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IB debate: 'Beckisms' vs. quality education

by Dr. Robyn Hitchcock
| April 7, 2010 9:00 PM

I have some new concerns about a radical faction within North Idaho that gives me great concern. I went to the school board meeting for District 271 (Coeur d'Alene) Monday night and it was like watching a bad episode of Glenn Beck directed at my school and my children.

I can understand that passionate but ignorant, misguided people might believe the pap that is spoon fed to them by these extremists. But when they use clear "beckisms" to attack my school and children I have a really hard time remaining calm and neutral. Fortunately most of the speakers for PYP and IB were better at remaining composed than I was.

Several PYP teachers and IB teachers spoke eloquently and plainly about how encouraging the IB principles of thinking, looking at different sides of an argument, then drawing logical conclusions worthy of debate are a valuable tool at any age. This was demonstrated at high-school level with advanced and complex classes in civics, literature and history for example. Both teachers and students invited the radical faction to join the classroom and see first-hand what was being taught, rather than believe at face value what is being touted at these extremist Web sites. At the elementary level (PYP) the written curriculum - well, let me cut and paste directly from the PYP Web site.

The most significant and distinctive feature of the IB Primary Years Programme is the six transdisciplinary themes.

These themes are about issues that have meaning for, and are important to, all of us. The programme offers a balance between learning about or through the subject areas, and learning beyond them. The six themes of global significance create a transdisciplinary framework that allows students to "step up" beyond the confines of learning within subject areas.

• Who we are

• Where we are in place and time

• How we express ourselves

• How the world works

• How we organize ourselves

• Sharing the planet

The programme encourages students to become:

• inquirers - their natural curiosity has been nurtured and they actively enjoy learning

• thinkers-they exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to solving complex problems

• communicators - they receive and express ideas and information confidently in more than one language

• risk-takers - they approach unfamiliar situations without anxiety and have the confidence to explore new ideas

• knowledgeable - they have explored themes that have global significance and have acquired a critical mass of knowledge

• principled - they have a sound grasp of the principles of moral reasoning and have acquired integrity, honesty and a sense of justice

• caring - they show sensitivity toward the needs and feelings of others, and have a sense of personal commitment to helping others

• open-minded - they respect the values of other individuals and cultures and seek to consider a range of points of view

• well-balanced - they understand the importance of physical and mental balance and personal well-being

• reflective - they give thoughtful consideration to their own learning by constructively analyzing their personal strengths and weaknesses.

I do not see how taking a broader world view and learning more than the contents of your backyard is construed to be such a negative thing, in any rational human being.

Using typical "beckisms," the extremists made horrific accusations. I took copious notes; I am not exaggerating. This is verbatim what was said.

Several fourth-grade children were present at the meeting to share an award the school received from the city of Hayden for outstanding community service. They spoke briefly about some of the PYP character values (listed above) and why they chose the projects that they did. The radical faction took this accomplishment and twisted it into "PYP fostering a communist agenda of mandatory community service like the young pioneers in Russia."

PYP encourages global thinking: Who we are, how the world works and sharing the planet. (Outlined above). This was twisted into "It is anti-American propaganda fostering global single government dominance"... "Global citizenship means socialism and communism"... "Encouraging sustainability supports their socialist agenda"... all ridiculous.

There were spurious claims that the test scores in the IB and PYP schools were lower, when just the opposite is true. There were claims that the program hampered getting college credit in high school, when an IB student spoke and said an IB class can lead to an IB diploma, which is an internationally recognized accomplishment, and AP credit if desired with minimal extra work. The skills to do this extra step are encouraged as part of the independent thinking curricula content. An AP student, however, cannot get an IB degree.

There were numerous claims that the program takes away valuable learning time from core courses, when just the opposite is true. There were complaints about the cost, but even if you discount the numerous scholarships available to the IB graduates, the cost is negligible when compared to the return. Much of the cost is now being shouldered by the PTA, and willingly because most of the parents are such firm supporters of the program.

There were actually complaints that the elementary kids are spending an hour a week learning Spanish, and that it robbed time from more valuable classes. Of course PYP was to blame. Personally I was disappointed more languages aren't available in the schools earlier, and hope this is just a start.

The "beckisms" abounded. They condemned "internationalism, progressivism" and claimed this all fostered a "socialist, Marxist, communist and Nazi social agenda." Not kidding, one of these extremists included all that in one sentence. Then he ranted about an abusive teacher he had 40 years prior, and somehow tried to lay accountability on the IB program.

Unfortunately for these people, America is not an isolated, pure island. We live in the world and with the development of the Internet and global travel it is neither feasible, nor desirable to close off the world, nor to teach our children to do so.

To play their game... selectively teaching "Americanism" in our schools would be a short step from "America first" to "America only" to "pure Americans only" to "other races and values have no merit"... that's right, Hitler and Nazism.

I would like to keep their radical, fascist agenda out of our schools. I do not want to see North Idaho go the way of Hitler, where there was slow reprogramming over many years that only their country had merit, that gradually seeped into a disregard then hatred, shunning, separation then careful extermination of other races, religions and ideas.

Let's facilitate our children's ability to think, inquire, question and believe. Let's not blow encouraging world awareness out of proportion. Global thinking is NOT anti-American. Our country is struggling to survive in these difficult times in a more and more global economy. We go more deeply into debt every day. Let's raise our children to succeed in this world, proudly, as Americans. I strongly support the PYP and IB programs in our schools. Please do not let the radical ravings of a small but very vocal fascist faction impair our children's global awareness.

Dr. Robyn Hitchcock is a Hayden resident.

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