Protesters call IB program un-American. Is it?
Not for the first time we have protesters -- this time in Idaho -- trying to get the International Baccalaureate program tossed out of schools because, they say, it is, anti-American.
Usually the most serious threat to the IB is its sort-of rival, the Advanced Placement program.
But allegations that the international education program is not only anti-American but also Marxist and anti-Christian have led to controversies in recent years in several states, including Utah, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The program isn’t any of the things the protesters say it is. IB is a rigorous program for students ages 3 to 19, now in about 3,000 schools, in 139 countries, that teaches students to understand issues from an international perspective.
That focus and multicultural themes in the program have led to the anti-American charges by some opponents, while others say it is socialist because the International Baccalaureate Organization signed the Earth Charter, a collection of global principles created in France in 2000.
A protester, Luke Sommer, was quoted in the Coeur d'Alene Press in Idaho that he worries that the IB program aims to undermine American values.
"They want to change the way your child thinks, not feed your child’s mind with information, and information about our history, heritage and why we believe what we believe," Sommer said.
The mindset that leads to these protests is not entirely unlike the fear in Arizona that led to the passing of a new law that attempts to restrict what can be taught in ethnic studies programs.
The immediate target of the law was an ethnic studies program in the Tucson Unified School District that offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature.
Foes of the program said that minority students in the program were being taught “ethnic chauvinism” and to resent whites; the law lists a series of things no ethnic study program can do in Arizona, including promoting resentment toward a race or class of people or promoting the overthrow of the U.S. government. The program’s directors said it does nothing of the sort.
The real issue here is how American history is taught in our schools and through what eyes the narrative should be told. Through the eyes of the oppressed? The victors? Men? Women? The religious? There are legitimate debates about these issues.
But the folks who are protesting the IB program, and those who want to restrict ethnic studies, have the wrong targets. They would be better off putting their energy toward ensuring that public schools aren’t obsessing so much with standardized tests in math and reading that teachers don’t have time to teach history.
For the record, former President Bush pushed for the expansion of Advanced Placement and IB programs. He didn’t see anything anti-American in them.
And then there is this: My esteemed colleague, Jay Mathews, who nobody would call a screaming liberal, recently wrote a post on his blog Class Struggle with this headline: “AP vs. IB--choosing sides.”
Jay wrote that if he had to choose which program is “better,” he would lean toward IB, because:
I think IB is slightly better than AP because the exams demand more writing, having no multiple choice questions as AP exams do, and because the IB program includes a 4,000-word essay requirement that AP lacks. Then again, it is easier to get college credit for good AP exam scores because university faculties have been slow to realize that IB is as good as AP. But those professors are coming around, and IB students eventually get their way.
I write this not to say that you should agree with Jay about which one is “better.”
It is, however, to show where the real lines should be drawn on the IB program debate.
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| May 18, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: AP,IB,honors, History | Tags: IB protesters, arizona ethnic studies, arizona law and immigrants, ethnic studies law, history, international baccalaureate, law restricting ethnic studies
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