Task force findings dispel many IB criticisms

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COEUR d'ALENE - The findings of a task force formed in the wake of public controversy regarding the Coeur d'Alene School District's International Baccalaureate programs were presented Monday to trustees.

"The board distilled all of the input from various constituents within the last few months," said Superintendent Hazel Bauman.

What board members came up with was a series of questions that needed to be answered, Bauman said.

The summer task force included principals and teachers from the district's two IB schools - the Diploma Program (DP) at Lake City High School, and the Primary Years Programme (PYP) at Hayden Meadows Elementary School. There were also two community patrons on the panel.

The first question asked whether the students in the PYP and DP programs are receiving the state standards in the study of civics, U.S. History and U.S. Government.

"The answer that we determined is that yes, they are receiving the state standards in those areas," Bauman said.

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But, there was a caveat at the high school level, Bauman said.

They found that some district content is not addressed in the IB courses with the same specificity as it is in the regular curriculum.

Bauman said they believe they can address that issue by recommending that students likely to enroll in the IB program in their junior and senior years take U.S. History in their sophomore or freshman year.

"I think that shows that we're not really trying to hide anything here," Bauman said. "Where there were some deficiencies, we stepped up to the plate and said we found one, or two, and then we made a recommendation or mitigation."

Other questions and answers are as follows:

Does IB teach/promote socialism and communism and denigrate the free enterprise/capitalism system?

"We found that it did not. It does teach about communism and socialism, but it does not promote communism and socialism," Bauman said.

That's at the high school level. Those subjects are not touched on at all in the elementary school IB program, Bauman said.

Does the IB curriculum undermine the self-evident truths as stated in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and other key documents supporting the foundation of the United States of America?

"We were very clear on this one, that in no way does the IB program denigrate those documents," Bauman said.

Supporting evidence provided by the task force comes from literature produced by the International Baccalaureate Organization: "The IB believes that relevant education begins with an understanding and appreciation of one's own culture. From that perspective comes an understanding and appreciation of differing cultures and histories."

What are the requirements to be an IB school, and does the U.N. or UNESCO control these requirements or the curriculum?

"We found very clearly that they do not," Bauman said. "While they are supportive of the organization and its mission, the curriculum is completely determined at the local level and we determine that curriculum based on our state standards."

Does the IB teach/promote "radical environmentalism?"

The PYP does not, and is not part of the curriculum, Bauman said.

The answer regarding the promotion of radical environmentalism in IB at the high school level, Bauman said, the IB curriculum does teach about the topic, but does not promote it.

The IB asks students to study and compare the approaches of several environmentalist groups, Bauman said, including Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Federation and the Nature Conservancy.

"I think that's a very healthy exercise, and they do come at the topic from different perspectives," Bauman said. "It does not in any way promote what might be considered radical environmentalism."

Does the IB teach/promote "moral relativism?"

Bauman said that in the elementary PYP program they just teach "character traits and strong, positive values."

"However, at the high school level students are exposed to the concept of moral relativism, and actually taught that it doesn't work ... that you can't have a civil and organized society if there's moral relativism," Bauman said.

According to the supporting documents provided by the task force, the findings are that neither moral relativism nor moral absolutism are effective approaches to "functioning in a diverse and global society and thus neither is advocated as a valid intellectual approach" in the IB's Theory of Knowledge course.

Are IB costs prohibitive?

"If we were starting them today, the answer would be yes," Bauman said.

She would not recommend the district spend start-up funds for IB programs during this tough economic climate.

"But we have sunk those, they are spent, they are gone and they are no longer necessary at the level that they were to get started," Bauman said.

The IB budget for next year is $20,880 and represents less than one percent of the district's $64 million budget, she said.

The district has created binders with the task force's answers to the questions, and supporting documentation. The contents of the binders will be on the district's Web site for the public to review.

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