Re: “How Scandinavia got great” [Feb. 16, Opinion]:

David Brooks’ column reminds me of my own “ausbildung” under the German school system. Our teachers’ goal was to torment us with the “moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation” Brooks writes about. My history teacher used a Goethe quote to make us appreciate the experience of the past: “He who cannot draw on 3,000 years is living from hand to mouth.” These 3,000 years were our “allgemeinausbildung” (general education), a base upon which we were supposed to build specialized skills or a profession, and to discover our potential. It was a good experience from which I still benefit.

Such ausbildung, however, needs permanence. It is difficult under the ever-changing education system I experienced as a teacher in Washington state.

With every new superintendent came a new “reform” and a new “strategic plan” that kept students and teachers on edge. Right now, STEM seems to be the latest holy grail for education.

The “Nordic model” Brooks writes about needs a unified ausbildungs goal. Unfortunately, 295 independent school districts and 295 independent superintendents and administrations in Washington, and ever changing state tests, make a unified goal impossible.

James Behrend, Bainbridge Island