Monday, June 13, 2011


Norwegian letters in the box at Ingun's school

Charlie Sheen might say that the Norwegians are "winning" when it comes to education, the environment, and overall efficiency. I'll continue to think about the Norwegian approach to these social issues and how the United States might do things differently. Moreover, how can we overcome current apathy and consumption to push ourselves to do better...for ourselves and the future?
Some of the simple efficiencies of Norway we quickly noticed are the small cars and garbage cans. Of course, these are not unique to Norway. But Norway is a progressive, wealthy country, yet its lower levels of consumption per capita seem to be something engrained in society. I don't want this blog to become a political commentary, but anyone who knows me will also know that I think a great deal about how policy and politics affect our lives and society. When the US government regulates the types of lightbulbs available to consumers or sets standards for carbon emissions, maybe it will be better for the environment and incidentally stretch human creativity and consumption. Just a thought. As I said, I will continue to observe and explore these facets of Norwegian society and think more about possibilities for our own country and others.

In recent conversation with Italian friends and students visiting Watertown, I was again reminded of how strict, or rather rigorous, early education is in other countries compared to that of the United States. We do a lot of things right in American early education, but sometimes I thing "rigor" is not part of it. Specific examples include exposure to foreign languages and intensity of studying. Ingun teaches first grade at what the Bergen newspaper calls the "dream school." Ingun describes her school as a "family." The school, built in 2004, has few walls and allows students and teachers to move between different work and study areas. Some areas provide an instruction area where students sit attentively taking notes and listening to instructions. Students then can disperse to small round tables, reading areas, and interactive boards on the walls. Norwegian-to-English vocabulary cards are in many work areas. Artwork from various artists and thinkers in history line the walkways of the building for older students. Old meets new; collaboration equals learning.

But does a good education demand the flare and technology of some modern classrooms? Hmmmm.

Surely, Dennis Daugaard would be aghast at the investments Norway is making in education.

On a lighter note, here is a picture of downtown Bergen. It was a great day with unusually hot and sunny weather!

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