A Conversation About the Nordic Dream with Finnish-American Journalist Anu Partanen


Photo by: Institute for International Communication

On 24 October 2016, the Institute for International Communication and Learning Communities hosted Anu Partanen, a Finnish-American journalist and author, giving insights to her book ‘The Nordic Theory of Everything – In Search of a Better Life’. Following, she discussed Nordic models of education, family and healthcare as well as questions from the audience with a panel of experts.

Among the participants of the conversation panel were Kai Sauer, ambassador, permanent mission of Finland to the United Nations, Dr. Simon Møller, senior vice provost and professor of biological sciences, Dr. Joan Tropnas, chair, division of social sciences and associate professor and director of the health and human services and Dr. Jaana Rehnstrom, executive director of the Kota Project.

The idea of the Nordic Dream

While the American Dream is coming of age, the international community has witnessed the popularization of the Nordic Dream. Anu Partanen, who moved from Finland to New York in 2008 and is now based in Brooklyn, outlined several aspects of Finnish policies and mentality that could explain why Finland is currently considered one of the best places for young people to live in. Studies position Finland on leading ranks when it comes to happiness, well-being of citizens and academic performance of students. Partanen experienced several differences to the system she grew up with when she moved to the US a few years ago. In her presentation she compared the American model of education, family and healthcare to the Finnish one.

Excellence through equality

The key to the success of Finnish models is equality, as the author explained. Apparently, in Finland education is mainly public and free and therefore, the family, one is born into, does not determine their chances of education and success in life as much as it does in the US. Furthermore, the author described how there is a very supportive regulation for raising children in Finland as both mothers and fathers have the right for a minimum of nine months paid parental leave and day care for children is affordable for everyone. Policies like these lead to couples in Finland being more equal in the sense that one partner does not depend on the income and the support of the other as much. Finally, the audience of students and faculty strongly engaged in the discussion of the issue of health insurance. People shared their personal experiences with the American and the Nordic health care system in a moving conversation.

Concluding, the ideas of equality behind the Nordic models presented by Anu Partanen lead the audience to questioning rather unequal aspects of the American educational system, for example. However, the event did not aim to classify one model over the other but to provide thought-provoking insights on different ways health care or education can be organized and what implications these have on people’s quality of life.

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