Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bonanza Column 197 – IB: The Facts DO Matter

The local fight over IB has been an interesting one. I've written before urging that the argument he on a factual, rational basis, but it does not seem that that's going to happen. A column in last week's paper purported to give the "facts" about IB, but was so egregious in its slant on those facts (and in its use of some things that were not facts at all) that it needs a response.

It's one thing to disagree – reasonable people disagree all the time. It's quite something else, in my view, to distort or misrepresent the truth to sway public opinion in a disagreement. Writing an opinion column, I have no responsibility to be objective and make no claim to be. When I state facts, though, I do my best to check them and once in a while readers will challenge me, publicly or privately, on my facts and if it turns out I had something objectively wrong, I do my best to correct it. Often readers who mean to challenge my facts turn out to disagree with my interpretation of those facts – fine; that's why there's chocolate and vanilla.

I don't have the space to go through the entire 732 word column – I'll leave that to the IB Task Force to refute. But when a column takes the school district and IB supporters to task for "ignoring the facts," it seems to me it's incumbent on the columnist to have present the facts clearly and without omission or spin.

Possibly the most extreme example is in the oft-repeated statement from the anti-IB folks is the one near the end of the list that says "IB is a UN sponsored program that will be FORCED on all our students." I'm going to start by picking on this one because I believe it is the one behind all the rest – the real agenda of the "Truth About IB" website and much of the opposition. Here are the facts:

IB is one of 337 (at last count) Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) maintaining official relations with UNESCO, the UN Economic and Social Council (UNESCO). UNESCO's mission is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information." According to the UNESCO Encyclopaedia, NGOs came about in 1945 when a variety of groups from the US and abroad succeeded in having included in the UN Charter a provision for strengthening and formalizing what had previously been an informal relationship between various groups and what had been the League of Nations. The 337 NGOs are a varied group that are, first of all, independent of any government, are not constituted as political parties, are non-profit, and non-violent. In sum, "an NGO is defined as an independent voluntary association of people acting together on a continuous basis, for some common purpose, other than achieving government office, making money or illegal activities."

IB is in good company in its affiliation with UNESCO. In 2003, Former First Lady Laura W. Bush, was an Honorary Travelling Fellow for UNESCO. Others among the 337 include World Scouting (the Boy Scouts), the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, the International Association of Lions Clubs, Rotary International, the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies, the YMCA and YWCA, police organizations, eight or ten Catholic organizations, four Jewish, and about six organizations that identify themselves as Christian. Scary, huh?

IB is headed by Jeff Beard, Director General, a US Naval Academy graduate and Former Naval Officer. Beard led a campaign to raise over $800,000 for the USNA to fund a new academic position, the Distinguished Military Professor Chair for Character Development. Because of his strong belief in ethics and character development in young people, he has agreed to continue in this role for the school, and is currently leading a campaign to raise another $1 Million for the same purposes..

It seems highly unlikely to me that a program headed by a former US Naval Officer who is still heavily involved with the US Naval Academy is a UN plot to be foisted on our children. From everything I've been able to learn, IB is highly regarded by the US military academies which exemplify patriotism and embrace the IB curriculum. This example of spinning the facts should be enough to have you look closely at the "facts" in last week's column.

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