Everyone, especially Mat seems so focused on the word "better" and I want to point out that many (granted, not all) charter and magnet schools exist because certain students require "different" education. I will use School of the Arts as an example. SC has largely cut arts funding to public schools, but we still have our fair share of budding artists, brilliant at dancing, painting, performing, etc. These kids really need to be educated and enabled to contribute to our society in their way (because that is one of the main reasons we have a public education system - so all kids can grow up to be contributors) and if we refuse to fund a top quality program in strings, for instance, at every school, perhaps we can fund a top quality program at one school. And we do. And these tremendously talented kids go there and many graduate to become professional artists. It's wonderful. But I wonder what some of these kids would be doing if they were enrolled at their local high school. Do you think they would be fully developing their set of talents by taking the one course offered for one semester in their area of specialty? Do you they would be made to feel proud of themselves or would be praised by their peers for composing a piece of music for a quartet? I think allowing these students the chance to learn together, celebrate each other and benefit from a body of like-minded students, teachers, and parents is an incredible thing. It allows all of these students to thrive in a way that they could not if they were spread out all over the county. There are countless ways that they benefit. Also, all the "normal" kids in the neighborhood schools are able to perform in school bands, learn how to paint in art class, etc. but they are not over-looked for every roll in every play because of that kid who is going to eventually make it on Broadway. Obviously, these type of schools are not a good fit for every kid. They're not offering better education in general - they are offering specialized education. I don't really see how this is hurting public schools. (I can see how it can hurt public schools when all the involved parents start flocking to one charter school, but I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.) This is a complex issue.
Additionally, please get out and visit (or get involved in) your neighborhood public schools before you complain about them. I see comments on here about how nice neighborhoods get nice facilities and poor areas get poor facilities. You should visit St. John's , Burke, or North Charleston Elementary. Fabulous, gorgeous facilities. It just doesn't make sense to criticize things you don't know about.
Ned Hill. First, if you think unions are the cause of the "decline" of schools in South Carolina, you may need to do some research. Exactly how many teachers in SC, a right-to-work state, do you imagine belong to and are influenced by unions? You're trying to turn this into a debate about something else. Please let people focus on the pertinent issues. Secondly, with regard to the railroad example, I think you missed the point. The reason the railroad example was given is that critical thinking IS being taught when students are allowed to consider and discuss open-ended, authentic questions. By saying teachers should not entertain questions of "why" and that they should merely correct students’ questions and opinions with facts, you are in favor of a method that many educators would agree does not teach reasoning, and results in a compliant, non-thinking society. The point of this example was to explain to readers who are unfamiliar with the Montessori method, that Montessori aims to teach higher-order thinking in the middle grades through alternative methods, in this case, creative class discussion.
Good, informative article. This will be a tough decision for the Park Circle community.
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