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?
There are school districts around the United States in which charter schools have significantly enhanced the education of thousands of students, providing enriched curriculum and creative programming which have positively impacted both the depth and breadth of learning. The quality of education offered in many charter schools rivals that of private schools, opening up a new world of opportunity to many who cannot afford the exorbitant tuitions of private academies.
At the same time, non-charter public schools in many of these very same districts suffer. Charter schools may draw away vital resources, thus improving their education at the expense of area public schools. In addition, standardized test scores do not necessarily bear out the claims made by charter school educators. There are those who look at the growing evidence and conclude that good schools are not defined along the charter or non-charter divide, but by other factors, such as good administrators, professional and caring teachers, and school cultures that motivate students to excel.
The debate will rage on for years. Like all such issues, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. But during this week, we must credit the charter school movement for one incredibly important achievement: They made us re-examine that which we do. They have made sure that we will not live the unexamined life.
The charter schools have made us look anew at public school education. Do we keep teachers for too long? Are our standards of education as high as they can be? Do we demand the same excellence from our institution as we demand from other professionals? Are we being as creative in our classrooms as we can be? Have we become lazy and complacent, robbing our students of the excellence in education they deserve? These questions need to be asked, discussed, debated and seriously addressed.
Thank you charter schools for pushing us all. Thank you for not simply looking at the state of public education and asking, “Why?”, but rather for dreaming of what could be and asking, “Why not?” Maybe you do not have it right just yet; perhaps the real solutions to the problems plaguing our schools are found elsewhere. But it is only through the dedicated efforts of those who aspire towards excellence that our children will attain the bright future they so richly deserve.
Hertz Furniture is proud to recognize Charter Schools during National Charters School Week and all year long with our many contests, programs and partnerships with Charter School Associations. Our Charter School Association of the Month highlights one outstanding Charter School Association each and every month.