Education Start to Finnish

[Photo courtesy of The Guardian.]

If you have been reading my blogs over the years, you will be aware that one of my pet subjects is that of education, particularly education in critical thinking skills. Such skills have become especially important in these deceitful 20s, with so much wilful misinformation being put about in the mainstream media (especially in the Murdoch press) and on social media platforms.

Critical thinking skills enable one to assess the information one receives, and to form judgments about what is true, what is misleading, and what are outright lies. And (see my recent blog about rabbit holes) these skills are at least as important for children to acquire as they are for adults to acquire.

My personal skills in regard to critical thinking did not come about in any meaningful way until I reached year 12, at which stage my then English teacher, George Gibson, took it on as a crusade. George, perhaps, set too much store by crusades. He retired from teaching to become a missionary in Papua New Guinea, after which I never heard from him again. Possibly he came to a bad end.

George was the best teacher I ever had. The skills he imparted to me have stayed with me through life. I just wish I could have acquired these skills earlier.

In Finland, for example, the education system endeavors to impart such skills from kindergarten onwards. All power to them, I say.

Why should this quest have fallen to Finland to pursue? How is it they have come to lead the world in this respect? And will their shoulders prove broad enough?

Well, this small country of long bleak winters has of recent times been gaining a reputation for enlightened thinking generally when it comes to education. Finns would assert, moreover, that since they share a significant land border with another country, Russia, that has been fast gaining a much more dubious reputation – as a disseminator of misleading if not outright subversive information – they should inoculate their population from an early age against fake news.

Fake news? Educators in Finland prefer not to use this term. They like to classify suspect information as misinformation (mistakes), disinformation (lies & hoaxs), and malinformation (gossip). They claim kids relate to this classification better than to the blanket term, ‘fake news’.

I’d like to quote a prominent Finnish educator on this subject:

Kids today don’t read papers or watch TV news … they don’t look for news, they stumble across it, on WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat … or more precisely, an algorithm selects it, just for them. They must be able to approach it critically. Not cynically – we don’t want them to think everyone lies – but critically.

Would to God adults here could develop this critical thinking skill. Or is it a matter of old dogs and new tricks? Perhaps there is hope for future adults if early education, in this country, is geared up to impart these vital skills.