My name is Ben Cooper and I am a member of the Lake City High School Class of 2010. I am also an International Baccalaureate Full Diploma Candidate. I'm writing this letter in response to the piece published on Feb. 2 regarding the IB program. This letter serves to offer a second perspective on the IB program from somebody who has experienced its benefits first hand.
First off, I would like to mention that I have great respect for the decision by Mr. and Mrs. Kohler to remove their children from the public school system and I highly respect their opinions about the IB program. I feel that if a person fears indoctrination of their children that homeschooling is the best option for those kids. However, I would like to address several of the issues that were brought up by the Kohlers in their article.The main point of the letter was to reveal the connection between UNESCO (and the United Nations) and IBO. Yet the authors took too many leaps of logic to truly see the connection between the two. In fact, the IBO is an organization that is completely separate from the UN with its own unique mission and goals. Yes, IBO is recognized by UNESCO, but that doesn't mean they both represent the same values. The United States "recognizes" North Korea, but we don't share the same values.
Yes, a small portion of IBO funding comes from UNESCO, but none of the UNESCO/IBO partnership projects occurred within the United States, most occurred in Third World countries. Just because a person donates to the Salvation Army doesn't mean they are a Christian, nor does it mean that the Salvation Army represents that person's values. Furthermore, there really is no evidence that shows how UNESCO's authority has ever influenced the IBO in the past or present.Now that the organizations can be distinguished, it is quickly realized that IB does not cause any indoctrination of United Nation's policies. I feel that the issue with indoctrination might have come from a bad experience with an individual teacher, and should be brought up with the teacher, rather than attacking the program as a whole.
In fact, never once in my experience with IB have I ever felt pressure to be persuaded one way or another on a controversial issue. The IB program teaches students to look at issues from multiple perspectives and critically analyze all sides of an issue before forming an individual opinion on it. All of my IB classes have presented multiple sides of each issue fairly. For example, after watching "An Inconvenient Truth" in my IB Environmental Systems class, we immediately watched a video from the perspective of other scientists that responded to many of Al Gore's claims.In IBO's mission statement they promote "learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right." Rather than indoctrinating youth, the IBO allows for students to become open minded, individual thinkers who can formulate their own opinions on issues rather than regurgitating facts or the opinions of others, while still respecting opposing ideas.
IBO's values are in no way contradictory to American values, but rather support an education that allows for the freedoms and liberties upon which our nation was founded. The IBO mission statement says "We promote intercultural understanding and respect, not as an alternative to a sense of cultural and national identity, but as an essential part of life in the 21st century." By studying and understanding the values and viewpoints of others, we can further solidify our own values. By reviewing the hardships and struggles of other cultures, we become proud and grateful of our own.Moving away from the issue of indoctrination, I would like to point out some of the benefits of an IB diploma while clarifying some of the misconceptions about the program. First off, the Kohlers claimed that only 4.5 percent of the students in IB classes finished the program; however this could not have been further from the truth. In fact well over 60 percent of all the students enrolled in Lake City's IB Full Diploma Program have succeeded in receiving the diploma. The statistics used for the Kohler's calculation was the number of students in any IB class, not the number of students attempting to earn the diploma.
Next, the IB Diploma Program is widely respected and well received by the educational community. Numerous schools in our area (Pacific Lutheran, University of Montana, The College of Idaho, and Portland State University to name a few) offer sophomore standing to any holder of an IB diploma, meaning they can forego their freshman year. Additionally, there is a large amount of scholarship money available to diploma candidates. I personally know several LCHS seniors who have had full ride scholarship offers from schools, solely due to the IB diploma program.Personally, I know that if I had not been enrolled in the IB diploma program I would not have been considered for admission at as many places as I am now or for the scholarships I might receive. I know that many of the opportunities that I have now are the direct result of my involvement in the IB diploma program and I am truly grateful for that.
Finally, I believe that our district has the right policy when it comes to IB and AP in our schools. The district offers parents, students and teachers the choice of what type of program that they want to be involved in. We offer magnet schools at the elementary and middle school levels, IB MYP and PYP programs, an AP and an IB high school, along with the option for dual enrollment. If parents or teachers do not want to be involved with any of these programs they are free to follow the actions of the Koler family and take the liberty of individual responsibility by choosing one of the many alternatives. However, eliminating such a comprehensive program would be undermining the American values of free choice and opportunity that this program offers.
Ben Cooper is an LCHS Class of 2010 IB student.