IB program under fire in the US

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Last year, two school board members in the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka unsuccessfully pushed to get rid of IB because they said it was anti-American and anti-Christian.

OUCH! An article in the Boston Globe looks at the attack facing the International Baccalaureate or IB program in Pittsburgh at the moment and other places around the U.S. There are some harsh quotes coming out of this article, and some that as an international educator makes me wonder about the America I left 4 years ago.

Jeffrey Beard the director of the IBO states:

“We’ve tried to develop a curriculum that is truly international,”

From what I’ve seen of the program here at my school, that is what makes the IB program so popular among our high schoolers. The program takes an international approach to teaching social studies which always seems to be the course that receives the most attention.

“I suppose bias can leak into certain topics, but for the most part you can’t make psychology anti-American or math anti-American,” Lohrenz said.

If we can agree that the world is getting flatter and that our students will need to understand global economies, and global history, then programs like the IB should be held in high regards.

What is America afraid of? I have to admit other then visiting for 2 months in the summer I have not spend much time in the US in the past 4 years. My wife and I took jobs in Saudi Arabia 4 months after the 9/11 attacks. I watch international news channels, read international newspapers, I work with Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Chinese, and a host of other nationalities on a daily basis. So I admit my view on an international curriculum might be a bit skewed.

Started in 1968 in Switzerland, IB’s original focus was educating the children of diplomats, who traveled often and needed an education recognized worldwide.

This is also the strength of the IB program. It is recognized world wide which is way it is so popular in the international circle. Students who complete and pass the IB exam have a choice to go to Universities all over the world and not just tied down to American University’s.

The number of IB students worldwide grew 73 percent between 2000 and 2005, to 62,885, according to the International Baccalaureate Organization.

With this kind of growth can we afford not to be offering our students the option of taking IB courses? To have a choice to take American history for the 4th or 5th time or to take a history class that focuses on a global perspective? How do we expect American students to compete in a global world when their education system does not expand beyond the walls of their own nation in fear of being Anti-American?

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  2. I’m in IB and I would never consider myself un-american.Liberal , Yes , but not un-american.Conservatives use IB as mere fotter to explain why there is such dislike of America and it’s good ole-boys.Honestly IB just seperate the unmotivated or unintelligent and bring togther individuals who challenge one anotherand make you question the relevance of affirmative action .

  3. Hi, I took a couple of IB classes in high school and I am a real follower of Jesus Christ. I am an involved Christian. I have done childrens ministries, led bible studies and went through seminary school. I am planning to be an IB teacher. I have a mouthful to say about this and please hear what I have to say before you accuse me or argue with me. Also warning, this may be too much to handle for shallow people. I am just frustrated. Here it is:

    This is what I find ludicrous – why is Anti-american and anti-christian put together? What exactly is American and “Christian” values? When I took IB, anti-american and anti-christian never came to my mind. Also, I dont think America is a Christian country at all. I have been made fun of and harassed in the past because I was a Christian. Geez…arent i supposed to have the freedom to be whatever religion I want to follow? Or does it seem freedom of religion applies only when you agree with it? This goes for both sides.

    Ironically, I took the IB program in a school in India and you know what, ideas of Christianity was discussed openly in comparison with others. In America wouldn’t this translate into a lawsuit? It seems religious freedom is almost an oxymoron. Its from both sides- both extreme “Christians” and supposed “Liberals”

    I wondering what the full story behind it is school is. There has to be more to it. This could be something blown out of proportion. In our great country USA, media and politics love to exploit controversies for political leverage. I am wondering maybe one teacher said something that offended someone or what if it is something minor. I dont think we have the full story When I was in college, I took a writing class and that teacher was a extreme liberal lunatic. I have never been subjected to so much leftist propaganda. Many times, I thought to myself “Shut up, and just teach writing, we dont care about your opinions” I just talked to my counselor and dropped the class.

    IB gives different values and brings more awareness so that you will know what you believe. Also here is another thing to consider, nobody is forcing you to take IB, if you dont like it dont take it.

    Christianity is a world religion. There are many Christians in the world who are not Americans. I am an Indian who immigrated to America and became a Christian. Don’t get me wrong- I love America, why else am I still in this country? But there are somethings I dont like.

    I actually like the IB program and think its great. It opens doors and students are more educated. My question as a Christian is “What does my Jesus have to do with this?” I am wondering whether some people are just using the term “Christian” in vain just to make noise or that they dont know what they are talking about. I want to ask that person What exactly is a Christian? and what exactly in anti-christian?

    This is another thing I am sick of in our country. Why is every issue a issue of liberal/conservative or democrat/republican…I hate this nonsense. When it comes to politics, its more like we are cheering for a sports team. You cannot categorize everything under liberal/conservative spectrum. This really blinds people from seeing the real issues. I have been dissappointed by both liberals and conservatives.

  4. I am currently in the IB Program and I am a senior in high school. I am a Christian and I lived in the United States… what is this?? I love this program! It is definitely NOT anti-Christian or whatever they say… Seriously? Anti-American? A parent was afraid that their child was learning that the US is just like any other country and that is not better than other countries? What? Who thinks that way? That is sooo selfish!!
    IB is a very rigorous program and I feel well prepared for college. I took a couple dual enrollment courses over the summer… and it was a breeze because I am so used to the hard work I do in my IB classes.
    IB also requires the students to write…. A LOT!! We have an extended essay (3500-4000 words) and it can be on any subject we want!
    I wrote about the United States economical status. I analyzed the cycles of our former recessions and I tried to figure out.. what are the chances of us falling into another recession?
    Does that sound anti-American to you?
    In my history class we learned about American History – in depth of course – we’ve been learning about Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Europe, WWI, WWII, Cold War, Russia (Stalin) etc…
    In my TOK class we come up with questions and activities that get us to THINK and it really helps us develop LEADERSHIP SKILLS… globally!
    I am Haitian-American, my parents are not born Americans but I am. There are many other students who are from India, China, Jordan, Philippines etc. We’ve discussed our different religions, cultures and lifestyles. What’s so dangerous about that? We DO live in a very diverse society… not just the American society, but the whole WORLD!!
    Christianity is not the ONLY religion in the world.
    The United States is not the BEST COUNTRY in the world… define “best country”… exactly, your definition only pertains to what you feel is best for YOU. It’s all relative. China might be the best country for someone else while Australia might be the best country for me (it’s not but… you get the picture right?).
    I love being a Christian and the program has definitely helped me open my eyes and realize that there are different cultures and people and it has taught me the value of our personal cultures. That’s why I’ve actually grown more FIRM in my religion. There is not weird propaganda… if anything, just turn on your American “entertainment” television programs and that’s where you’ll find things that are anti-Christian. Divorces, gay marriages, sex before marriage is all anti-Christian and is written all over the face of the American society but NO the parents want to riot against the IB program?
    Here’s another thing. In our classes, we don’t sit in class, memorize things and take tests. We actually get to THINK! We get into class discussions, debates and learn so much about everything! Memorizing, studying and getting your As is important… definitely! However, when a student is challenged to face an obstacle and devise a plan to bring good change… it really brings those “leadership” skills in you! Also, in the program we have a CAS Folder which is a folder of all of your community service hours. I have about 250 hours that I must complete that must fit within the categories of Creativity (performing/art etc), Action (running/working out etc), and Service (volunteering in hospitals/beach cleanups etc)…. it teaches me how to HELP others and not just think about myself only…
    Geez! I’ve had enough… I just don’t think the parents should just jump to conclusions without really looking into the curriculum.

  5. Teresa Gieschen Reply

    I would like to hear inputs from some students currently in IB programs. Our private school in Memphis is talking about starting an IB – however my concerns are multiple. I love what I hear about the global education however I have boys and although they are both very bright and could do the work – I am not sure that they want to. Through my kids I have learned the value of down time and taking time. We are encouraging our children to go to a university that fits them and not pay attention to the big names. Also what are the benefits of having college credits BEFORE college IF you aren’t in a hurry.
    Were students hand picked for this program? Did their parents want them in and have any felt like other than the political/ global aspect that they spent so much time studying that they missed out on a great time in their lives?

  6. Hello Jeff,

    My name is Lisa. I am one of the administrators of “Truth About IB” (If I mess up the html, I apologize in advance)

    Indu said, When I took IB, anti-american and anti-christian never came to my mind. Also, I dont think America is a Christian country at all. I have been made fun of and harassed in the past because I was a Christian.

    This in and of itself is a very disturbing “impression” for someone to have of America. While the United States is indeed a melting pot, the majority of its people practice some form of Christianity, followed by Judaeism and Muslim/Buddhist. Only 17% of the population are declared atheists. HOWEVER, it is that 17% who are making life uncomfortable for good Christian Americans. We don’t care if atheists don’t believe in God, but why do they have to shout it from the rooftops, take out billboards and call those of us who do “ignorant” and “superstitious”? Is that tolerant? Is that the America which was founded by people seeking freedom from religious persecution? Now in America, believers must be allowed to be persecuted and harrassed by atheists because it’s their First Amendment right? While IB’s philosophy is highly entwined with and supportive of the philosophy of atheists and secular humanists, of late it seems to be trying to secure a large stake in the Islam world through the Aga Khan. IB is an arm of UNESCO. It’s goal is to promote one world government through our most vulnerable and valuable asset – our children.

    Dafnie is a perfect example of a child brainwashed by the left-wing agenda of IBO.

    The United States is not the BEST COUNTRY in the world… define “best country”… exactly, your definition only pertains to what you feel is best for YOU. It’s all relative.

    That’s what IBO taught you, that it’s all relative. It’s NOT.

    The United States IS the best country in the world. It is the land of freedoms and opportunity and based on a Constitutional Federal Republic whose Constitution is currently being torn to shreds by the Obama administration. Obama LOVES IB – all good socialists do.

    Here’s a hint to all IBers – there’s nothing wrong with being proud of the country of which you are a citizen. It’s not arrogant, or sinful, or wrong, or anti-international. Be proud of the ideals this country was founded on and stop apologizing and weakening our stature globally. I love my country, and I want it to be a safe place for my children to raise their children in. I can appreciate the beauty of different cultures and languages without needing to denegrate the United States. I have traveled to many countries, I took Latin and French, my children have traveled extensively, all without IB, but we don’t need to establish a mentality that the U.S is no better than communist China or France. Because bottom line folks, that’s a lie. The U.S IS better, unless we let Obama turn it into socialist France.

    Constitutional, God loving Americans will be rising up. Things are getting worse rapidly. Things are getting very, very, bad.

    IB is all about relativism. Those of us who oppose IB tend to fall in the “absolutist” category. We absolutely believe in God, we absolutely believe that some people are right and some people with their differences of opinion can be very, very, wrong.

    • I’m an IB student in Poland. I’m a born American, I have grown up and went to school in America, in american schools. For a few years I have studied in polish schools. I appreciate the values both countries imparted on me.
      But here’s the thing:
      Shuttling back and forth to Europe and America my whole life I learned to put things into perspective. At first I would compare the two countries, America obviously coming out bigger, better, more, organised, cheaper, to, live, in, etc. But as I grew older I saw more of the subtle differences. Poland is a much more Christian country. It too has immigrants, but most people are white Christians. America is, no matter how people want to deny it, a melting pot. There are people of all religions and nationalities strewn about everywhere. Poland has it’s “unique national character” and hundreds of years old traditions, history and landmarks. America doesn’t have that. It’s barely 3 centuries old.
      Where am I getting to?
      I’m saying I learned to value things in Poland (not racial segregation, if that’s how it sounds), the uniqueness of the polish culture, and how places like that are necessary. I learned that, indeed, the material prosperity of the USA is not the only thing I ought to consider when I put the two countries side by side. I learned to appreciate no single viewpoint is ever completely right. Some are more correct that others, but that doesn’t mean those worse ones are completely without merit.
      When I came in the the IB program in high school, I felt that this is one of the things it wants to teach. I have a lot of students in class like me, who lived in other countries. One person even was in the USA her whole life, just coming to Poland last year.
      I don’t feel this is encouraging “discrimination”. I believe it’s giving credit to thinking about what you believe in and why, rather than blindly subscribing to a particular idea you don’t even know that well, if at all.

  7. In addition to the original author we have testimony here from three separate students who are products of this educational program (or programme, if it matters). They all bear credible witness that the program has not formed them into anti-Americans or anti-Christians, and two of the students seem to be very devout Christians themselves.

    So the accusation that they are “brainwashed” holds no water. In fact, it forms a classic fallacy: it is the equivalent of accusing all lions of being man-eaters and then accusing zookeepers who say otherwise of being “brainwashed” because they are already predisposed to work with large animals.

    The author and the students clearly have some first-hand experience with the program(me), while the author of the most recent post seems to have none. The author and at least one of the students have lived, or even currently live, both within and outside the United State, while the author of the most recent post apparently has not. They avoid misusing broad terms like “socialism” and retreating into a persecuted-victim mentality just because their political party may not be in power at the moment, while the author of the most recent post…well….

  8. Andrea Huff Reply

    My son is attending an International School with the IB program and I can’t say that I like it or feel that the hours of work he does actually equates to learning. Our daughter, on the other hand, received a full scholarship to Texas A&M University for chemistry and is now being considered for a fellowship at Cambridge. She came through the AP system. It was a chemistry teacher in high school that opened her world to what she describes as the the most analytical and logical subject she has ever known. Was she required to memorize information…you bet and lots of it. WHY? Information provides the foundation for higher analytical and logical thought and expression. The focus of IB at our International School is political and social change. and I see it every day at the school that my son attends. The only problem with IB is that there is a politically acceptable school of thought that all learning must be built upon. Social change is at the heart of IB and to this extent the underlying perception is anti-capitalism. We are speaking of relativism and the disregard for notion that absolute exists. Even many Americans don’t understand US history as studied with original sources to draw a logical conclusion for American ” exceptionalism” What I see are opinions expressed that validate the politically correct social agenda. Just try to suggest that climate change is cyclical and inherent to a very complex system of patterns and change as suggested by many meteorologists today… and see the personal attacks and backlash. Climate change has become political and it is sickening that there is little room for deviation for the global learner in IB for reasonable doubt, even in the presence of data.

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