IB Under Attack in the US

When economies turn down, when life becomes tougher and some ‘chickens come home to roost’, it’s not uncommon to see signs of xenophobic nationalism emerging in countries, especially those where people have come to believe in their ‘right of privilege’ to a better life. We’ve seen Obama reading the runes on this quite blatantly in recent weeks, with statements to his domestic audience about retaining jobs for America, penalizing companies that export jobs to India and China etc.

Now, there’s a new and slightly unexpected target in America – the International Baccalaureate and its inclination towards global citizenship. This ASCD article and the links included in it set out the opposing arguments quite well, with the comments at the bottom showing the power of this debate to polarize opinions.

ASCD Whole Child Article

Our school has been offering the IB Diploma for 5 years. I would be fascinated to know whether any of our own students, past or present, feel that studying under this programme made them less Indian, or subverted any of their existing values.

What the IB Diploma DOES (quite legitimately) is causes young people to question and explore the world around them. Here’s where, inevitably, I can see a clash arising in America. If, for example, students found themselves questioning the views expressed by their government, delving in to issues of America’s relationship with the rest of the world, discovering the perceptions of people in other countries about America (instead of ignoring others’ opinions as many of their country are inclined to do).

I well remember a couple of months after 9/11, some of the superior American press started raising questions that sought to explore America’s relationship with the world, delving in to some uncomfortable reflections on whether there might be aspects of how America was/ is that meant they had to shoulder some of the responsibility for what had happened – that inadvertently or otherwise their country was a part of the problem. Those journalists received such a vicious backlash that made it very clear that as a nation people were not ready to allow such a debate.

I am optimistic that these xenophobic luddites, though vociferous and outspoken, represent a minority in the US or any country. Whilst not ignoring them, the responsibility on the vast majority is to ensure that the IB or any other quality education system is permitted to function without overt political interference, developing the skills within young people to be discerning thinkers with minds open to explore all perspectives on issues before coming to conclusions .

As Khalil Gibran said in his famous poem on children, “You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts” and “You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you” – these people would do well to remember this.

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5 Responses

  1. You are insane if you think this is about xenophobia! This is about the fact that NO public school or NO public school teacher should be teaching WORLD GOVERNMENT over the country’s Constitutional Repubilcan Capotalist system! But IB was created by the UN to do just that… to teach Marxism and redistribution of the wealth. This is immoral and WRONG.

    You’ve proven this your self in the first paragraph where you invoke class envy. What has that got to do with reading writing math and science? This tells me you are more concerned with making students believe they should give up their right to happiness because it is wrong to pursue high standards for themselves.

    This is nuts… IB is dangerous and should be banned.
    We certainly do question the views of our gov’t and that is, they should not be hijacking education for SOCIALISTIC PURPOSES, and especially not to teach that communism is equal.

    Quality education means never having to be brainwashed to someone else’s view, especially if that view promotes a one world totalitarian society in which freedom is not God given.

    • Dear ‘Teacher’, (though it fills me with dread to think that you get to share your one-sided perceptions with children) the speed with which you are ready to jump on me and denounce my views suggests that you might benefit from an IB education. After completing an IB diploma you would have a much better likelihood of being able to explore all sides of an argument (rather than offering an ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ response.

      I’d be fascinated to know which aspects of the IB you believe promulgate Marxism. I believe students should know who Marx was, what he said AND why Marxist systems have not worked. If American youngsters learned about Marx they might understand a little better some of what is happening in their own country by stealth (with a President whose wife openly talked of a need to redistribute wealth!)

      I know many Americans don’t like the United Nations very much (and therefore, by association UNESCO) – too many embarrassments when they keep asking America to pay its debts and censuring the Israelis for human rights abuses!

      There are many debates in which American youngsters should engage; what are American tobacco and fast food companies doing to exploit the uninformed in Asia as their home markets dwindle? Americas role in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan …………. the list goes on. It seems to me you want to deny them access to those debates.

      Maybe you have a problem with Community, Action, Service (CAS)? Very subversive to teach students that as well as aspiring to ‘take something out’ from the world around them it is important to develop an inclination towards serving one’s community (but sometimes seeing community in a bigger sense than you do).

      You really need to do your research. In India, as in many other countries, IB is the choice of many young people and families who are highly aspirational, who are determined to succeed in a shrinking world (the kind of world in which an Englishman can write something in India which is responded to within hours by someone sitting in America). have you not noticed how many of them are succeeding, getting admissions to the finest universities in the world (including Ivy League) and going on to run many of the world’s biggest companies.

      IB schools are secular in their approaches. In this part of the world secular means respecting all religions, not ignoring or discounting them all).

      Most of your message consists of propounding your own views which are already there on your website, rather than engaging with what I’ve written. That’s not debate, but borders on a monologue in pursuit of an imbalanced obsession.

      IB educators don’t MAKE their students think anything, they encourage them to explore evidence and draw their own conclusions – to some, i acknowledge that all seems terribly dangerous and subversive. In such a scenario who is really engaging in brainwashing?

      There is a strong recognition of shared humanity in the IB. So, I imagine this weekend you won’t be troubling yourself unduly with the 20 million people suffering in Pakistan because of floods, the devastation of Leh and Ladakh because of landslides or the natural disasters in China or Russia. I would hazard though that many IB students around the world will be not just troubled, but actively exploring what they can do to help – if that’s Marxism in your eyes then so be it. Presumably, on that basis you also believe that CK Prahalad was also a Marxist?

      Finally, regarding “reading writing math and science” you will have to excuse my shock when you claim to be a teacher but play so fast and loose with basic rules of punctuation. Also, Capitalism has an ‘A’ in it. In my world it is acknowledged that those are the fundamental building blocks of education, but if that’s all you have time for in your classroom then i think you might need to freshen up your methodologies.

  2. My, my, what a copious amount of informed and/or passionate exchange of views on the original blog site! I read most of them and you know what struck me, the difference in the tone of the naysayers and the supporters of IB. The former came across as closed-minded, combative, “my way or the high way approach” while the latter as persuasive,encompassing, ready-to assimilate. If this is the transformation that IB brings about in the individual, then I am all for it.

    My child is a product of different nationalities, cultures and religions with one of the parent, an affirmed athiest. Contrary to the common expectations, he is not being indoctrinated in the two cultures or religions but is being allowed to assimilate and follow his own mind and heart. Sometimes I have my misgivings as to whether bringing him up a-culturally, a-religiously is the right thing to do. (Till last year he held citizenships of both countries). I was afraid he might end up neither Indian nor European. After reading the views espoused above, I am convinced the future is all about assimilation, integration, co-habitation on a global scale, as Gordon wrote. Ignorance of and indifference to other cultures, beliefs, ideas, practices etc. are the very reason that some of the countries and people are caught in a quagmire that they find difficult to extricate themselves from.

  3. An afterthought.
    If Marxism/Socialism/Communism is anathema to the very spirit of the country, to its free-thinking populace and freemarket capitalism, why is their goverment bailing out failing profligate financial institutions? Isn’t TARP redistributing wealth so as to prevent the country’s economic scaffold from collapsing?Shouldnt they have been allowed to fail?

  4. “I would be fascinated to know whether any of our own students, past or present, feel that studying under this programme made them less Indian, or subverted any of their existing values”… Mr.Parkinson, though I am not the profile you address in the query (I am a TSRS parent), I am a huge fan of the IB programme and have had the chance to study and implement it in part for a school many moons ago. I also seem to interact with many youngsters (for myriad reasons).

    To be fair, occasionally some may perceive/deduce that the student is “less Indian” (or less Japanese/Greek/Scandinavian for that matter) because the lack of ‘agenda’ and ‘affiliation’ in the IB programme makes a humanitarian value system a ‘marxist’ one (people often mix up humanitarianism with socialism, with marxism), a global world-view with an anti-nationalist one (here again ‘patriotism’ becomes the pawn of opinion) and a shrinking world as a threat to culture and identity etc. It is so very complex!
    I have observed one thing though – there is a difference in the way IB programmes work for the students in the ‘World Schools’ that start out as IB schools and Indian Schools that have adopted IB at a later stage (such as ours) – the core values of the school remain dominant in the latter. And we get a “glocal” flavour – best of both worlds…or as I see it, best of the world because ‘both worlds’ still has a duality to it! 🙂

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