THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Nell Hurley helps her 11-year-old daughter, Kagan Jenkins, with math
homework. Hurley has helped fight for keeping Advance Placement classes
in Woodson High school while getting rid of the International Baccalaureate
Jessica Tefft (THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The Bush administration has begun issuing grants to help spread
a United Nations-sponsored school program that aims to become a "universal
curriculum" for teaching global citizenship, peace studies and
equality of world cultures.
The goal is to devise a curriculum to teach "a set of culturally
neutral universal values to which all people aspire," based on
human rights, equality of the sexes and "open-mindedness to change
and obligation to environmental protection and sustainable development."
The U.S. Education Department has issued its first $1.2 million grant
to implement the European-based International Baccalaureate (IB) program
in middle schools that are to become "feeder schools" for
the IB's high school diploma program in low-income school districts.
"We are ever mindful of the lessons of September 11, one of which
is that all future measures of a rigorous K-12 education must include
a solid grounding in other cultures, other languages and other histories,"
Education Secretary Rod Paige said a year ago as he announced new
global-education initiatives in U.S. schools.
"In other words, we need to put the 'world' back into 'world-class'
education," he said.
Some educators are skeptical. An official in the Reagan administration
says he was "a wee bit put off" by the program's approach.
An education adviser to the current Bush administration calls the
approach "an educator fad," and a retired official of the
National Science Foundation says many of the peer reviewers in the
program are "hard left-leaners."
The Education Department grant will expand the IB program initially
in Arizona, Massachusetts and New York.
The IB curriculum has been adopted by about 1,450 schools in 115 countries,
including 502 schools in the United States. The program is in 55 primary,
middle and secondary schools in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
U.S. schools that have committed to the European program spend an
estimated $85 million to $100 million a year beyond regular school
expenses for teacher salaries and other costs, according to government
records. Fairfax County schools alone spend $1.8 million a year in
additional costs for the IB program.
The major additional costs are teacher development and online courses,
which the federal grant supports; IB fees; and expenses to send U.S.
student tests and papers for scoring and evaluation by IB officials
An IB regulation accepted by participating American schools requires
that all tests and written papers of American students sent to Europe
for grading or evaluation "become the absolute property"
of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) in Geneva.
The program was originally devised in the mid-1960s for children of
globe-trotting European diplomats, who wanted a standard curriculum
that would lead to admission for graduates to any top-flight university
in the world.
"With the advent of international schools and their population
of students from diverse cultures came a curriculum problem,"
Ian Hill, deputy director-general of the IBO, told a 2001 conference
convened by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.
"Teachers were concerned about the inappropriateness of national
curricula for providing a truly global dimension and international
experience in the academic program," he told the conference titled
"Education for Disarmament."
So in 1996, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization formed a partnership with the IBO and International Schools
Association, both based in Geneva, to create the universal "curriculum
framework for peace education."
Project participants "see education as the principal vehicle
for developing and inculcating the habits of peace in school-age children,"
UNESCO's International Bureau of Education announced at the time.
Mr. Hill, a former school administrator from Tasmania, Australia,
said the role of international education and culture, is to fulfill
the vision of UNESCO's constitution in its opening words: "Since
wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the
defenses of peace must be constructed."
"We cannot hide from one another and we can't eliminate dissident
groups. We have to learn to live together," he said.
The Bush administration's $1.2 million grant from the Education Department's
Advanced Placement Incentives Program (APIP) is to train teachers
and set up six middle- and high-school "partnerships" to
implement the IB curriculum for minority students.
Funding approval was recommended by "independent peer reviewers"
under the APIP, spokeswoman Susan M. Aspey said. The proposal was
ranked third out of 117 applications by outside academic experts "chosen
specifically for their deep knowledge of the types of programs under
review," Miss Aspey said.
Syl McNinch Jr., a retired budget officer for the National Science
Foundation, said many federal education peer-reviewers of grant applications
"are hard left-leaners."
"Unlike science and engineering, the realm of education often
has to do with values and teaching the kids what to think on major
issues," Mr. McNinch said.
"That's why you have to be very careful in granting federal money
for these purposes, because it carries with it the power to implement
those programs in schools across the nation, whether the taxpayers
like it or not," he said.
Think globally, not locally
The UNESCO program started with IBO in 1996 was initially called the
International Education System Pilot Project (IESPP).
"[The project] was established with the ambitious aim of testing
the feasibility of creating an international education system,"
UNESCO announced in a September 1999 issue of its Educational Innovation
and Information newsletter titled "A Culture of Peace."
"Thus it would incidentally contribute to an improvement in peace
education through a small-scale project involving schools from diverse
cultures," the newsletter said.
In a statement called "The Road to Peace," UNESCO said:
"Let it be a school of values, of attitudes, above all of practical
action so that we learn to obtain justice through nonviolence and
ensure that all human rights become a living reality for every person.
"One major premise underlying the project is that peace education
is not to be seen as a separate discipline within the curriculum."
The IB curriculum, UNESCO said, would promote human rights and social
justice; the need for "sustainable development"; and address
population, health, environmental and immigration concerns.
"Changing patterns of national and international migration and
political and social transformation have given cultural diversity
a new importance," the statement said.
Bradley W. Richardson, director of International Baccalaureate North
America in New York City, said the program's "ties to the United
Nations and UNESCO are both historic and collegial."
"We have an advisory status as [a nongovernment organization]
with UNESCO, but that relationship does not extend to curriculum development
"IB's association with UNESCO should not signal anything sinister
or anti-American," Mr. Richardson said.
There are "a wide variety of opinions and experiences with IB,"
he said. "Far from being a monolith, IB accommodates a diversity
of thought, backgrounds, opinions and worldviews."
IBO has a curriculum center in Cardiff, Wales, and directs its global
curriculum and scores student tests and papers at its Geneva headquarters.
George Walker, IB's director-general in Geneva, said in June that
the program remains committed to changing children's values so they
think globally, rather than in parochial national terms from their
own country's viewpoint.
"International education offers people a state of mind; international-mindedness,"
Mr. Walker said in a recent IBO background paper titled "Education
weaves together the threads of peace."
"We need an education that recognizes the realities of the 21st
century. We're living on a planet that is becoming exhausted. People
everywhere aspire to the standards of living that people in the West
take for granted, and at the same time, they want to maintain cultural
differences that they feel make life worth living," he said.
The IBO background paper said the curriculum is a multicultural approach
that differs from traditional direct instruction of facts and historically
"Most national education systems at the moment encourage students
to seek the truth, memorize it, and reproduce it accurately. The real
world is not this simple. International education has to reconcile
this diversity with the unity of the human condition,' " the
Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
and former assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration,
said he was "a wee bit put off" by IB's "one-worldism
and fashionable leftism of their social studies courses, but they
weren't worse than what regular American curricula were peddling and
the academic expectations were far more rigorous."
Mr. Finn said the program is "inherently internationalist, so
it's not going to have any signs of patriotic Americanism — nor, let
us hope, Francophilia or Sinophilia or any other such [patriotic expression]."
"The IBO programs promote a constructivist approach to learning,"
the 1999 UNESCO document stated. "Teachers recognize that students
bring prior knowledge to any learning situation and will come into
contact with the curriculum through activities designed by the teacher.
The students make sense of their experiences to construct meaning."
As an example, fourth-grade teachers at Christ Church Episcopal School
in Greenville, S.C., said they "set about fomenting an uprising
in our classrooms" in order to allow their 9- and 10-year-old
students to understand the dynamics of the American Revolution leading
to independence in 1776.
Writing in May in "IB World," the program's international
magazine, four teachers said they wanted the children "to experience
personally the forces that lead to revolution, without shedding blood
in the classroom, of course."
The teachers said they circulated a fake official-sounding memorandum
that told students their recesses were cut to make up for days that
school had been canceled for snow. "The students were really
angry, pointing out that the lost classes had not been their fault
and that they had not been consulted about this," the teachers
The students' own proposal for Saturday classes instead of cutting
recess was rejected. As discussions ensued, one student called on
classmates to "take over the school," and another student
demanded that they "go on strike."
"I'm not sure fighting for recess is that important, but fighting
for freedom is," one student said.
"This was the moment of truth," the teachers wrote. "This
was the connection that made the 18th-century American Revolution
real to these 21st-century students."
Constructivism gone awry
Diane Ravitch, education-research professor at New York University
and an adviser to the Bush administration, says the constructivist
approach is an educator fad that has gone awry.
"It became axiomatic among constructivists that knowledge is
not transmitted directly from one knower to another, but is actively
built up by the learner," she wrote in her book, "Left Back:
A Century of Battles over School Reform."
"This meant that teachers must never lecture or 'tell,' that
any memorization was intolerable, that instruction was a discredited
form of behaviorism, and that up-to-date teachers viewed themselves
as 'facilitators' of learning," Mrs. Ravitch said.
"Surely a middle ground was needed, one where students could
actively solve problems at the same time as they mastered basic skills
and gained new knowledge under the guidance of capable teachers,"
In IB's two-year high school diploma program, pupils study three major
subjects at the "higher level" and three minor subjects
at the "standard level," which must include mathematics,
humanities, and at least one science and a foreign language.
Students also must take IB's philosophical course on "Theory
of Knowledge" and research and write a 4,000-word extended essay
on a subject of their choice, similar to a university thesis, under
the supervision of a teacher.
IB-diploma students also must complete 150 hours of extracurricular
"Creativity, Action and Service," which could include sports,
music, art, drama, and volunteer service in the community.
English courses use a "Prescribed World Literature List"
of 421 authors, including 57 from England and the United States. Critics,
however, question the narrow selection.
Students must study three works of world literature, originally written
in a different language than that of the students and normally read
in translation, Mr. Hill, IBO deputy director-general, said.
"The purpose of world literature is to develop an appreciation
of how different cultures influence and mold the experiences of life,"
Mr. Hill said in his paper for the U.N. Education for Disarmament
"Students will develop values, attitudes and respect for behavior
and points of view different from their own without necessarily being
in agreement," he said.
Mr. Richardson said teachers are free to bring in literature outside
the program's prescribed list. He said teachers also can engage students
in study and discussion of many contentious world issues.
"Those schools that wish to give an emphasis to environmental
studies, to land-mine programs, or other world issues can do so, but
within a program that is intellectually challenging for everyone,"
When asked about the IB's promotion of issues dealing with global
peace and economic justice, Mr. Richardson denied that the program's
courses have a political or social-activist agenda.
"While the course requires that these 'politically correct' questions
be engaged, it in no way (nor does the assessment) requires any particular
response to the questions. A 'conservative' answer well done will
always score higher than a 'liberal' answer poorly done."
Parents question values of IB studies
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Critics of the International Baccalaureate program at Reston's Langston
Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School have focused on the
program's promotion of cultural egalitarianism, pacifism and what
they say is its anti-Western bias.
"Administrators do not tell you that the current IB program for
ages three through grade 12 promotes socialism, disarmament, radical
environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine
Christian religious values and national sovereignty," Jeanne
Geiger wrote last year in the Reston Connection, a local newspaper.
Mrs. Geiger opposed her children being enrolled in International Baccalaureate
(IB) classes at South Lakes. "The proposed sociological 'outcomes'
follow politically correct thought and behavior assessments,"
Rena J. Berlin, Fairfax County's IB coordinator at Langston Hughes
Middle School, said she knows Mrs. Geiger and other critics "very
well," but believes "that all students who learn how to
think globally, how to make connections between subjects, and how
to 'learn how to learn' will be better prepared to be IB diploma students
when they get to 11th grade."
Mrs. Berlin said her school has "students from around the globe.
"Our IB programs dig deep into education and the feeling of the
community, and the programs make us part of our world.
"After all, it is our students who will change the world and
we need to allow them to be the fine citizens of America and the world
that they have the potential to be," she said.
Mrs. Geiger and a friend, Anne Hall of Reston, have rallied opposition
against the IB program for several years.
Mrs. Hall echoed criticisms of parents at Woodson High School in Fairfax
— where the IB program was dropped — that most U.S. colleges and universities
award course credit to incoming freshmen only for high-level IB courses
"similar in difficulty to the Advanced Placement (AP) courses."
On IB exams, she noted, high school students are scored on a scale
of one to seven and Fairfax County recognizes four as a passing grade.
For AP exams, students are graded on a scale of one to five and Fairfax
County recognizes three as a passing score.
But colleges set the bar higher, Mrs. Hall said.
"More selective institutions only award credit for AP exam scores
of four and five, and high-level IB exam scores of six and seven,
and will not consider any standard-level IB exam scores."
She added that "some schools will not award any IB credit unless
the student has earned the full IB diploma," which requires them
to take more than six required IB courses, write a 4,000-word extended
essay like a college thesis, and do 150 hours of extracurricular activities
or community service during 11th and 12th grades.
"Information from eight Virginia universities shows that an Advanced
Placement exam score of three has a 52 percent acceptance rate, a
higher-level IB exam score of 4 has a 33 percent acceptance rate,
and a standard-level IB exam score of four has a 2 percent acceptance
"Parents and students who do not have six-figure incomes or trust
funds available for college tuitions will be interested in this distinction,"
Mrs. Hall said.
Sandra Wade Pauly, IB North America's university and government liaison,
acknowledges that "IBNA has always faced a unique challenge"
in convincing U.S. colleges and universities of the worth of its "holistic
and interdisciplinary approach" to learning.
She said IBNA is funding a push to convince more colleges and admissions
officials to accept its high school diploma program.
Fairfax 'backlash' ousted IB program
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Parents and teachers at Woodson High School in Fairfax succeeded
in ousting the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate curriculum.
This is the first year that college-bound Woodson students are no
longer enrolled in the European program pushed by the United Nations
and have returned to the U.S. College Board's Advanced Placement (AP)
"The school was an AP school. They were just in the process of
converting over to" the IB program, Fairfax County School Superintendent
Daniel Domenech said of the Woodson battle that started in 1999.
There was "a significant backlash against the IB program"
as he became county superintendent, Mr. Domenech said in an interview.
Woodson parents and teachers rebelled because they found that IB's
required standard-level courses making up half the curriculum's two-year
high school diploma program were not accepted by top-ranked Virginia
colleges that their highly achieving children aspired to attend.
"It is the death knell," E.J. Nell Hurley, mother of four
daughters in Fairfax public schools, said of the IB program.
Mr. Domenech credited Mrs. Hurley, an unsuccessful candidate for the
Fairfax County School Board in elections Nov. 4, for leading the fight
to remove the program from Woodson.
"The admissions director for the University of Virginia told
us, 'If you are at an IB school and you are not going for the IB diploma,
don't waste your time applying to UVa. or any other top-rated schools.
Your child's application will go to the bottom of the admissions pile,'
" Mrs. Hurley said in an interview.
She said the University of Virginia gave just nine academic credits
to a J.E.B. Stuart High School graduate with an IB diploma, after
two years of IB courses, while the university gave her oldest daughter,
Ellen, 36 credits — a full year of college work — for AP courses taken
Mrs. Hurley said her younger daughter, Caitlin, told the J.E.B. Stuart
graduate: "You did all that work and you got nine lousy credits?"
She then said: "Mom, I'm not going to do all that work and get
so little recognition for it. It's not worth it."
Bradley W. Richardson, director of IB North America in New York, said
that while many colleges do not give credit for standard-level IB
courses, "over 150 universities in North America now give credit
for the full IB diploma and, therefore, are giving credit to standard
Mrs. Hurley said she was inspired by teacher Susan H. Shue, chairwoman
of Woodson's social studies department. Mrs. Hurley said Mrs. Shue
stressed that IB was usurping control over the school program.
"She had the guts to stand there in front of the brand-new principal
and the area director," Mrs. Hurley said of Mrs. Shue. Mrs. Shue
did not wish to be interviewed.
Mrs. Hurley said Mrs. Shue told school officials that "because
the whole school has to become oriented around the IB program, the
master schedule has to run around the IB students. ... That's part
of the requirement to be an IB school, that the IB diploma is the
premier drive on running the entire school, and it hurts every other