Essential Question

Parker’s essential question this year is “Why Should We Care?” The school-wide essential question is chosen in the spring for the following year: the rising seniors propose two options and then staff and students make a choice by voting. 

Questions are foundational at Parker. The posing of generative questions like “Why Should We Care?” is about students developing understanding through entertaining and exploring the questions together, not answering them. “…One can deductively prove that some things are true and others are false,” wrote Ted Sizer in Horace’s Compromise, “One can predict that in, say, three out of four instances, such-and-such will happen. But one cannot ascertain, as a universal matter, that some quite different things are good or bad, better or worse…Schools can help students gain experience in asking such questions and get them in the habit of doing so.”

Parker teachers design the school’s inquiry-based curriculum each year around the Essential Question, such as “What is community?” “What is change?” “What is balance?” “Where are the patterns?” “What really matters?” Student learning crosses disciplinary lines as the Essential Question generates sub-questions that invite active learning of both thinking skills and content-area knowledge through projects and other research.

A sample of prior Essential Questions:
  • What is community? — [1995–96]
  • What is change? — [1996–97]
  • What is balance? — [1997–98]
  • Where are the patterns? — [1998–99]
  • What's the limit? — [1999–2000]
  • What really matters? — [2000-2001]
  • Where's the truth? — [2001-2002]
  • What are the possibilities? — [2002-2003]
  • What's next? — [2003-2004]
  • What is unique? What is Universal? [2004-2005] 
  • What is Overlooked? — [2005-2006]
  • How is it Relevant? — [2006-2007]
  • What are the causes? What are the Effects? — [2007-2008]
  • How do we Adapt? — [2008-2009]
  • What's worth Preserving? — [2010-2011]
  • What is our impact? — [2011-2012]
  • What's Worth Fighting For? — [2012-2013]
  • What Inspires Us? — [2013-2014]
  • What’s Stopping Us? — [2014-2015]
  • What Pushes Us Forward? — [2015-2016]
  • What Unites Us? — [2016-2017]
  • How Can We Make Tomorrow Better Than Today? — [2017-2018]
  • What Defines Us? — [2018-2019]
  • How Can We Create Change? — [2019-2020]
  • How Do We Stand Up For What Is Right? — [2020-2021]
  • Why Should We Care? — [2021-2022]