Socrates was not talking about public school education when he declared, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. However, as we mark National Charter Schools Week, Socrates words become as relevant today as they were more than two thousand years ago.
I think of the above quote as national attention is focused this week on the benefit of charter schools. As is always the case, arguments – good arguments – are heard at either end of the ongoing debate. Are charter schools the answer to what ails the public school system, or a misguided attempt at undermining the foundations of public education in western society?
“Innovation never comes from the established institutions.” This statement, coming from Eric Schmidt, who served as the chief executive of Google from 2001 until 2011, makes us sit up and take notice. While Google has certainly impacted the way we interact with the world and with each other, we wonder who will make that impact on the way we teach and the way we learn?
With a focus on the content of their individual mission statements (or charters), charter schools try to become that innovative force acting just outside of ‘established’ educational institutions. The popularity of such schools speaks volumes of the need for such innovation and the belief of many parents that if change is going to happen, it is most likely going to happen outside the public school system. Most, it seems, agree with Mr. Schmidt.
I probably should not touch this subject. But, I’ve always wondered about charter schools. On the one hand they seem to be a great idea. Held accountable to the same standards as public schools and yet allowed to innovate and reform unencumbered by unwieldy bureaucracies. On the other hand they don’t really seem to deliver a superior education.
Where can you find children exploring the techniques of Picasso in a small groupof mixed ages? Well perhaps at an art museum, but you may also find them learning in a Charter School. In many places, Public Charter Schools have become a viable alternative to traditional public school and even private school education.