International Boogeyman

What's all the fuss about International Baccalaureate (IB)?

In the Minnetonka Independent School District, parents are lobbying the school board to eliminate its IB program, citing costs, lack of local control, possible competition with Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and claim that it "'de-emphasizes national culture in favor of world culture and world views,' said Paul Borowski of Chanhassen, a father of three district students (Academic program causes stir, Star Tribune, April 20, 2005)."

In the NorthWest Suburban Integration School District (NWSISD), parents are asking why, if IB is so great, were opposing viewpoints not heard before IB was approved for its Evergreen Elementary and Champlin Park High School? (Hat tip to both Parents In Touch Anoka-Hennepin (PiTAH) and Al Winters, neither of which have web sites or blogs.) "When NWSISD surveyed the public on what magnet programs they would support," claims PiTAH in an e-mail, "IB was never listed as an option. The public wanted an emphasis on the basics and math and science."

(No rumblings yet in my home district of Wayzata.)

Yet some IB grads like blogger Bill Heyman (see Prairie of Eden, "IB Controversy in Minnetonka") say that "the International Baccalaureate program offers a rich, engaging educational experience for the students who participate in it. I have gained so much from the program that I recently made a contribution to my public school just last month in support of this fantastic program."

So are these people who can't "get with the programme" just a bunch of hyperventilating xenophobes? (Ad hominem attack here for irony.)

According to the IB web site, "The International Baccalaureate Organization was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968 as a non-profit educational foundation. Its original purpose was to facilitate the international mobility of students preparing for university by providing schools with a curriculum and diploma recognized by universities around the world. Since then its mission has expanded, and it now seeks to make an IB education available to students of all ages."

Grassroots parent groups like PiTAH and EdWatch have a few basic problems with IB:
  1. IB curriculum isn't knowledge-based. It is "transformational."

  2. IB doesn't teach our students the basic founding principles that have made America free.

  3. IB promotes a highly politicized and radical worldview.

According to an article cited by Kimberly Swygert at Number Two Pencil ("UN influence on US schools"):
No longer are American children learning about the structure of a federal republic compared to a parliamentary democracy. No longer are children learning the difference between capitalism and socialism. No longer are children being taught why the United States became the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known.

Instead, they are being taught that with less than 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. uses 25 percent of the world's resources and produces 25 percent of the world's pollution. They are being taught that the U.S. is the No. 1 terrorist nation. They are being taught that the rest of the world is mired in poverty because of the greedy capitalists in the United States.

According to the IB web site, "IB programmes cultivate internationalism and respect for other cultures...Students are taught to be active learners, well-rounded individuals and engaged citizens, who gain practical experience of being part of an international community."

This is all well and good on the surface, but Scholar urges parents to not take their school district's marketing of IB at face value. Find out how IB will be funded in your district, what will be taught, and how it will be taught. If your child enrolls in an IB "programme," be sure that he or she also gets American history and civics in other coursework.

If you have a problem with the idea of state or federal curriculum, how do you feel about a curriculum developed by the United Nations? We may live in a global village in some ways, but national sovereignty still has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, even the supposedly home-grown federal social(ist) studies curriculum pushed by the Center for Civic Education is also replete with this stuff:
"In the past century, the civic mission of schools was education for democracy in a sovereign state. In this century, by contrast, education will become everywhere more global. And we ought to improve our curricular frameworks and standards for a world transformed by globally accepted and internationally transcendent principles."

"The philosophy of the schoolhouse in this generation," said Lincoln, "is the philosophy of the government in the next generation." Which is why the stakes are so high in K-12 education policy these days.