Education, Social Science

‘Post-Truth’ and the Decline of Swedish Education

In the last 15–20 years, Sweden has suffered a downturn in several important aspects of the elementary and secondary education system. To begin to illustrate the state of Sweden’s schools, we can make a comparison with the heavily criticized American education system. It is a common and understandable belief, in the U.S. and elsewhere, that Swedish schools compare favorably with American schools in terms of educational outcomes. But the weakest American students in 8th grade performed significantly better than the weakest Swedish 8th graders in the TIMSS Mathematics assessment in 2011, one of the international comparative tests that have existed since the 1990s. In the latest cycle of the TIMSS Mathematics assessment, conducted in 2015, the weakest U.S. and Swedish students performed identically, but American students outperformed Swedish students in all other percentiles.

In contrast, Swedish students outperformed their U.S. peers across the entire distribution in 1995. A similar negative development can be observed in Swedish students’ performance in the PISA. Swedish 9th graders performed above the international average in the first cycle of PISA in 2000, but then Sweden’s results steadily deteriorated in each of the three PISA core areas—reading, mathematics, and science—until a low point was reached in 2012. Another PISA assessment conducted in 2012 revealed shortcomings in creativity, critical thinking, curiosity, and perseverance, and ranked Sweden 20th out of 28 countries. The findings in the TIMSS and PISA assessments suggest that there has been a significant decline in knowledge among Swedish students in recent years.

Yet the average merit rating (based on grades) in the final year of Sweden’s elementary schools has markedly improved since the late 1990s, which is highly suspicious. Indeed, the disconnect between international assessments of Swedish students’ performance and their grades is compelling evidence of rampant grade inflation in Swedish elementary schools, and the same problem is showing in secondary education as well.

Furthermore, Sweden has one of the highest levels of absenteeism and late arrivals in the OECD. Depression and anxiety among children aged 10–17 also increased by more than 100 percent from 2006 to 2016. According to Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare, the reasons for this dramatic increase are most likely linked to schooling and the transition from school to adult life. Similarly, physicians have suggested that the soaring prescriptions for ADHD drugs in Sweden, where as many as nine percent of boys are medicated for ADHD in some counties, are related to factors within the school system.

Finally, there is a kind of malaise in the teaching profession. There is an acute shortage of teachers, mainly caused by a high dropout rate among students in education degree programs. A further crisis component is the selection of applicants. Today, only five percent of teachers deem their profession prestigious, and barely half of them would choose the same occupation again. This fall in teaching’s status is reflected in the sizable share of applicants with low grades from secondary school and who grew up in homes with less cultural capital. Moreover, teachers are one of the least satisfied groups in the Swedish labor market, even though teachers’ relative wages have increased sharply in recent years. A recent study showed that four out of ten active teachers are considering leaving the profession.

What on earth is going on?

*     *     *

Postmodern, social-constructivist philosophy has been institutionalized in many Western countries’ school systems, and this has adversely affected educational quality. This approach contends that knowledge and reality are subjectively constructed, which implies that knowledge cannot be transferred from teacher to student and that objectively measuring academic ability and achievement should not even be attempted. Instead, students should be given freedom of choice in their learning and work independently to acquire supposedly general skills such as creativity and critical thinking, which are considered more durable than ‘facts’ arbitrarily arranged in core subjects.

Sweden has gone the farthest toward abandoning a knowledge-based core curriculum and a pedagogy in which students internalize and learn to apply knowledge under the teacher’s instruction and supervision. Sweden has a long history of incorporating far-reaching social-constructivist ideas into the school system. At the same time, Sweden is also unique among Western democracies in its commitment to for-profit voucher schools and school competition. This combination has proven profoundly toxic for the quality of Sweden’s education.

The antecedents of this development extend far back, to when Sweden’s modern school system was established in the 1960s. The abandonment of teacher-led instruction was strongly supported by the governing Social Democrats, who described the practice as “authoritarian to its core.” Instead, methods that would promote students’ independence and general critical thinking abilities were recommended. The first national curriculum for the new school system (enacted in 1962) thus stressed that schools “should work from norms that the pupils accept and rules that they help to develop.” The second curriculum (enacted in 1969) then called for a breakup of the structure of the traditional subject disciplines and discouraged all types of knowledge measurement.

The third curriculum, enacted by a center-Right government in 1980, had a more clearly expressed social-constructivist underpinning. The government bill that proposed the curriculum called for schoolwork to reflect “the pupils’ view of reality,” which it claimed to be inherently different from adults’ perception of reality, and “build on their curiosity and their questions.” However, the teaching methods used in schools changed very little between the 1960s and 1980s because more senior teachers upheld a traditional teaching culture, guided by a theory of knowledge characterized by a combination of empiricism and rationalism.

It was not until the early 1990s when the oldest teachers retired that this traditional culture was displaced by the new learning paradigm. At the same time, a new center-Right government enacted a fourth curriculum in 1994, which adopted an even more explicit social-constructivist view of schooling. A committee comprised mostly of pedagogues and staff from the Ministry of Education who drafted the curriculum stated that “what is knowledge in one place is not necessarily knowledge in other places” and that “there are no ‘pure’ facts,” only facts that take on meaning from what we can see or detect. In line with these arguments, the committee suggested that “the selection of facts can vary locally” and that “not all pupils everywhere need to work with the same facts to reach a common understanding.”

This proposal was realized in the curriculum. It did not come to include a prescribed content to be covered in the form of detailed course syllabi; it merely established a number of goals and objectives that it expected schools to concretize at the local level. The goals were unspecific and open to interpretation, which, in effect, transferred the responsibility for determining the content of and methods for elementary and secondary education from the state to the individual schools and their pupils. Indeed, the pupils were expected to assume successively greater responsibility for the planning and content of their education, whereas the teachers’ main priority was to support self-directed learning.

In tandem with the revised curriculum, a new grading system was enacted. One of the system’s defining features was that it eliminated the anchoring function of centrally administered standardized test scores and gave individual teachers full autonomy to assign grades. Teachers were, in turn, instructed to “utilize all available information about the pupil’s knowledge” and arrive at “an all-round judgment” when assigning grades, i.e. not just focus on tests results and other traditional forms of assessment. Heavily influenced by the social-constructivist view that objectively measurable knowledge does not exist, these grading instructions opened the door for arbitrary grading decisions and complaints about bad grades that could be easily dismissed as subjectively determined, leading to de facto negotiations between teachers and pupils.

These were hazardous conditions for school competition between public schools and for-profit voucher schools, which had come into existence just a few years earlier through Sweden’s school choice reform (enacted in 1992). With the changes to the curriculum and the grading system, there were no longer any institutional barriers to competition in dimensions other than educational quality, including grading. Independent schools – Sweden’s equivalent of charter schools – seem to have quickly taken advantage of this opportunity, as demonstrated by the fact that as early as 1997, independent secondary schools were prone to inflate grades.

*     *     *

The improvement in final grades during the period that Sweden slipped down international rankings was most likely due to this marriage between what we can refer to as ‘post-truth’ schooling and marketized education. The lax framework of the school system, which did not specify in detail what was to be taught or what knowledge level pupils had to attain to be assigned a certain grade, allowed independent schools to begin inflating grades. This phenomenon gave pupils and parents an incentive to choose independent schools to receive higher grades. The introduction of grade inflation forced public schools, as well as independent schools with high academic standards, to gradually adapt to remain competitive.

It is an established fact that well-functioning systems of school choice and competition presuppose that the state holds schools accountable for their performance by measuring what knowledge their pupils have acquired–for example, through external exit exams. But the regulatory documents issued by the Swedish state invalidated the very conception of objective knowledge. Therefore, both ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’ of education in the marketized school system became susceptible to fraudulent behavior, if not in a strictly legal sense, at least relative to the fundamental purpose of elementary and secondary education.

These lessons from Sweden indicate that countries with a tradition of social-constructivist practices in their education system, and which are considering implementing or expanding market-based school reforms, should proceed with caution. For example, the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has stated that she wants to enact a model of school choice that is identical to the one Sweden has.

With the current national curriculum, enacted by a center-Right government in 2011, the state appears to have reclaimed some its former regulatory functions. There are now more detailed course syllabi and grading criteria for each subject. However, a close reading of the curriculum reveals it to be just as influenced by postmodern, social-constructivist philosophy as the previous one. In particular, it does not explicitly specify what knowledge pupils must acquire to be assigned a particular grade. Hence, schools still have a strong economic incentive to affirm the social-constructivist view of knowledge. Since 2008, there is also a Swedish equivalent of Ofsted, the British schools inspectorate, whose task, in effect, is to enforce this view.

Against this background, it is not surprising that Swedish students perform worse academically and are poorer in skills that hinge on subject-specific knowledge. The sharp rise in truancy, ADHD diagnoses, depression, and anxiety among Swedish pupils is equally unsurprising in a learning environment that eliminates teacher-centered direct instruction and continually overloads the pupils’ working memory, as they have to piece together information on their own. Naturally, a large number of teachers will also find their job unsatisfactory and consider leaving their profession when subject expertise is secondary, and the curriculum grants extensive influence regarding content and planning to their pupils. However, as in other countries with schools that are failing due to social-constructive educational reforms, the problems of the Swedish school system are not intractable. A paradigm shift in the view of truth and knowledge has the potential to yield radical improvements.

This article is drawn from the authors’ recent study “‘Post-Truth’ Schooling and Marketized Education: Explaining the Decline in Sweden’s School Quality,” which includes a full list of supporting citations and references.

 

Magnus Henrekson is a Professor of Economics and CEO of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), in Stockholm, Sweden.

Johan Wennström is a PhD student in Political Science at IFN and Linköping University. You can follow him on Twitter @johanwennstrom

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86 Comments

  1. This explains a lot of things in regards to what has been going on in Sweden in the last few years.

  2. Peter from Oz says

    It is interesting how even the centre-right government in Sweden cannot resist the leftists in their civil service bureaucracy.

    • Morgan says

      The left has “owned the streets” for a while. To make matters worse, the right has not been able to articulate a proper message for decades. We might be seen the beginning of a change now but it is too early to tell.

      • Alan D White says

        The left ot only owns the sttreets it owns the local schools as well as higher ed. Furthermore, no matter what the message form the right, the left makes sure it will not be heard. There is no hope of reversing the situation peacefully; it must be allowed to self destruct fron internal contradictions and start over, like the USSR.

        • @Alan D. White
          “The left ot only owns the sttreets it owns the local schools as well as higher ed.”

          I thought we were discussing Sweden, not the U.S.?
          🙂 🙂

  3. Not much about immigration? How’re the newly arrived Swedes fairing in this system?

    • In Denmark, immigrants and descendants of immigrants from non-western countries are significantly behind the native population. When they start in school, many of the kids don’t even know basic danish, and when they finish grade school, a large proportion of them are still illiterate.
      Regarding IQ, the Flynn effect has diminished in scandinavia as well. When you inspect the IQ scores from our military conscription, it turns out people named Mohammed are behind the native population by approximately a standard deviation.

      All in all, discussing these negative trends without discussing third-world immigration is pointless.

  4. The next step is to double down and let the students themselves socially construct their own grades. That should fix the problem.

    • I had a “teacher” at the University of Illinois who “taught” rhetoric/persuasive writing. We met in chat rooms for class and were allowed to give ourselves a grade at the end of the term. I gave myself an “A.” An English degree from that school in 2004 is all but worthless. At least they have strong Engineering and Agricultural programs.

    • Conan the Agrarian says

      I agree! The authors have conflated post-inductivist quasinationalistic anti-institutionalizationism with simple neo-deconstructivist defenistrationalized fabricationalism.

      We must be patient with them. Some people are not good with basic social science categories.

      • Daniel says

        I think you mean “defenestrationalized”. I often misspell that word too.

    • Dodgy Detours is there a real difference between constructivism and social constructivism? After all, constructivism recognizes the importance of culture and background of the individual.

      Where there does seem to be a confusion in this article, is between “social constructivism” (which is the idea that individuals construct subjective representations of objective reality through intersubjective interaction within a culture) and “social constructionism” – which is the field that accepted Foucault and postmodernism and in its strong version believes that all knowledge is subjective, ie. that there are no ‘brute facts’.

      According to Wikipedia.

  5. Paul Ellis says

    Social-constructive engineering, anyone? Would you fly in a social-construct airliner, flown by a self-qualified crew? There are practical limits to this madness which I refute thus [kicks rock]

    • E. Olson says

      Or how about Obama era rules for recruiting flight controllers – racial/gender diversity come first, qualifications and relevant expertise come some time later.

    • I was just thinking about flight crews. I was a flight instructor about 10 years ago. To get a Private Pilot’s Certificate, you have to do maneuvers within parameters, pass an oral exam, and pass a written exam. Steep turns, for example, have to be completed with a max altitude deviation of +/- 100 feet. You have to be able to explain why airplanes pull left when adding power for takeoff. It’s not up for debate. My English degree, however, was a complete joke. I didn’t really have to learn anything.

  6. Great article which explains alot of the things going on in Sweden. I’m glad to see that there are still som rational minds out there taking up the battle against the social-constructionists.

  7. We need to do better in our discussions of constructivism. The fact is that the construction of social, or imagined realities is a naturally occurring human behavior; i.e. it is in the nature of human beings to think (construct) things into existence (e.g. money, marriage, religion, nations, etc.) that are instrumental to achieving goals. These things do not exist in the natural world (obviously), these only exist by our tacit collective agreement to act “as if” they were real (reification). We call this the social world to distinguish it from the natural world (Searle’s “Institutional” reality vs “Brute” reality). This is an observable phenomenon (i.e. a fact), no less so than the observation that the earth orbits the sun. As such, it requires a theory, a well-substantiated explanation, of the facts. At present, there are a number of competing theories (some better than others) that fall under the term “social constructivism, constructionism, constructivist…some more or less materialist in their orientation. Social constructive (communicative) behavior is a brute reality, it produces social, or imagined realities whose “truth” lay in their social function (usefulness for achieving human purposes); it’s what the biologist Bret Weinstein has called “metaphorical truth” to distinguish it from objective truth (e.g. the laws of physics that explain why planes fly). To deny the fact of socially constructed realities is to be a science denying, anti-rationalist. Authors writing about the topic, therefore, should be much more specific about exactly which theory[ies] of constructed reality is being discussed. Just saying, “Post-modern” is insufficient–it leaves the impression that all theories of constructivism are post-modern in orientation. That impression is not only false but makes a common understanding of the social world harder to reach, and positive social changes harder to make.

    • Paul Ellis says

      You’re not wrong. Some social constructs act as if they are objective truths. One such is the scientific method; another is an academic or performance examination carried out according to objective criteria such as a driving test or air transport pilot’s qualification. Their value lies in their independence, objectivity, and repeatability: one can reasonably assume that a flight crew that is ATPL- and type-qualified is actually capable of operating the airliner safely rather than merely asserting that they can; one ought to be confident that an experiment rigorously conducted according to the scientific method is capable of revealing an objective truth that can be independently verified.

      Without social constructs that act as objective truths, human society collapses to superstition and primitivism. *That* is the pomo danger: people not merely asserting that subjective truth trumps objective truth in circumstances that require objective truth, but that objective truth does not exist under any circumstances. “That* I refute with the kick of the rock. Samuel Johnson wasn’t wrong.

    • cacambo says

      Very well said JayB! These finer distinctions get lost all too often in the partisan scrum.

    • Farris says

      There is no doubt that things like money, marriage, nations, ect are social constructs. However identifying them as such does not defeat their their utility. The fact that over all marriage, money and nations are preferable to the alternative is not a perceived truth but a demonstrated truth. These social constructs did not occur over night but rather evolved through societies experimenting with alternatives. The strongest social constructs survive while the weakest fail. The notion that there are no truths is simply ridiculous. It is akin to saying, “ The truth is there are no truths.” Throughout history there have been demonstrated models of success and failure or demonstrated truths and demonstrated failures. The idea that truths are relative is generally pandered by those lobbying on behalf of an untried or failed social construct.

    • Andrew Roddy says

      There seems to be confusion, JayB. I am not sure whose it is. You tell us that ‘money, marriage, religion, nations etc do not exist in the natural world (obviously)’ but ‘only exist by our tacit collective agreement to act “as if” they were real (reification).’ So is this tacit agreement not, then, a phenomenon of the natural world? If not, then what might it be? And yet – ‘The fact is that the construction of social, or imagined realities is a naturally occurring human behavior.’ !?

    • X. Citoyen says

      I bow to no one in the minding of fine theoretical distinctions, except when they can’t be minded, they don’t matter, or both. This is a case of both. To expect anyone outside small circle of philosophers to understand definitions of these concepts precise enough to be useful in practice is wishful thinking. And getting those philosophers to agree on the interpretation and implications of finer distinctions is a fool’s errand.

      But then the distinctions don’t matter because public education needs an official epistemology like a bear needs a theory of shitting in the woods. It doesn’t matter which social constructionist theory you believe to be true because none of them have implications for education. What is taught is determined by the ends citizens assign to primary education: The questions are what do kids need to know, how much can they learn and at what age, and how do we evaluate schools? Whether knowledge is socially constructed or not is irrelevant.

      So why do educrats push constructionist epistemology? Because they are progressive true believers or their useful idiots smuggling in relativism and antinomianism—the most successful propaedeutic to progressive ideology—through the backdoor. They can’t directly indoctrinate kids in the need for radical social and political transformation, so they do the next best thing. They undermine traditional mores and beliefs by teaching kids that all knowledge is socially constructed, a doctrine that pre-empts comparisons between beliefs by relativizing all beliefs to social choices and the work of social forces. The field is now ready for ideological planting.

      • Daniel says

        X. Citoyen,
        You have some good thoughts about how esoteric and needless the minutiae of these philosophical points are. I’m going to push back to a limited extent, though: serious teachers do actually pay attention to education theory and internalize this stuff. They notice a connection between what they’ve seen work, and what a philosophy is describing. They then try applying that philosophy to another activity, assessment, or unit. If they fail, they try to ascertain how the philosophy was misapplied, or in lieu of that, if the philosophy itself is bunk. After time, the philosophy they end up subscribing to becomes quite helpful.

        Regarding your statements about the reason educrats are pushing constructionist epistemologies: preach it! Couldn’t agree more!

      • X. Citoyen – Actually Vygotsky’s constructionism is directly relevant to how people learn and definitely useful to an educator. It’s not an epistemology as such, but a map of how people acquire and integrate objective facts into their thinking. It’s just a shame that it gets conflated with the dangerous nonsense of social constructionism.

        • X. Citoyen says

          Daniel and ouipoo,

          You’re both referring to pedagogies premised on child development theories—i.e., teaching strategies based on theories about how children learn. I’m talking about epistemologies—theories of knowledge—which are about what counts as knowledge, whether knowledge is possible, and so on. Pedagogy and epistemology both classify theories in their respective domains using nouns formed from the verb “construct.” But the meaning and implications of “construct” nouns in the two disciplines are radically different.

          To take the most obvious contrast, the expression “knowledge is socially constructed” in pedagogy basically that kids learn or mostly learn (e.g., language) by interacting with their peers, teachers, parents, and so on. One implication of this view is that learning by doing will be an effective teaching strategy. Getting kids to compose and share their own stories after reading a story and explaining the basics of plot, for example, will be an effective way of getting them to understand and internalize compositional structure and techniques. No one with any sense objects to this type of constructivism, though mostly because people with sense have observed that the strategy works (and, as I suggested above, worked long before the theory came along to explain it).

          In epistemology, however, “knowledge is socially constructed” means knowledge is nothing more than the shared beliefs of social groups and that “true” and “false” are merely words used by group members to signal approval and disapproval and to police membership. The corrosive implications of this type of epistemology should be obvious, especially when it’s foisted upon young and impressionable minds who lack the experience and knowledge to resist it. Anxiety and malaise appear to be the most common reactions, closely followed by the intended result, susceptibility to radicalism.

          So, JayB was half-right when he said constructivist theories are being confused. He was wrong, however, that the authors of this piece were confused about the destructive epistemological constructivism that has been injected into our education systems by ideologues and spread by the naive. I add—stretching the figure of speech to the breaking point—that you’re both probably two-thirds right because the ideologues have succeeded by trading on the superficial similarities between the two meanings of “knowledge is socially constructed” in the two disciplines and that all concerned parties would be better off if they understood exactly how the sleight of hand works so they focus on the fight target.

      • x. Citoyen

        Suppose we were to discover that some bears indeed do have theories of shitting in the woods. Suppose we were to discover that these bears are even aware that there are many ways of shitting in the woods. If, as is the case, bears are bears are bears, of what use is such “knowledge”?

  8. Andrew Kelman says

    Fascinating. The timelag from the implementation of the new social constructionalist curriculum to its enforcement was significant and delayed only by the retirement of old teachers. This suggests the current culture wars will last decades because even a change of policy now will take many years to implement, especially if is done against the wishes of the existing ideologues/teachers.

    • Daniel says

      Andrew Kelman,
      How right you are! Unless people start getting fired.
      One can but hope…

  9. Pingback: Big if True – Utawala

  10. Pingback: How Swedish education is destroyed by postmodern, social-constructivist philosophy. - TPOok

  11. Nothing to do with Sweden being repopulated by low-IQ non-Europeans, then. Thanks for clearing that one up, Magnus & Johan.

    • E. Olson says

      In Sweden you are forbidden to consider that immigrants could possibly be any different than native Swedes in any cultural or cognitive dimensions. To do so makes you an automatic Nazi, and you and your racist children will not be welcome in any discussion about Swedish education.

  12. listdervernunft says

    So-called ‘social constructs’ are to humans what phenotypes are to animals, namely the set of observable, objective or externalized characteristics reflective of internal or intrinsic determinacies. In other words, social constructs are not arbitrary, but rather constitute a necessary formal aspect of one and the same determinate content of a specific population.

  13. david of Kirkland says

    Government run schools will work out over the years the same as Aeroflot did for air travel.
    Education is far too out of date for the modern world, and without the ebbs and flows that come from free markets, we get stale, protectionist and stuck in a rut.

  14. Innominata says

    I am tempted to reduce all the “social constructionist” jargon and statistics to “down with hierarchy!”

    I venture this because the tension between egalitarianism and hierarchy seems to be basic to apes, all the way back to chimps.

    We dress it up with long words, but the root might be simpler: humans don’t like other humans lording over them and prefer at least nominal egalitarian structure. At the same time, humans don’t like the catastrophically wasteful and violent free-for-alls over sex, status, and stuff that ensue in the absence of some emergent social hierarchy to assign place, mate choice, and income.

    It sounds like the Swedish students have been “freed” from a hierarchy based on objective criteria. But hierarchy gives meaning and structure to many. Without it, depression seems likely. No human is more miserable than one who is too free.

    • Daniel says

      Innominata,
      Very good points. I especially agree with your last paragraph. When you say “hierarchy gives meaning and structure to many”, I would add that “many” really is defined as “a much higher percentage than you would think — almost everybody.” There are a few outliers, who genuinely think differently than others, but they will unfortunately struggle to find meaning in their lives. Because healthy hierarchies are focused on doing things the best way, everyone else, whether they like the sound of it or not, will benefit from them.

    • The iron law of oligarchy (which no one contests) is that increased social complexity = increased hierarchy.

      Someone makes the decisions, more implement them, and even more are the subjects of those decisions–this is true of every modern organization: corporation, union, municipality, militaries, the EU bureaucracy, NGO’s, nonprofits.

      Claiming that we are going to eliminate hierarchy is like claiming we are going to eliminate taxes. A good slogan to get you into office–promise the impossible–but the kind of thing anyone functioning on 10th grade level should immediately recognize as bovine effluence.

      It’s not overcoming hierarchy, its about stacking them with members of your tribe, and eliminating members of the other tribe.

      • JWatts says

        “It’s not overcoming hierarchy, its about stacking them with members of your tribe, and eliminating members of the other tribe.”

        No, there are other methods. For example, representative democracy is a way to create a less authoritarian hierarchy. Any kind of feed back mechanism can allow a normal pyramidal hierarchical structure to be somewhat more democratic.

    • As any parent (especially of boys) knows, hierarchy is extremely important to a well functioning family/household. My husband and I are early gen Yer’s and I’ve gladly adopted some folk wisdom from my “Greatest Generation” grandparents. I never listen to “new parenting” “studies” as they all come with a liberationist agenda. There is a movement in the Democratic Socialist agenda to “deconstruct the family patriarchy system”. It doesn’t take much guess work to decode what that entails.

      This might explain why Sweden has such high single parent households and high out of wedlock birthrate. It looks like the 1960’s cultural revolution might have hit them harder than it did America (we had a strong religious background fighting it tooth and nail, but even they couldn’t defeat it).

      • Debbie says

        Gen Yers was just an early and long discarded name for millenials.

      • “This might explain why Sweden has such high single parent households and high out of wedlock birthrate.”

        Sweden? How about the USA? Over 40 percent of all births now are illegitimate. Among Hispanics, the figure is 52 percent. Among African-Americans, 73 percent.

      • Ikonoklaster says

        I’m from the UK, but have friends in Germany and Scandinavia, and I really think the 1960s did have a much bigger influence socially and politically than in Britain.

        My parents were very 1960s people. They loved Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, and Jazz and Soul, and Reggae, and were even young enough to like bits of the new wave. I was brought up to believe, which I still do, that everyone regardless of skin colour is equal and deserving of politeness and respect. They believed that gay people should not be persecuted and just be equal members of society and accepted. Both my parents wanted a better world. Socialism my Dad said should mean that everyone becomes ‘middle class’, by which he meant the UK version of middle class where people had a good home and access to the better things in life like art and music and travel. (Note that ‘middle class’ in the US means roughly the equivalent of ‘working class’ in the UK.)

        But they didn’t, I think, want to turn the world upside down. They wanted an incrementally better world. And after all their parents had been part of the fight against National Socialism in WW2.

        In contrast I have friends from places like Germany and Scandinavia whose parents were part of the 60s generation, and they really wanted a world turned upside down, a complete destroying of the social order. One obvious reason for this in Germany is the Nazis: these 60s generation Germans really, I think, in an almost spiritual way want to ‘cleanse’ the nation. The hidden truth for the Swedes that underneath their self-conscious ‘humanitarian superpower’ idea of themselves, they too think of themselves as guilty for the Nazis.

        Illustrative of this is Stieg Larsson’s book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In the book Larsson creates villains so outrageously villainous it’s pretty incredulous: rich, Nazi, raping torturing, sexually unhealthy, murdering: the very worst of the worst in every aspect possible. Against which the girl with the eponymous dragon tattoo is a victim of the class of people who are the villains who is the agent of righteous vengeance. Larsson places a pretty obvious version of himself in the story as a white knight standing up to this tyranny. (As an aside there’s also a quite creepy sub-text of his middle aged wish fulfilment for having sex with the teenaged victim of sexual abuse he has created.) The obvious question is does the picture of the hidden evil of Swedish society, or at least one part of it, actually exist? Or is Larsson really tilting at windmills? What is for sure, is that Larsson must believe that Swedish society has something inside of it that is so evil that it must be destroyed by any means necessary if he is to sustain his worldview.

        Of course he himself represents everything that is good, as are other Swedes like him. This creates a strange sort of dichotomy where Sweden is both at the same time all that is virtuous and progressive and also everything that is evil and regressive. According to this worldview all Swedish traditions are suspect and need to be vanquished and done away with. It represents a very extreme us versus them way of seeing things which is sustained by an actually pathological case of “I see Nazis”. Ally this with a cultural relative ethos that views other cultures as absolute equals, if not betters. This it appears leads to rather than viewing their own culture as something which has elements that are good, and some other elements that are not so good, but as something that must be brought down in it’s entirety.

        This worldview is at the same both naive childlike and also mystical. In Germany and Italy (also in Japan), you had movements in the 1970s like the Red Army Faction, and the Red Brigades, that I think sought to cleanse the sins of the national soul through political violence. Like Franz Fanon as belief that only a mystical form of violence can cleanse a person’s soul. The supreme irony is that mystical violence leading to some sort of national cleansing and purification was also an important element of National Socialism.

        I think the rise of Red Army Faction was to an extent an understandable reaction to the first generation of Germans born after WW2. However trying to negate political violence via further political violence smacks trying to undo a negative with another negative. It simply perpetuates violence with yet more violence. For me the music of Can or Kraftwerk, the movies of Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog seem a much better rebuke to Nazism and Fascism than being a narcissistic thug like Andreas Baader. (Interestingly enough, every artist from Germany from the 68 generation I have spoken to or been quick to disassociate themselves the likes of Baader.) Indeed rhetorical artistic revolution of seemed to have won the day by the time the 1970s had ended.

        I think the generation after the war saw that the world was now much better, because they’d seen the world (in the West specifically) after it had been very badly damaged, when it wasn’t so great. For the most part that is. For others I suspect there could never be any redemption, for which no real and actual improvement in the world could ever be recompense enough of past sins.

        I’ve known people who think like this, people in my parents circle, but they were thought to be a bit fringe. My observation is that British people generally tend to take their ideology with a very big pinch of salt, though Jeremy Corbyn now leading the Labour Party suggests that is changing. Socialism and the left just meant notions of working class solidarity and fairness. Even my anarchist professor at university did not believe that humans were a blank slate, and was very much opposed to postmodern ideas that there was no such thing as objective truth.

        My impression when speaking to German and Scandinavian friends is the opposite is true. They take ideology very seriously. Compared to British people they can come off as a mixture of overly sincere and naive. Sweden is after all a small country very much on the edge of Europe. They didn’t just have a good time in the 60s in the they really took the free love seriously, well at least in so far as being very liberal about pornography way before the internet porn revolution.

  15. Staffan says

    I’ve been a Teacher for almost 20 years now (upper secondary level) and know for sure IQ has nothing to to with country of origin, color of skin or cultural background.But I guess that was what you ment, Magnus & Johan?My students display both smartness and grit, and they come from all over the world btw.So what’s the problem?I’d say teachers don’t get to be teachers in Swedish Schools today.Quality before quantity will never apply as long as employers refuses to listen to teachers – true professionals.It will never apply as long as non-professionals – politicians – will interfere and try to solve the situation.For the past thirty years, qoncequently, the status of the profession has been undermined, and terms for teachers still gets worse.It will most likely keep going but for what good?Today the biggest problem isn’t decreasing results in terms of skills or knowledge (which aren’t good, but not that bad), it is teachers leaving schools in great numbers.Educated and licensed teachers are becoming rare.And what was the municipality respond to that?”Let’s spread the governmental money spent, in favor to a few” .And the remaining teachers ran off to other schools or changed careers, including me.I’m still in school, as a teacher, and I love it. I jumped from one school to another, raised my payment with €500/month.But I hear my childrens complaints about substitutes almost every day.

    • Debbie says

      Your anecdotal experience doesn’t beat objective data on IQ.

      • Debbie says

        Of course there are bright students from all around the world, but we’re talking about averages.

    • Intelligence is inherited and not equally distributed among the races.
      IQ by race:
      • Ashkenazi Jews = 115
      • East Asians = 106
      • Whites = 102
      • Inuits and Eskimos = 91
      • South-East Asians = 87
      • American Indians = 87
      • Non-White Hispanics = 86
      • Koko (a western lowland gorilla) = 85
      • American Blacks = 85 (average 24% White admixture)
      • Middle East and North Africans = 84
      • African Blacks = 67 (only 2% of Whites score this low)
      • Australian Aborigines = 62
      • Kalahari Bushman = 54
      • Congo Pygmies = 54
      Asian IQ scores cluster around the mean; thus, the cognitive variation among Whites produces more geniuses, but also more morons.

  16. Daniel says

    Great article by Henrekson and Wennstrom.

    My own experience with school choice comes from a community that is appalled at the lack of rigor in public schools, and see school choice as a way of getting their kids out of namby-pamby classrooms, and into ones that will challenge them. Their thinking is, if there is competition, parents can choose the best education for their kids.

    I suppose as long as parents are choosing what is actually best for their kids, school choice is fine. Not just fine, actually, but necessary. It could be a solution to the myriad problems in education. But Henrekson and Wennstrom’s point, that school choice just led to grade inflation, is a good one. I can see how parents who want good grades, and who think that grades have some connection with learning, would opt for whatever school was offering the easiest As.

    The goal needs to be evidence of learning. Everyone needs to be focused on it. When people aren’t focused on evidence of learning, but are instead focused on high grades and making people happy, insanity results. Two anecdotes to illustrate the idiocy of this:

    First, a principal and a registrar are looking at a computer screen, noticing that there was a mistake in how the grades were tabulated for a class, resulting in every student having a grade 20% higher than it should be. The principal shakes his head in resignation, and even though it is the middle of the term, and even though two keystrokes could fix the problem, says: “You know, we can’t change these grades, because parents are going to be disappointed.” This actually happened.

    Second, a teacher was giving a workshop on student-directed learning. This teacher’s high school class involves a single semester-long project, in which the students pick something (anything!) they want to study, and do something (anything!) with it. It really was that vague. The teacher had generated schedules, and handouts, and rubrics, and posters, and guidelines, and suggestions. And most of all, philosophical justifications for this. Oodles of philosophical justifications. What was noticeably missing was any sort of reference to quality, content, or rigor. When I asked what was preventing students from submitting a mere half-page “report” at the end of the semester, I was assured that the teacher could gather evidence from observing the student working in class, and that the end report didn’t have to kill their grade.

  17. When my daughter was 6, she started French immersion. She could already read in English, but had skipped kindergarten. The teacher informed me she would not do well because of this. After that my husband did all the parent-teacher interactions, because I could not remain polite, and he said quite rightly, if I called the teacher a stupid cow, I would end up in the principal’s office, and the teacher would take it out on the kid.

    I missed out on a formal education until grade 11. I respect a few of the teachers my kids had, but most were stupid and rigid. Now, I see my grandson being given detentions for reading his own book if he finishes before the class. It took an expensive psychologist with a high powered reputation to get the school to cut him some rope rather than expel him – his crime? refusing to go to detentions he thought were unfair. This is Quebec, where education is structured in terms of content and order of presentation – a very Cartesian approach.

    Maybe the Swedish approach allows the bright ones to avoid a rigid structure, and get on with learning once their brains are more mature.

    • JWatts says

      “It took an expensive psychologist with a high powered reputation to get the school to cut him some rope rather than expel him – his crime? refusing to go to detentions he thought were unfair. ”

      Well his parents taught him an awful lesson. Yes, life isn’t fair. But now he “knows” that rich parents who can afford expensive psychologists will buy him out of trouble. A better approach would have been to tell him that “life isn’t fair” and that sometimes you suck it up and go to detention.

    • Debbie says

      They should test kids and then maybe consider putting the brightest in classes that allow students more freedom, but putting a below average kid in a class like that is just a recipe for disaster. Keep in mind half the kids are below average btw.

  18. Pingback: Keep the population uneducated and brainwashed. – The winds are changing

  19. Pingback: Where did Swedish schooling go wrong? | The Simple Pastor

  20. Freidrich Goatse says

    As it turns out, when you repeople a region with those from elsewhere in the world, this kind of thing tends to happen. And it has nothing to do with how it’s being done, no amount of “better education” or tossing money into a bottomless pit will improve this appreciably. It hasn’t anywhere else and other countries like America have tossed far more time and money into it. In America, the public schools with the highest amount of funding still do terribly and that is because of the biological makeup of the student body.

    The issue here is purely that it is being done–the importation and ethnic swamping and engulfment of the native population will inexorably lead to this and the breakdown of any notion of what we consider civilized. Evolution is real and created real racial differences, which includes cognitive differences.

    It might seem paradoxical that the domestically-awarded scores keep going up as the international rankings go down, but not really when you consider the lengths that the social engineers are going to hide the problems and claim that everyone is the same even though that’s just not the case. What’s happening is that the international rankings conform to the actual reality, whereas the domestic rankings are just the result of liars making things up in order to fit the narratives that the state has been pushing for decades.

    Of course, this article lacks a single mention of things like genetic differences so I’m sure we can expect more of the same from the “academics.” More hemming and hawing about at best the symptoms rather than the cause because they can’t diagnose the problem correctly, since correctly diagnosing these problems would be deemed “racist” and would entail risk to some cushy sinecure of a job where you largely just make things up as you go along then virtually none of them will do it.

    There is no way to make this work. Bringing in low IQ, lower genetic capital groups into countries like Sweden is just entropy. If they outbreed the natives, then the country will get worse. If they breed with the natives and dilute and destroy them that way, the country will get worse and probably collapse into some unrecognizable hellscape once the natives have been reduced far enough in number that they can no longer be squeezed and plundered for enough money to pay to continue the maintenance of this illusion.

    • Yes. In fact, your last paragraph is a good description of the failing California. As time passes and the mulricultural-multiethnic California struggles with paying for their huge unsustainable system, it will increasingly resemble the culture in your last paragraph.

  21. This parallels heavily with my analysis on the decay of truth in education in a book published last spring (LINK: https://www.cambridgescholars.com/the-decay-of-truth-in-education).

    If school systems do not value truth (which social constructivism almost necessarily does not since it emphasizes personal meaning making and a relativistic understanding of knowledge) then we produce students who are more prone to confirmation bias and less effective at critical thinking.

    Good article; I’ll be checking out the peer reviewed piece and encourage anyone interested to check out my book for a longer expansion on this topic.

    • Tunya Audain says

      The Decay of Truth in Education: Implications and Ideas for Its Restoration as a Value

      I have ordered the book and expect delivery Nov-Dec. The price was steep. But it will be worth it if it meets my expectations, and I’ve read previous articles by Kevin, which impressed. Will try and find them to read again.

      This is the write-up in Amazon: Why has the spread of fake news taken grip on society so quickly? Why has there been a significant increase in violence among those who disagree on issues? Why is it that increasingly our society is shutting down speech they disagree with rather than engage in civil debate? This book explores each of these issues and traces their connection to the same root cause: the decay of truth in education. It presents a compelling case that documents how educational institutions and political institutions alike have abandoned truth as a primary virtue. In doing so, our society has waded deeply into an environment loaded with deceit, distraction, and delusion. The targets of this critique range across political, religious, and social groups as this is a societal-level outcome of the educational malaise towards truth. The book underscores topics of practical interest and considers real opportunities for each individual to take to help restore truth as a virtue in education and in society.

      I can’t wait to learn of the opportunities “to help restore truth as a virtue in education and society”.

  22. meerkat says

    In Canada, there seems to have been a shift in thinking, not necessarily articulated in any policies, towards the idea that the student is the customer. In practice this means the parents are the customers of the education system and schools. By itself, this is not a toxic idea (who doesn’t want to get value for tax-dollars and the best for their children?), but it somehow morphed into the idea that the customer is always right, and as a result many teachers find themselves in the position of a McDonald’s cashier, trying to placate the angriest and most unreasonable customers.

    One example is French immersion education, which in Canada is seen by many parents as substantially improving their child’s employment prospects, especially for lucrative and stable civil-service jobs. The problem is that not every child has the cognitive horsepower to function in the French immersion system, which necessitates that the student receive less formal instruction in each language than they would in a single-language program. For years, teachers were discouraged or even forbidden by their administrators from suggesting to parents that a single-language program might be best for a struggling child. I don’t know if this is a case anymore, but a parent used to be able to enroll their child in French immersion as late as the 8th grade because it was seen as their “right”, even though by that point the student was seven years behind their peers in terms of French skills.

    Of course, this whole situation resulted in many dropping out during secondary school, often with substandard skills in both languages.

    The other problem is that teachers are increasingly expected to do things other than simply impart knowledge and academic skills. They are expected to partake in “character education” and to instill a sense of discipline that in years past would have been seen a a prerequisite for a student entering the classroom in the first place. When I was a student, a teacher’s discipline was meant to maintain a proper learning environment. It was not the expectation that they would teach us how to behave in general. That was our parents’ job.

    The parent-as-customer attitude makes these problems increasingly difficult to correct because in many cases, a parent confronted with tales of their child’s misbehavior will react the same way they would if the McDonald’s cashier informed them that they were out of Big Macs. Little Johnny is having temper tantrums? Fix it! I’m the customer, I want my money’s worth! It’s doubly worrying when combined with the self-centred attitude lamentably common among the millennials, whose older members now have children entering elementary school.

    About a year ago, I was eating lunch with some coworkers when one, a father of a first-grader, recounted getting a call from the child’s teacher informing him that his little boy was constantly running around the classroom, being disruptive. My coworker shrugged his shoulders incredulously and said “Why does she want ME to do about it?”

    It never seemed to occur to this fellow that his child did not exist in a vacuum, that his behaviour effected his classmates’ ability to learn and that the teacher’s call was an earnest effect to address this issue.

    I find it odd that so many people understandably complain about teachers’ compensation, but people never seem to make that leap to realise that they’re actually getting even less bang for their buck because Joanie can’t learn her times tables when Mrs. Smith is desperately trying to coax little Johnny out of a tantrum. Of course, that sort of information doesn’t show up on government balance sheets, so a lot of people don’t think out it, and the parent-as-customer model makes it harder to address.

    • Debbie says

      I rarely hear people complain that teachers get paid too much. What I do hear people complain about is that bad teachers are rarely fired in many districts.

  23. Interesting to see that charter schools adapt faster to the new Swedish “standards” than do public schools. Could the re-institution of independent exit exams have an equally rapid and salutary effect on these independent schools?

    • X. Citoyen says

      You’re right. As I suggested below, the market supplies what the consumer demands. Demand performance on standardized tests and the market with supply performers. Demand feelings and creativity be given high grades and the market will give you that.

      It’s interesting to note that the criticism of charters in Alberta (Canada) is almost the opposite of the one here. They’re accused of “dumping” weaker students and disciplinary cases on the public system to keep their performance high on standardized exams. Yet that’s exactly what you have to do if you want high-quality students: selective enrollment and minimal disruption.

      • meerkat says

        I don’t know whether that’s a criticism, but such practices need to be kept in mind when evaluating how much value is being added to the students’ education attainment by a given school. For example, the best scores in standardized tests in Ontario cluster in Markham and neighbouring Richmond Hill, a pair of suburban cities north of Toronto. Are the teachers in these cities really that much better than everyone else?

        Probably not. Both towns are extremely wealthy and tend to attract the most education-focused immigrants (Markham is 45% Chinese and 18% South Asian, Richmond Hill is 30% Chinese, 10% Iranian, and 6% South Asian). Keep in mind that since visible minorities in Canada skew lower in average age, these percentages are probably higher among school-aged students. Markham in particular houses a lot of high-tech companies, like IBM Canada’s main campus and an AMD design centre. Their proximity to Toronto also allows people to work in Toronto while affording a nicer house than they could have in the megacity.

        So is it any wonder that such people produce academically high-achieving children? Of course most parents would love to have their kids in schools populated by the offspring of software and electrical engineers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the teaching quality is better, just that the students are starting out with a genetic and cultural advantage. Naturally, such schools can attract the best teachers since they allow teachers to spend more time teaching and less time disciplining, but how much of the students superior performance can be attributed to the teachers?

        From what I understand, the UK has introduced a valued-added type rating for secondary schools, but I don’t know how good it is.

        • Asians perform well in school? This is a surprise?

          Intelligence is inherited and not equally distributed among the races.
          IQ by race:
          • Ashkenazi Jews = 115
          • East Asians = 106
          • Whites = 102
          • Inuits and Eskimos = 91
          • South-East Asians = 87
          • American Indians = 87
          • Non-White Hispanics = 86
          • Koko (a western lowland gorilla) = 85
          • American Blacks = 85 (average 24% White admixture)
          • Middle East and North Africans = 84
          • African Blacks = 67 (only 2% of Whites score this low)
          • Australian Aborigines = 62
          • Kalahari Bushman = 54
          • Congo Pygmies = 54
          Asian IQ scores cluster around the mean; thus, the cognitive variation among Whites produces more geniuses, but also more morons.

  24. X. Citoyen says

    My one criticism of this piece is that you see charter schools as a cause when you should be reading their outputs as an effect of the education system.

    Free markets respond to incentives, producing whatever consumers demand more efficiently than public suppliers. If charter schools are producing poorly educated graduates with inflated grades, they’re merely supplying what the educrats are demanding. So the charters aren’t adding to the problem; they’re merely doing more efficiently what the public system is doing, given the standards set by the educrats: produce know-nothings with high grades.

    In case it’s not obvious, my reading supports your thesis that the fault lies squarely with the government’s standards. The charters’ market discipline is merely making those standards more evident for all to see.

  25. martti_s says

    It takes certain kinds of people to run a post-industrial liberal democratic society.
    Once the percentage of those needed to operate it falls beyond a certain point, it starts to sputter and limp and finally it degrades to corruption and finally implodes.
    The best strategy the elites have figured out thus far is to stifle discussion about the subject.
    Doesn’t look good.
    I feel sorry for the teachers who are given an impossible task. There is no way you can fulfil the norms that have been created for native speakers from literate homes when the material is illiterate orphans.
    No wonder there are no teachers.
    No wonder kids skip school, either. They don’t get it.

  26. If a ‘centre-right’ government sets about a programme of social constructivism and postmodernism, then it is not ‘centre-right’ but actually ‘hard-left’.

    Just not necessarily as hard-left as the other parties.

    Still, this is what the Swedes vote for. They deserve whatever they get from it, I’m sure.

  27. As an inner city teacher in the US, I’ve been weary of outsiders ‘analyzing’ what’s wrong with our schools without factoring in all the variables.This article is more honest, but it’s still suffering from a fundamental dishonesty: It pretends the population in Sweden has stayed the same. IT has not. The elephant in the living room is the very rapid rise of migrants that coincide with the rapid plummeting in school performance. The authors do contortions to avoid this fact, but if you ignore the problem you cannot find a solution.

    In our country, I see this all the time for the schools I teach in. It’s commonly observed that inner city schools perform poorly. But both Dems and Republicans do everything in their power to ignore the core truth: They do more poorly because their students are not at the same level as those in a middle or upper middle class district. Why they do more poorly is complex and I get that people want to shut their eyes and plug their ears for fear of being called a racist. But the alternative is to ignore the basic fact that inner city kids have multiple significant delays (reading, speaking, behavior) that are very well documented and which start very early, by age two. Factors include constant trauma and PTSD, poor family role modeling, a cultural lack of value of education (not among all inner city folks obviously). It doesnt’ have to be IQ. But without even talking about it, we end up ‘solving’ the problem purely for our own needs, not theirs. So someone who wants to earn a ton in technology ‘solves’; the problem by throwing more computers at them. Someone who wants to earn a half million opening a charter, does so. Someone who wants to show their start up helps poor kids, makes a video and shows 12 kids being helped by a 20 something mentor. And so on. What no one does is actually solve the problem.

    I myself was assaulted three times last year by teens. Nothing happened to them. This is ignoring all the times I’ve been called a b– f– threatened to have dad or mom ‘dropkick’ me etc. Let me ask you: Would you like to be in a job where you’re assaulted regularly but you’re supposed to just take it? You think morale might drop?

    Despite their good analysis, the authors suffer the same fate because they are ignoring the migrant population. I am NOT saying they don’t deserve a good education. I’m here teaching my kids after all. I’m saying that pretending all cultures are the same and the only problems come from the top down or from some nebulous invisible web of racism (while there is real racism of course), is not only simplistic, it leads ineluctably to corruption and incompetence.

    • Nobody solves the problem because nobody can but the affected people themselves. I’m all for charters on purely moral grounds but the fact is your child will be as educated as you demand them to be, assuming you understand basic accountability.

      Far too many people demand a child custodial facility and not an education. Mindless collectivists (including many, many teachers) believe the nonsense that “every child is entitled to an education”, then proceed to cater to the population that has no interest in attaining education, but rather wish to have their kids out of the house for 7 hours a day. All that at the expense of the few parents/kids who truly want an education and are forced at gunpoint to pay for one regardless.

      “All kids have a right to sit in a custodial facility for 9.5 months a year” would be a more accurate statement of supporters of state administered education’s values.

  28. In this link (unfortunately, for most you, written in Danish) I bring a graph depicting the results of the TIMMS in science for 8th graders. The figures are averages for Norway and Sweden (unfortunately, data for the same time series do not exist for Denmark or other Nordic countries).
    Filled circles are boys, open circles are girls.
    The graph confirms what Henrekson and Wennström write. You see the marked deterioration of test results from 1995 onwards.
    Of special interest is the relation between boys and girls. When you read about the PIMMS results, you read as a good thing that now, boys and girls have become equal. What is hidden in these politically correct statements is that this is bad. Girls have NOT risen to the level of boys. On the contrary, boys have dropped to the level of girls, or even below that. So equality now means that everybody is performing equally bad, not that everybody is performing equally good.

    http://kønsdebat.dk/blog/?cat=11

  29. houstonkb says

    A fundamental flaw at the heart of the article:

    “Postmodern, social-constructivist philosophy has been institutionalized in many Western countries’ school systems [has it? Where is the evidence for this? Rather sweeping, no?], and this has adversely affected educational quality. This approach contends that knowledge and reality are subjectively constructed [this is nonsense], which implies that knowledge cannot be transferred from teacher to student and that objectively measuring academic ability and achievement should not even be attempted.”

    That’s actually NOT what postmodernism or social constructivism says (setting aside the profoundly simplistic view of postmodern thought currently doing the rounds on the web).

    The assertion here that ‘knowledge and reality is subjectively constructed’ is nonsense. The authors are simply wrong. Social reality (and not reality itself) is INTER-subjectively constructed. Social facts (money, the law, institutions, social conventions) are indeed the result of implicit agreements between autonomous subjects. Ergo…the core premise of the article is false. It’s based on a profound misunderstanding of what postmodern thought is all about. Sorry. Try again. And to blame the whole of Sweden’s putative decline in education standards on this single (bogus) variable represents a poor trend in sociological analysis.

    • Product of the Swedish school system says

      You should read the article again, they are not singling out postmodernism alone.

      In addition, you should take some time to read up on the so-called “Science wars”. The ideas stemming from postmodernism, poststructuralism etc have indeed been interpreted by academics (including its supporters) as is done by the authors.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_wars

      • houstonkb says

        Well aware of the science wars. The problem is that while they allude to other influences they pin the blame squarely on postmodernism. I still regard that as an inaccurate criticism.

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  31. Having studied the Swedish school very close since 1999 when creating m-learning and when trying out the personalized trainer on 7 to 9 graders in the years 2000 to 2003, I came to realize the issues Sweden had and the unwillingness to acknowledge the resistance to rehearsal and training even such self evident subjects like language, i.e. vocabulary in German, French, Spanish and English which were the first subjects our service offered through mobile, and in those days via SMS while waiting for the merge of computers and mobility we knew would come, only not exactly when. It became even more clear when I introduced “RIL” abbreviation for Resources in learning. That model based on ABC/ABM showed how much money Swedish schools, both public and private, used for the meeting between teacher and students, not only the teacher itself but all resources like classroom, books, library etc. It proved to be staggering less than 30% of the total budget for schools. On top of that with public owned schools’ disadvantage with salary agreements, rental agreement, student composition, it guaranteed private owned schools a risk free and high profit. The boom for buying schools was soon there as well as establishing new schools focused on the students and their parents who wanted high grades. But no one in Sweden, including political parties, middle class parents, media, teacher unions or school authorities were interested in these facts, not even now 18 years later. And when I 2014 showed a picture with the change of share of teachers with different institute of education, since there has been substantial changes of that as well the past 30 years, the coincidence with retirement of teachers from “old school” and the results in PISA were remarkable. You find the picture here, although the text is in Swedish as all the other articles on the same site which are highlighting the problems as well as solutions for the Swedish collapse https://4ril.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/ar-det-bara-slumpen/

  32. Ocean Creature says

    In all the comments I have ever read concerning a Quillette article, I have never read as much inarticulate garbage as I have concerning this article. I think the commentary is as inept as the school system these comments attempt to criticize. Perhaps a comment on the appallingly low standard of worldwide education in general?

    Let’s get a few things straight:

    1. Humans do not adapt as quickly as the theoretical B.S. that
    emanates from educational theorists of every generation. Two plus
    two equals four. It will always be so, whether or not math is now a
    tool of the patriarchy. Learn the basics, THRIVE.

    2. The more women in education, the worse student performance will
    be. Women are obsessed with fairness and leveling because they
    are obsessed with not having anyone feel bad about not being
    good at everything. Planes will crash and people will die, but at
    least no one will have to bear the burden of telling an incompetent
    student pilot that he/she//it/hen/xer did not have THE RIGHT
    STUFF.

    3. Children are not perfect creatures, who without adult interference,
    will ALL grow up to be loving, fair, and kind. Did anyone read.
    LORD OF THE FLIES??? No, that probably was cut from all
    curricula by women who thought it was mean (the truth can be
    very mean and will not change even if you don’t happen to like it,)

    4. It’s time to return to reality –

    Facts, because they are real (if you drop an object, it falls to earth
    every time because of gravity.)

    Skills – YOU are reading this because you learned that letters can
    communicate meaning and we can have a conversation, even
    though we are miles apart and you cannot hear my voice.

    Experience – do the math, plot a foundation, dig a ditch, pour
    cement, frame a wall, set a window, staple a roof, plant a garden,
    invite a refugee into their new home, feel accomplished, crack a
    smile, eat some dinner, kiss a partner, sleep accomplished.

    A Good Day. A Job Well Done.
    No depression. No anxiety. No ADHD.

    Only Joy…

  33. Pingback: Does Sweden’s ‘Failure By Constructivism’ Spell Trouble For Moodle? | MoodleNews

  34. Tunya Audain says

    I bring forward some information from some earlier comments:
    Kevin Krahenbuhl liked the article on “post-truth” and said it heavily parallels his analysis in his new book on the decay of truth in education and gave a link. https://www.cambridgescholars.com/the-decay-of-truth-in-education

    Wonderful bonus — besides the description there is an EXTRACT you can read (about 20 pg)! Book is expensive, but hopefully people can buy it or get their libraries to get it. I ordered it and it’s expected after Nov 1, but if it really delivers on the author’s intent, it will be worth every penny. This professor is trying to get at the root cause of our “malaise” — the decay of truth in education — and has “ideas we can take to turn back this assault on truth in our schools.” In his introduction he mentions other books that are well known that examine the symptoms of our problems, but his treatment is to look at the sources of the problems and proposes remedies. People who have great hopes for education and work for reform will empathize, I’m sure, with this statement of his — “if truth is not relevant in education then little else matters”.

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