When I first heard about the IB program being planned for Incline's schools I was uncertain about my view of it. On the one hand it sounded like a good program – very good, actually; on the other hand I have worked with the AP program at HIS, particularly our nationally ranked We the People program, and was unsure of what value IB would add. So I set about talking to people on both sides of the issue and reading up on the pros and cons of IB, and I made no secret of my being undecided – in fact, I devoted several columns to it. I also partnered with the Bonanza to propose a community forum the ground rules of which were designed to ensure a debate on the merits with minimal unsupported opining. The group in favor of IB responded enthusiastically to this proposal and provided a surplus of potential panelists. The group against IB was nominally enthusiastic, but failed to propose a panel despite numerous concessions. In the process they accused me of being biased in favor of IB and, in demanding someone else moderate, called into question my fairness and integrity. At the end of the day, though, despite getting everything they asked for, they failed to take the field and the forum was cancelled. Now that same group wants to know "What do we need to do to stop the madness and have the community discussion that is so badly needed?" Huh?
Well, I've made up my mind. I am for the IB program in Incline schools. I'll tell you why in a minute, but indulge me in a short digression. I haven't been able to find who first said "a person is known by the enemies he/she makes," but I've always hesitated to subscribe to that idea. Still it's an appealing idea – Joe Lieberman infamously invoked it to justify his opposition to the public option – liberals were for it, and that was enough for him to go against it. I've found myself tempted by it in this IB debate. So much of the opposition to IB ranges from ignorant (it will compromise separation of church and state because it's a religion-based program – it must be – there are Baccalaureate Services in churches at graduation time) to ridiculous (it's a liberal plot to have the UN take over our schools in service of creating a world government to rule over the US) that I have to struggle not to just favor IB because it's opponents are either plain silly or so far out in the tea party sea of the Right that they can't see land. If you don't believe me, look at this column on line on www.tahoebonanza.com and read the comments. I mean, I don't read them but I guarantee they'll be there.
Now back to our story. Why am I coming down in favor of IB? Not, as you might think, because of its benefits at the High School level. I'm still not sold that it will add value where AP doesn't already. I see its greatest value at the Elementary level where the IB curriculum, including dual-immersion language programs, seems to me to be clearly superior to any other public school curriculum I've seen. It will send our kids to Middle and High School with a really solid educational foundation on which to move into AP, IB Diploma, or for that matter Technical or Business Programs, and it will give English Language Learners real skills and power in English and English native speakers the same foundation in Spanish. I think that's a really good thing, particularly given the data on the benefits of early language education and bilingualism on learning in general.
Brian Sandoval, a Republican candidate for Governor endorsed IB in a speech to local Republicans last week. Sandoval is a member of that endangered species, moderate Republicans, but he is clearly a Republican and a Conservative. Hopefully that will put the lie to the crazies who keep trying to pull a McCarthyesque red scare in opposing IB. The school district has said that IB is a done deal – it will be here. In that case, it seems to me it behooves us as a community to (a) learn the facts about it and (b) get behind it – the people we elect and those we pay to make decisions on education for our kids have given the opinion they are accountable for. Let's move on.