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Board meeting sees IB debate

Staff Writer | April 6, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - The International Baccalaureate program continued to spark contentious debate at Monday's school board meeting in Coeur d'Alene.

A standing room only crowd of supporters and critics of the advanced learning program gathered at the Midtown Meeting Center.

Trustees heard from 22 members of the public, more than half pleading for the district to eliminate all IB-related programs from schools because they say IB promotes a United Nations agenda of global citizenship, is anti-American, costly and a threat to citizens' rights.

Similar arguments were made by opponents at the March board meeting.

Several high school students who are International Baccalaureate diploma candidates addressed trustees Monday.

"It is clear to me that the IB program reflects a broader shift in the public school curriculum of many regions of this country, a shift toward a more relativistic, globalist and secular humanist world view," said Tyler Smotherman, Coeur d'Alene High School's student council president. "In my IB classes that I've taken, I've noticed a clear slant toward naturalism, socialism, radical environmentalism, pantheism, buddhism, gay marriage, abortion rights and other topics that could be grossly categorized as progressive or leftist or what have you, and I say grossly because those words are really inadequate."

Smotherman said he has also witnessed hostility toward some ideologies and belief systems like Christianity, American exceptionalism, traditional gender roles, capitalism, "and other topics that can be roughly categorized as more conservative."

He said he is reporting what he and other students have noticed at CHS and with certain teachers at the school.

"Because I know my own values and take the time to thoroughly investigate claims made in the classroom, I believe I have thrived and benefited from the IB program even though it does have some bias methodology," Smotherman said. "Unfortunately, however, I believe students like myself are the exception rather than the norm."

IB, geared to juniors and seniors, was offered at both Lake City High School and Coeur d'Alene High School from 2006.

Next fall, Lake City will be the only high school to offer IB.

Hayden Meadows Elementary School has been working toward becoming a Primary Years Programme school. PYP is the K-5 program offered by the IB organization.

No schools other than Lake City and Hayden Meadows are participating at this time.

Stephen Shepherd, a Lake City High School senior, IB diploma candidate and student council president spoke to trustees at Monday's meeting.

"I wish to address some items of confusion about the IB program, and most specifically, the argument that we're not being taught to value U.S. history, identity or principles," Shepherd said.

Over the past two years, Shepherd reported that he and his IB classmates have studied U.S. history decade by decade through the Articles of the Confederation, the Revolutionary War, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other significant events leading up to the last century.

"And we're being told that we're not studying about the United States," Shepherd said.

Classes on environmentalism do not work to indoctrinate students with global warming agenda and green policies, he said. In those classes, Shepherd said they watched "An Inconvenient Truth," and another film that offered theories contradictory to the Gore film. Students were required to draw conclusions on their own.

"Instead of simply memorizing facts, we're given different sides of the issue and we debate it," Shepherd said.

Students understand what they believe and why they believe it, he said.

"If CHS does have an issue with bias, then it's a good thing that Lake City is the new IB school," Shepherd said. "I have learned to more greatly appreciate my citizenship in the United States of America and understand its incredible historical role as a self-established superpower."

The IB organization's literature strongly disputes claims that it is a pilot program for the UN or UNESCO, or that its intent is to create a global education system.

It has received funding from the United Nations Education Service and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and from some governments to pay for programs in their state schools.

Founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968 as a nonprofit educational foundation, the IBO claims 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." The group claims that it, along with approximately 400 other organizations, is part of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), and that this relationship with the UN and its agencies does not extend to curriculum development or assessments.

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