than you’ vibes. The education system at that time also afforded each child with the same set of facts, footing and opportunities. In addition my female co-workers were allowed maternity leave of 1 to 2 years with the assurance of their job to comeback to. And while there were some down on their luck alcoholics, etc in the downtown parks, I never saw the woe is me, I’m a victim, the other is getting more than me, hatred toward other citizens, type attitude which exists in the USA.

  179. @Karen You are describing an important point that often is misunderstood and the essence of a more equitable and functional society: Universal social programs where everyone in the society benefits and participates in the program regardless of wealth or status. This allows for universal buy-in and therefore, universal support. Want to stress or kill a social program? Make it income-dependent and an us versus them mentality, where you pit sectors of society against each other. Social Security has been protected, in large part, because everyone participates and benefits. Medicare too. Institute a means test and the social program will face opposition from those that don’t benefit from it but are paying for it through taxes. The best way is to have a progressive tax system and allow everyone to enjoy the benefits.

  180. @Karen Your last sentence really nails what ails us. If it's all on you the individual, distrust, envy, and fear will abound.

  181. @Karen Ditto.

  182. Great column. However, by noting that the roots of their values about education predate the Nordic high-tax model, you manage to finesse an essential element of the current "Nordic Model": With all of the dysfunctions in the United States' "public educational system" (really 50 state educational systems); radically sub-standard educational outcomes are overwhelmingly preordained by the poverty level of the students. Yes, we should adopt the Nordic model - particularly the Finnish variant. That said, we will get nowhere until our nation pulls everyone out of poverty. Think about it: could you teach a child whose parent or parents work 2 jobs and use the TV as the babysitter as effectively as the child whose parents have no time to teach them to read

  183. @Mark Keller And yet, the president was very wealthy and attended excellent schools and he seems to have learned absolutely nothing (except how to scam).

  184. I enjoy hearing David Brooks talk about the values of education. He leaves out one critical point, though, and that is the huge economic investment Nordic countries make in their education systems. Teachers salaries —and therefore jobs— are extremely competitive, and tuitions from preschool through College are free. It would be great if Brooks could advocate for a better education system that was available to everyone and not just those who can afford it — or happen to be born in Sweden.

  185. @David C Yes, although I would like to point out that I'm pretty sure that if our latest budget proposal from the White House, which features a Department of Defense budget of $718 Billion, was changed to forego $188 billion of that massive figure, every single college student in America could receive free college tuition for the next four years. (I'm simply using Sander's plan at $47 B/year - there are probably other plans out there with similar numbers) So we, as a nation, can more than afford to send everyone to school for free. We simply choose not to, and instead we choose to hand massive benefit to defense contractors. We have been doing this for a long time - through administrations on both sides of the aisle, but we know full well which side values defense higher than education. Maybe in November we can decide to go in a different direction.

  186. @David C Here in Texas, those who have more complain strongly about sharing their tax dollars to benefit those who have less. Especially the property tax dollars used to fund education in the state. It was upon moving to Texas that I learned Robin Hood was considered a bad guy here. Early in his administration, President Obama suggested spending tax monies more equally throughout the country. Almost immediately he claimed he had been misquoted and misunderstood. Giving high-quality education to all is something socialist countries do—not us. And we certainly won’t be espousing the benefits of sharing responsibility either.

  187. @David C I agree. As a longtime speech pathologist in various public schools in the Northeast, Navajo Reservation, etc., I couldn't agree more. Before this president took office, I sent a book to Trump Tower about why Finland had the best schools in the world. Unfortunately, he clearly didn't read it, because he appointed Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education. Meanwhile, special education teachers out here are protesting at local departments of education that there jobs have become impossible. Our children deserve the best, as they represent our future.

  188. Gosh. I wonder. Could it be that using a nation’s pooled resources, a/k/a tax receipts, to provide universally available and affordable child care, health care, transportation, housing, education, a secure old age... might that kinda stuff contribute to the well being of the nation’s people? Might that just be the ‘secret sauce’ of these modern ‘Nordic’ nations? Nah. Couldn’t be that. That would be ‘socialism.’ And we all know that would be simply horrible.

  189. @chambolle I know. I keep hoping the US will introduce social security, Medicare, Medicaid, free public schooling, subsidized housing, subsidized public transport, aid for families with dependent children, subsidized state universities, unemployment benefits, etc, etc

  190. @chambolle Without natural resources, the Nordics wouldn't have been able to fund their education systems and build strong economies. Why no mention of Norway's oil and gas or Sweden's iron ore or Finland's timber? Why no mention of high levels of taxation even for middle income earners? Why no mention of the low levels of corruption, which allows the tax money to be spent well? And besides limited immigration, most Nordics also have monarchs and Protestant state churches.

  191. Most Scandinavians are agnostics or atheists. There is a state religion, but we don’t have to believe it. There are plenty of studies to prove this.

  192. Once we as Americans decide that everyone is important, then we shall realize what makes America great.

  193. @Dennis ....What makes America unique is the proposal in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. What makes America Great is when we strive for that goal.

  194. Dennis That is profound in its simplicity. Should be a campaign slogan.

  195. @W.A. Spitzer, which we are not doing now. America is not great right now and never will be until we see the worth in every individual, rich/poor, gay/straight, no matter your color and thus, fund schools, jobs, military equivalent to that end. We are NOT great and have gotten less good under this administration.

  196. Brooks doesn't see the forest because of the forest. The fact is that these countries hardly have free markets that would please the right wing. Taxes are understandably sky high by right wing standards and markets are regulated rigidly. The reason they are happy is that they didn't alienate their populations with conservative markets. They don't have the chronic inequality that haunts American society. They are Democratic socialists. Get it?

  197. It’s not entirely true that the Nordic markets are “tightly regulated”. By most standards they are quite free, with vibrant competition and start-up scene. They do enforce anti-competition laws fairly rigorously and the framework of environment, health & safety and such regulations is more comprehensive than in the US, but quite similar to other North European countries. The main difference in terms of regulations are around employment law and social benefits/safety net (and free education including university) which are some of the main reasons for the high rate of average taxation.

  198. @Lars Rosenkrands Thanks for that, Lars! Further, re taxation -- the high rate of taxation that is mentioned as an average reflects the progressive taxation on high incomes. Those with lower salaries (teachers, nurses, etc.) typically pay 36% to low-40s on their income.

  199. @Lars Rosenkrands - There's a saying that some people know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. Americans are taught to hate taxes, so you can make them cringe if you mention paying more taxes. Yet they'll never understand that Americans pay out of pocket for so many things that taxes pay for in other countries, and in the long run we end up paying more, not less.

  200. David Brooks is not wrong about Scandinavian education systems, but discounts the importance of the social welfare system in these nations. As usual, Brooks understands the intangible side of the social contract, but to overlook the tangible side.

  201. @Chris Rasmussen But it was the intangible side of the social contract that eventually created the tangible side of it. He could have mentioned it, but I read it as implicit.

  202. I lived in Seattle for 22 years. The dominant cultures there are Scandinavian and Japanese. This blend has created a unique and remarkable ideal around the sense of community and the individual’s responsibility to the community, as well as the converse: the community has a responsibility to the individual as well. Seattle isn’t perfect — no place is — but it does have the right idea. Thanks to Mr Brooks’ essay, I have a better understanding as to why.

  203. @Paul Goode That’s exactly right. It’s like visiting another Planet when we go there for Vacation. Note MY address.

  204. @Paul Goode I lived in Seattle for 15 years. The culture, and emphasis on community, is the thing I miss the most. And you know what? Business is not suffering because of it; Seattle is a city of well-educated people, and people want to be there.

  205. The Nordic bildung model sounds like the opposite of the Libertarian "my individual rights always trump any societal responsibilities" model. They have achieved a balance, we have not.

  206. I don’t think that I have seen much evidence that there is even an expectation that the public education system in the US cultivate a sense of social solidarity as an aspect of citizenship. Racism, inequality and extreme partisanship are only the three most obvious fault lines in the fabric of the US, but there many other cracks are appearing.

  207. This profound difference in cultures came to me as an American in the following example of 'bildung'. When traveling in Sweden my language barrier caused a miscommunication with staff on my train to Gothenberg and I ended up not paying the $50 for the trip. When I met friends and informed them of the miscommunication, I felt as though I had 'saved' $50. The Swedish friends indicated that we could come back in the morning to pay the cost of the trip once the office was again open. I was hesitant. As an American I am always trying to get a personal deal to my individual advantage, much like our POTUS. Swedes seem to have an innate respect for public services and the cost that we should ALL pay with respect through our taxes. How to instill this in the education system in the U.S. would begin with doing away with schools for the poor and others for those who were lucky to be born into wealth - private schools and public schools based on funding via property taxes are innately unfair.

  208. @Lazlo Toth - I'm an American and I was taught that if a cashier gives me too much change, I'm to go back and return it.

  209. I was taught to be first in line when the office opened the next day to pay the money I owed. It is the right thing to do. “I”would not let me walk away without paying.

  210. @Lazlo Toth ...."As an American I am always trying to get a personal deal to my individual advantage"....Speak for yourself. As an American I would have been waiting the next morning at the door for the office to open so I could pay what I owed.

  211. The basic understanding of truth and justice is the key. And that comes only from quality public education, which must not be based on any religious or political dogma. Current downfall of America started around 1976, and the rate grew exponentially after Reagan became our President. He polluted both our public education and public policy by injecting Christian fundamentalism. At the same time he promoted crony capitalism. Both of it destroyed our basic understanding of truth and justice. as a result a person like Trump became our President.

  212. If we follow the logic of this excellent and important article, the bildung educational system lead to this exceptionally educated population creating the current Nordic political/economic/health care system(s) and the highest quality of life on the planet. The next logical step is to elect Bernie Sanders and others who want to apply these life affirming ideas here in the United States. Join the peaceful revolution.

  213. @Michael OBrien But Bernie is far to left of the Nordic countries (and more populist) along many dimensions: less open to free trade, more anti-science, advocate for no health care co-pays, wealth taxes, us versus them mentality, support for Venezuelan authoritarians, and so on.

  214. @Michael OBrien, oh please, stop. Bernie could care less about the concept of social trust. Trust has to be earned and Bernie has zero familiarity with the concept of earning anything. It’s all about punishing success, punishing those who have worked hard and redistributing the fruits of their work to those are unwilling to work. Freebies for everyone are just great as long as the mythical “other” pays for them

  215. Arnold Flaten, Chair of Art at St. Olaf College fifty years ago, said: "A liberal arts education is who and what you are after you've forgotten all you've learned." Life long learning keeps us remembering "all the things we are." {thanks Oscar Hammerstein)

  216. Thank you David. This is your best column yet! I would love an education system that fosters a desire for life long learning. That means keeping an open mind. This is sadly missing from both the far right and the far left in this country.

  217. What is the big mystery on a society that values celebrity over education? To be a celebrity or adore celebrity seems to be easier than the hard work of education which is the disdained domain of the nerd. The lower on the social scale one belongs, the higher this yearning for celebrity.

  218. Betsy love to teach. We taught together for twenty years in urban America. One summer she visits Nordic countries. She gets a job offer from there. Ends up taking the job. Loves it. Loves educations and learning again. Our friendship is FB now. Everything David says is true about Nordic education. Americans live in social decline and decay compared to Nordic countries.

  219. Not only do we not have the right lifelong development model, we don't have the basic attributes of humility, caring and fairness. We just want to be great (i.e., better than others).

  220. ME children are growing up in a Scandinavian country (Norway), and I couldn't be happier. (even more than bringing them up in Ireland or Canada) The basic premise that works (so simple really) is that it is an ALL OF THE ABOVE strategy. (or trickle down for Socialism if you will) FIRST and foremost at the heart of the matter is NOT education, but how Scandinavians treat work, time and ultimately family. Everything they/we do is geared to how much QUALITY time there is in any given day, week or month. There is ''flexi'' time for work, (shifts, or multiple days working in line or off, more than 8 hour work days for time off, and so on). There is paid sick leave, paid holiday leave, paid sate holidays, you get the picture. There is subsidized daycare, and preschool, and after school and clubs, and sporting events and, and, and. If you get pregnant, then you get time off after birth for BOTH parents. (used 3 times meself) It ALL trickles down to MORE time with your kids to teach and have them be well rounded and grown. Education (first class that it is and paid for by the state for higher education) is SECONDARY. IT's all about time with the kids.

  221. Somehow America's obsession with private ownership of guns as a means of protecting me and mine from the world outside myself is the antithetical model of a Nordic model. We are too far down the wrong path ever to achieve the benefits of a community-oriented culture.

  222. what percentage of federal income taxes are spent on the military in the US versus the Nordic countries? seems to be a question of and health, or destroying a future enemy 100 times over (not to mention the waste and fraud)...

  223. Nordic countries don’t have to spend a large percentage of their national budgets on defense. They know the United States is there to protect them.

  224. @Conservative Democrat The obscenity of the U.S. "defense" budget isn't a product of mutual defense agreements, but of the United States' choice to engage in never-ending wars throughout the world -- we have to make the world profitable for arms manufacturers.

  225. @Conservative Democrat The US doesn't have to spend an insane percentage of its national budget on defense, but it CHOOSES to. You live in a military industrial complex. That's the problem, and also why the rest of the world regards the US as the greatest threat to peace.

  226. This is certainly a great relief. "All we have to do" is provide great education. I guess that means we don't have to bother with health care, quality day care, job training, or elder care. Great news for the GOP. Except they'll balk at the education part anyway.

  227. Very nice discussion of the Nordic success in life, where the individual blends smoothly with his/her community, a true social democracy...based on a capitalism with exemplary ethical strength, a blow to what we see in these United States, with an ever deepening economic, cultural and political inequality, due to selfishness and avarice. It is as if we forgot that the best investment any country can make (and ought to) is in educating their people. And it would by very shortsighted if we confuse education with instruction for a skill. A treu education consists of a cooperative environment where teachers (and the Finnish, for instance, pay them very well, in appreciation of their importance) integrate their students in developing the talent in critical thinking for themselves, and a healthy interdependence with each other, and where a teacher's pride consists of having students excel beyond expectations, mature, humble for the little they know in comparison to what remains out there, yet unexplored. Of course, you are aware that the education all the way up to college/university is free (fully paid for with their taxes, higher than ours but happy to contribute, as the benefits are enormous, health care included, and housing and jobs are all well taken care of. As you suggested, America has a lot tolearn from them, and much more to atone to. And if politics is really the art of the possible, we are in deep trouble, wasting our potential.

  228. @manfred marcus The Scandinavian countries had the advantage of the US paying their freight from the end of WWII until today. We bailed them out of WWII at horrendous cost, then built up all of Europe with the Marshall Plan. Then we spent 73 years paying for their defense. That's why they have the money to build their country. Do we spend too much on defense? Yup. Would they be speaking Russian in Europe if not for us? Yup.

  229. @Ernest Montague To which of the Scandinavian countries do you refer? Certainly not all, as a quick glance at history will show.

  230. @Ernest Montague - Name the last time the US had to defend the Scandinavian countries from anything. Oh, that's right, not since the end WWII, and even during WWII some of those countries stayed uninvolved.

  231. Our education system, and our press, should emphasize what we have in common as Americans. Not what divides us. We are members of one big American family. The Scandinavian countries weren't homogeneous in 1800. People generally thought of themselves as loyal to some province or locality. Only in the 19th Century did a sense of nationhood replace that. We can achieve that if we change the public discourse. Many NYT readers will blame Trump for divisiveness, but they should also blame the relentless racializing of the NYT editorial, op-ed and even news pages, as well as that of the educational system at all levels. As Theodore Roosevelt said, there should not be hyphenated Americans, only Americans.

  232. @Jonathan Katz no thank you. i have nothing in common with a trump supporter aside from the color of our skin.

  233. @Jonathan Katz Umm. The divisiveness started WAY before NYT came along. The imported slaves were indeed not hyphenated Americans, may be 3/5 of an American when it's convenient. Natives Americans certainly were not Americans - at best, wards of the state. Not discoursing about hyphenated Americans won't do much except to continue to deny history and keep our heads in the sand. Part of the success of the Nordic educational system is removing the vested advantages of historically privileged groups. ACTUALLY treating all people the same with equal laws and real equal opportunities just might get us there.

  234. Here's a product of the Finnish educational system: "In her Prime Minister's traditional New Year message, Sanna Marin said that Finland’s strength lies in "its people and their knowledge", with education playing a key role in the country’s success. Marin also lauded changes her government brings in from 1 January, which she says will raise the incomes of some 70 percent of Finns. "The strength of a society is measured not by the wealth of its most affluent members, but by how well its most vulnerable citizens are able to cope," writes Marin. "The question we need to ask is whether everyone has the chance to lead a life of dignity." The premier said that she wants to make Finland "a financially responsible, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable society"." --from YLE

  235. @LF Contrast that message with what we're hearing from the 'top'!

  236. @LF Good for Sanna! My Finland index fund is up 20% since she took over. Taking care of the most vulnerable in society pays off. Who would have thought it!

  237. @LF That reminds me of a similar quote from FDR: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more of the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little."

  238. I am sorry to say I have come to believe that the reason for the American educational system no longer offering a progressive (ie: pluralistic), moral (ie: personal and social responsibility) is a strategic undermining of it (ie: underfunding) by the political Right. And we can see it has paid off well for them.

  239. @elizabeth Agreed. Lack of education makes for an ignorant and easy to manipulated populace at the voting booths, as well as supplying a cheap labor force. It is the reason the Republicans have come to label the Democrats as elitist, thereby successfully throwing education in a bad light. I agree, it has paid off well for the current Republicans and continues to do so or we would not have our current White House fiasco with its attendant corruption.

  240. This idea of bildung will never work in this country because of the vast inequities. Too many in this country have been pulling themselves up only to find their bootstraps broken. Too many have been told where they they can't live and where they they can't work. It's hard to take such a civic pride in one's country when that country hasn't shown much civic pride in you. It's impossible to feel we're all in this together when the laws treat us so differently. Fix the underlying problems with inequality, then talk about civic pride.

  241. This was a pleasure to read. Though, I should say that the concept of “bildung”, from Brooks’ description, seems very similar to the philosophy of “the liberal arts”. Our (the U.S.’s) higher education system still offers this. Unfortunately, it is underappreciated and many in our country view it with derision - in particular, from my experience, many of the students who have an opportunity to immerse themselves in this offering. I’m not sure what the origin of this view is, but I imagine it’s multifaceted: student debt from the exorbitant and unacceptable cost of many US colleges and universities; right-wing propaganda; the rising income disparity in our country...

  242. @Matt LaHaye. Bildung <> Liberal Arts. Sorry. I get the tirade against the economy's obsession with technology majors, but it is not relevant here. If anything, bildung would more likely advocate that arts and science learn to appreciate each other's contribution rather than assert eithers supremacy.

  243. I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “tirade” in this context. I’m a physicist with a liberal arts background, who has taught liberal arts in a university setting, who is also engaged in the development of cutting edge technology, who thinks that liberal arts is undervalued in our society. I was providing my perspective; not a “tirade”.

  244. @Matt LaHaye. It wasn't a response in regards to your background certainly. Only in the context that an arts vs science debate missed the point, and was perhaps accidentally an ironic comparison.

  245. Mr Brooks can point out all the factors that have made life in the Nordic nations more humane. He would conspicuously omit their ‘socialist’ system. I bet given the chance Mr Brooks would add the inhospitable cold weather and NOT the desire of the Nordics to consider the welfare of each citizen the supreme law. We in the States consider such ‘socialism’

  246. @Bikome it would be helpful to understand which aspect of the “socialist” system - other than the label - bothers you.

  247. To achieve anything close to the Scandinavian model of schooling, we’d have to stop trying to constantly measure students’ learning with mainly standardized tests. The research indicates that standardized tests mainly measure how well people take standardized tests. So, to get higher scores, schools have to teach kids to become better test takers, which means they have to practice taking tests a lot. Which eats up time to do meaningful things. We need complex measures of learning that actually encourage complex learning. And those measures do not allow for easy comparisons. Many of those comparisons are actually a mirage, but giving up that mirage will be difficult for many people on both sides of the aisle.

  248. @Jacob Scandinavia doesn't go in for testing, from what I understand (other than by teachers in the classroom to measure individual student progress). In Finland they have zero mass tests, except for the college entrance exam, which is mostly in essay form, focusing on language skills.

  249. @Harold Unfortunately, here in Sweden schools are obsessed with national tests and how to measure pretty much everything in tests. @Jacob, I agree with your conclusion.

  250. The formative message shaping American children comes from pop culture, and it says: "Follow your dream no matter what others say or think." But that's Donald Trump. We can expect more like him. Thank you, Hollywood.

  251. I suggest you've glossed over a few aspects. The system started long ago when Scandinavia had a homogeneous population mostly reasonably poor. They were very late to immigration and certainly Sweden has had some push back in that area. The climate can be very limiting for parts of the year. I seem to recall Sweden had a rare conservative government recently that did reduced taxes and seek cuts to social welfare. Meantime the US is an immigrant nation. It's 2020 not 1890 and the average US citizen is quite well off, certainly compared to a Swede in the 19th century. Excellent free education is a worthy aspiration but in the here and now with a US population of 330m, compared to Scandinavia's 21m its implementation is chalk and cheese. And until recently I would imagine most Scandinavians would regard both the GOP and the Dems as right wing parties.

  252. Fair points, though the scalability of an approach to education is not really an issue. As you point out, an immigrant nation like the USA seems to have trouble implementing a more comprehensive, Scandinavian model of education due to the general lack of consensus on what the purpose of education is and the essential, core values that distinctly reflect the idea of “American.” Certainly, paying for an education system as effective as the kind described in Mr. Brooks’ piece is not something that will happen overnight. But more importantly, consider the structural limits of education in the United States. The Federal Government sets the tone, pays some of the bills, and leaves the implementation up to individual states, cities, and communities. Those sorts of disparities don’t always lift up the ‘folk’ that the Scandinavian system targeted in the first place.

  253. Good points, Mr. Brooks. As a retired educator, I completely agree. We need to learn much from the Scandinavian and European models, but not just from their educational models of teaching civic and personal responsibilities, but from their healthcare models and from people are treated who have committed crimes. Theirs is a system of humane and sensible incarceration, so that people who come out of the institutions are more likely to be rehabilitated and thus, less of a danger to the society. In addition their care for the mentally ill is superior to ours.Their institutions are cleaner and more humane, and also, with a bigger focus on reintegration into the society. Those fundamentals, schooling, health care, the reintegration of incarcerated or mentally ill citizens into the society at large, are essential to making a healthy and well functioning society, and thus a happier society.

  254. @Manuela Yes, especially given our school to prison pipeline, which needs to be put to a swift end.

  255. Great article David, you are spot on. Hopefully we can have some of this democratic socialism in the US!

  256. Nice article, David. However, you now have to take the next step and propose, in concrete terms (rather than the mere outline you have presented here), how we in the U.S. can emulate the Nordic model. For example, regarding public education: How much do those nations spend per pupil on public education for grades pre-K through 12? How much do public school teachers get paid? How available is day care and early childhood education and at what cost? What percentage of Nordic students go on to college (which is free)? What educational opportunities are available to those who do not go on to a traditional college? Then, take a look at other aspects of Nordic society, such as wealth & income equality, marginal tax rates, health insurance, health care, etc., etc. Although you have focused on Nordic educational values, I guarantee you will find that the Nordic system, from top to bottom, is premised on the model of a capitalist system -- a social compact, if you will -- that works for everybody, not just a few lucky winners.

  257. Mr. Brooks, don't forget that the business leaders and the political leaders, back in the beginning of the 20th century, deliberately set about to defeat actual socialism. The businessmen agreed that they would take care of building world class businesses and employing people. The government would provide an educated, healthy workforce. This includes healthcare, and free/heavily subsidized education for those who have the grades to attend; vocational schools for those who don't or want a different path. With healthcare that won't drive you to bankruptcy if you get sick and a university that gives you a good education without crippling debt, comes freedom to engage with your community and more deeply with your family. The American Dream is there for anyone but not everyone; not even close. Most people will struggle to pay down student loans and have reduced job options because healthcare is dependent on the job. Most people don't follow this to the logical conclusion that all of this makes it ever harder to start a new business and stay competitive once you start one. Think of the american companies that struggle under ever higher healthcare costs and (sometimes) pensions as they compete against companies around the world that don't pay these same bills.

  258. I have to laugh. Saying Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. is a bit like saying Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Like in fly over country. Not only are the four U.S. states larger in size, they probably have a greater population as well; and they are very certainly more ethnically diverse. I am not so sure about Scandinavian schools. We have a grandson presently attending school in Norway and as near as I can tell just about the only thing he has learned is how to speak Norwegian. For certain the curriculum is not nearly as challenging as either Canada or Alaska where he has also attended school. Maybe there is nothing wrong with U.S. schools; maybe it is that Scandinavia has better students.

  259. @W.A. Spitzer It has nothing to do with the size of the population but the attitude of the people. They are more concerned about their society as a whole and not as individuals, something that Americans lack as we focus too much on individualism. And, for your information, there are a lot of immigrants living in the Scandinavian countries.

  260. As a teacher, I know every child is born wanting to learn under the right conditions. We should look at teacher training and how students lives are in school and our rather than just cast blame.

  261. @W.A. Spitzer The total size of WI, IA, MN, ND is approx. 279,000 square miles. Total population: 15.4 million people The total size of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark is approx. 352,000 square miles. Total population: 26.5 million people.

  262. This requires what they started, to provide for the poor, for the education and basic care of those children. The US fundamentally does not do that, nor do its leaders wish to do so, nor does its politics entirely support that. Poor communities have bad schools, and their states allow that, withhold funding. States withdrew funding from state universities, shifting that onto the students, and so only on to those potential students who could afford it. Face it, people of color were left out deliberately, by design. It was the goal of the structure, as in Michigan where the tax base was shaped so that those minority schools cannot be funded.

  263. I've spent a lot of time in Sweden - I was married to a Swede for 16 years and my son still lives there. With that experience base, I would say that Mr. Brooks hasn't done his research thoroughly. I can't imagine how many Americans, and especially conservatives, would welcome the government providing the type of moral and cultural education to their children. This is a very complex issue that relies on multiple factors that are different between the two countries. I believe at its core, the US has been set up with the primary goal of business being unfettered and able to profit as much as possible, regardless of any secondary costs (social, environmental, etc.) whereas Scandinavian countries set up their governments with the primary task of making the lives of their people better, despite some secondary costs. Along the way, this investment in people has led to social, educational, and business success beyond what our bankrupt system is producing now. My wife at the time took pains to show me that Sweden is not a paradise, and the closeness and trust also bring with it a stifling of individual expression and freedoms. There is a lot of social pressure to conform that I doubt would fly here. As a result, I think it is unlikely that importing some aspects of the Scandinavian model would work here.

  264. @Scott C Sweden is fiercely capitalistic too. I think American "friskolor"/private schools sre much more regulated than their Swedish counterparts.

  265. I am a product of the Scandinvian model now living in the US. Every day I struggle with the American ‘individual before community’ attitude. Only through finding Waldorf education here in the US for my daughter, can I exhale and find hope in and for the next generation. They figured it out. And their philosophy is truly is ‘bildung’ or ‘dannelse’ as it is called in danish.

  266. @Trine Ostergaard Thank you, As a European myself (France) living in Canada for two decades I feel exactly the same way than you do. We are enrolling our daughter in a Waldorf school for the exact same reason as you (plus for the school's focus on low tech and on, as I would put it, "low sensory hyperstimulation" - if that makes sense!). A community can be a good thing, and trading some personal freedom for some common good... is common sense to me. But I must respect that nations have different histories, attitudes, traumas, etc.

  267. @Trine Ostergaard Yes, having moved from the Untied States to Canada, I find I love the Canadian sense of community. It's something that's sorely lacking in US culture, where individualism too easily devolves into mere selfishness.

  268. Join the Sanders campaign to help us elect him to transform our society to NotMeUs!

  269. While in Sweden last fall, I can attest to the standard of safety for its citizens. Twice on trains in Stockholm and twice on the streets of Visby on Gotland, teachers led students all of whom wore bright green safety vests while on their field trips. The percentage of rail passengers has increased as it is being understood that airplane travel is more harmful to health and the environment. Brooks is correct about Sweden's education being like a liberal arts for all which includes instruction of English starting in the first grades. Greta Thunberg is exhibit A for a country that works for its citizens.

  270. Heja Sverige! Fifty years ago, I wondered what the next step in my education, after the basic BA ought to be. The criterion I used was to study the most advanced, and the most promising country I knew. In chose Swedish and the Swedes. I earned a masters degree in Swedish and a PhD in Swedish language and culture. I studied at Stockholm University and the Swedish Film Institute. I had the privilege of attending the Nobel Ceremonies. I am a Fellow of the American Scandinavian foundation. Though I was never able to make a living using my education using my education in Swedish, or Scandinavian culture, I have no regrets. I still retain my admiration for Scandinavia and its people. Heja Sverige och Svenskarna!