Saturday, January 02, 2010

Bonanza Column 166 – The IB Discussion Should be Fact, not Opinion

As I mentioned in passing last week, my column asking questions about the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) has garnered a considerable response. I've received a number of emails, phone calls, and pieces of literature and have met with a number of people on both sides of the issue.

The most common thing I've heard is along the lines of "I don't know much about it, but…" followed by an opinion pro or con. Some people are engaged in a genuine inquiry to find out about IB, but an alarming number seem willing to form an opinion based on either very little information, information they have heard or read but haven't checked out, or both.

There are some things "going around" that seem flatly untrue. For example, I've heard over and over again that the decision to move forward with IB was taken by the Reflective Task Force without consultation with the school Principals. The phrase I hear a lot is that this was an "end run" around the Principals. I haven't spoken with John Clark or Kathleen Watty yet, and I will, but on the face of it I don't see how this can be true when (a) both Principals were on the Task Force and (b) the Task Force voted unanimously to move forward with IB. Yet the conversation about an "end run" persists.

There is also a lot of what I consider nonsense going around. There is a website called that is apparently the project of a woman in New York who has made it her mission to torpedo IB programs wherever they are proposed. Of course, she has a perfect right to do this and I have no idea what her motives are beyond those she professes on the web site. However, I use the web a lot for research both for my consulting work and for my writing, and as a rule of thumb, I've concluded that websites called "The Truth About…" rarely live up to their name. TAIB starts by disclaiming any objectivity – they have a bias and are admirably up front about it. But then they claim to be presenting facts, many of which are either inaccurate, incomplete, or plainly untrue and that appeal without apparent substance to a right-wing political bias. Notwithstanding that, people here have cited TAIB in their concerns about or opposition to IB.

I think this issue is too important to leave to the dubious mercies of the usual IV/CB opinion-fest. It's one thing when there is a group that will listen and make the decision, à la the TRPA Board on Boulder Bay, but it's another when what is needed is for us to come together as a community to make a decision that will affect not the landscape but the lives of our children and grandchildren and the children of residents to come.

A lot of what is being said about IB can't be proved – proponents speculate that it will bring new, younger, residents to the area – they have some indices that suggest this may be so, but it can't be proved; we will have to rely on our best judgment in evaluating the claim. Likewise the concern that while we may raise the money to fund IB for some years, the money may not be there some years hence – who can say, really? Other claims can and should be evaluated as matters of fact, and facts and opinions are not the same – being sure something is true doesn't make it true, and in this matter more than usually we have to keep in mind the words of a friend of mine's bumper sticker – "don't believe everything you think."

What is needed is a means for a discussion where real facts can be presented and fact-based questions can be asked and answered. I'm working with the Bonanza to put such a forum together – stay tuned.

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