COEUR d'ALENE - The three International Baccalaureate diploma candidates preparing to graduate from Coeur d'Alene High School responded this week to public criticism of the advanced learning program at Monday's school board meeting.
While many students take IB classes, diploma candidates have completed a full two-year course of IB's most rigorous higher level offerings.
"I can understand the insecurities of parents when they send their kids off to school every day for 12 years and are not positive what they're learning in class," said Madison Leonard, the class salutatorian and Idaho's 2010 Junior Miss. "Politics for me shouldn't even be a part of this debate."
The IB program has sparked public controversy at school board meetings and in the media in recent months.
Critics claim the program should be eliminated from all schools because it is connected with the United Nations and promotes left-wing, anti-American, global views.
"If there are liberal discussions going on in class, that's a positive thing. It's giving students new things to think about it," Leonard said. "I know that our minds are still forming, and our opinions are still forming. We're only 16 to 18 years old. But I've never felt like my values were attacked, ever."
Leonard said she is a conservative who believes in American exceptionalism.
"I think we have a very unique history, we have a very unique set of standards as a country that we live by," Leonard said. "I just think that America is a very special place and we shouldn't ignore that, and certainly not apologize for everything that we do."
Tyler Smotherman, the 2010 student council president, claimed at Monday's board meeting that while the program has merit, in his experience, IB classes are biased toward a more leftist or progressive world view.
"I am not necessarily anti-IB and do not claim great experience or expertise with the IB program as a whole," Smotherman said Thursday. "What I was speaking to was the fact that, because public school teachers are statistically more liberal and because of certain cultural movements throughout the 20th century, there is a leftward shift in the ideology and teaching methodology of our public education system, a shift which I perceive to be negative. The IB program is perhaps a representation of that shift."
Leonard and fellow IB candidates Brian Klatt and Cole Boyer agreed with Smotherman that liberalism does permeate the U.S. public education system.
"That's no fault of IB. If anything, it's the fault of the teachers," said Boyer, class valedictorian. "I don't understand, when did other countries' views and perspectives and histories become irrelevant to ours?"
CHS and Lake City High School became IB World Schools in 2006. There are just four in Idaho. The K-5 version of IB, the Primary Years Programme, is being instituted at Hayden Meadows Elementary School.
The program has been discontinued at CHS, but will continue next year at Lake City.
Deanne Clifford, Lake City's assistant principal, said her school has 18 full diploma candidates graduating this year, and 28 juniors anticipated to be candidates next year.
There are 228 LCHS students enrolled in IB classes.
Clifford said the total proposed budget for IB for next year is roughly $24,000.
"If they do get rid of it, it needs to be for financial reasons," said CHS diploma candidate Brian Klatt. "Otherwise, it's something that should be kept in the district."