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IB, PYP: Name of the game is choice

by Dan Dolezal & Vern Harvey
| April 17, 2010 9:00 PM

Hayden, Idaho, has been stigmatized for decades as the bigoted Aryan Nations capital of the United States, a place where skinheads and the KKK can hang out, have a beer together, and exchange racial jokes. I know; I have lived here all my life. So it isn't a surprise to find that when Hayden Meadows openly evolved into a successful International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program school, sub-members in this community overreacted.

The title itself, "International," makes their conservative synapses quiver. They have associated the IB program with socialism, a one-world government, anti-Americanism, a United Nations conspiracy, Hitler-like propaganda, and other buzzwords like "indoctrination" to outrage naive parents.

Yet when they are challenged to attend classes and identify the source of this "indoctrination," there is only silence. In fact, notes are sent to parents at Hayden Meadows not to talk to PYP instructors. They rely on hearsay and their biased research. In the latest articles against IB schools, the Kolers have Googled every possible site that might fortify their biases and proclaim it as "research." A successful attorney, Mr. Koler uses any means to improve his resume, or in this situation, propagate his anti-IB agenda. That agenda is to take away the opportunity for other parents to parent their children. He and his wife want to take away other parents' rights to CHOOSE a school, such as the Primary Years Program, for their children. Privately they have told educators that they believe it is their calling to save all children from this option despite the objections of other parents.

Let me say this in another way: IB schools are schools of CHOICE. Apparently, the Kolers do not believe in choice when it comes to education even though it is traditionally supported by their conservative platform. It was once regarded as vouchers.

I am outraged and offended on many levels. As a dedicated educator who has taught so many children, including the Kolers', I am dumbfounded to be considered the bad guy. The Primary Years Program has only offered an alternative program to what everyone has been saying is a failing system. Yet those same people who criticize public education are now crying success in the very same old failing system.

Folks, you can't have it both ways. Public education as it is, or as it has been, works or it doesn't. The staff at Hayden Meadows is committed to student success and has chosen to proceed differently because we believe the old way doesn't work any longer.

Today's standardized tests are the result of the lowest form of learning: rote memorization. PYP, on the other hand, doesn't measure a child's achievement by what he/she memorizes. Children are taught to ask questions, reflect on their answers, and evaluate their decisions. We teach them to be problem solvers, not walking dictionaries. We teach children HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

Our staff embraces the life skills that IB embeds in its learning; the Learner Profile. The Learner Profile (the character traits of an international-minded person) is the embodiment of a person who is principled, caring, knowledgeable, a risk-taker, a communicator, an inquirer, balanced, a thinker, reflective and open-minded. Who wouldn't want their child to be these?

We also have and teach about Attitudes (the behaviors that lead to the learner profile): appreciation, commitment, confidence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect and tolerance. Are these traits the very indoctrination the Kolers despise?

Yes we are international-minded. That is, we hope students make connections with what they learn at school with life at home, life in the community and life around the world. We hope children apply the attributes of a well-rounded learner to all that surrounds them. Let me be clear, international-mindedness in the IB program is not food, flags and festivals.

What's more, we teach the attitudes of international-mindedness NOT at the expense of teaching about our own values and beliefs. It is imperative that we know the culture, traditions and history of the United States just as it is important that children from France learn about their country's culture, traditions and history. IB promotes the teaching of listening to different perspectives; it does NOT promote adopting another's belief system.

All Hayden Meadows students who are learning through the PYP program receive a high-quality education that will benefit their learning no matter where they continue their education, IB school or not. Students learn to think about the knowledge they've gained, to take action if and when they consider it appropriate, and to reflect upon themselves as learners. And so my argument continues, if you want mediocrity, if you want rote over inquiry, then choose another school. PYP schools are schools of choice. If you disagree with how we teach then choose another school. The choice is all yours.

Though what the Kolers claim is disturbing, it is what they fail to say that is most deceptive. Parents in our district have a unique opportunity to choose to educate their child at Hayden Meadows PYP School. They also have the opportunity to send them to Sorensen, the art magnet school, or to Ramsey and Lakeland Middle School, with their emphasis in science. Don't let the Kolers do the parenting for you. You decide, and enroll your child in the school you deem best, PYP or not.

One last note, my sincere thanks to my classroom parents who have stuck their necks out to support the Primary Years Program. I know you have been bombarded with phone calls, letters, even DVDs. You have been confronted in our school parking lot, grocery stores and the Kroc Center. Your children's writing has been criticized and used out of context. Your livelihoods have been subjected to intimidation and many of you have shared your fear of retaliation.

In a small community like ours, it simply isn't fun sharing space with the playground bullies. However, I applaud you for making the best choice for your children and enrolling them in Hayden Meadows and the Primary Years Program.

Vern Harvey is a lead teacher at Hayden Meadows and Dan Dolezal is a Coeur d'Alene businessman.

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