To the Editor:
Alfie Kohn has the grace to acknowledge in his Commentary “Feel-Bad Education” (Sept. 15, 2004) that “joy has been in short supply in some classrooms for as long as there have been classrooms.” But he worries that the current situation is getting worse because of the emphasis on accountability and results, and because of a perceived mind-set that insists on rigor rather than love of learning.
Regardless of the tug of war between the traditionalists and the progressives that he describes, Mr. Kohn could visit any of a number of public charter schools where joy prevails. For instance, he could go to the KIPP academies of the Knowledge Is Power Program, or Amistad Academy in New Haven, Conn., or one of the Aspire Public Schools in California, public charter schools all. At these schools and others, Mr. Kohn would find exactly what he would like to see: children who are eager to learn, excited about coming to school, and performing at higher levels than those in comparable traditional public schools.
Successful public charter schools combine all the elements that make schooling a joy. Each child is given individual attention, parents are required to make a commitment to their children’s schooling, and a spirit of community unites all stakeholders.
But most of all, public charter schools offer choices. Choices for teachers to work there, choices for parents to send their children there, and choices for children to pursue their strengths and overcome their weaknesses within carefully crafted and different curricula.
If Mr. Kohn is concerned about the joylessness of the public school experience, he should consider the great opportunities public charter schools represent.
San Francisco, Calif.