Sen. Margaret Dayton could have found a rational defense for her opposition to extra funding for the International Baccalaureate program in public high schools.
The Orem Republican could have argued the request was too hefty. House Bill 266 came before her Senate Education Committee on Feb. 21, just after legislators learned a predicted whopping budget surplus would fall substantially short of projections.
The bill to pump an additional $300,000 into the popular accelerated learning program had already passed the full House. But Dayton might reasonably have argued for frugality, or for putting extra money toward class size reduction.
At least a penny-pinching position might have made sense.
Instead, Dayton acted straight out of ignorance and fear: She blamed Switzerland.
“I’m not opposed to understanding the world,” Dayton told the committee. “I’m opposed to the anti-American philosophy that’s somehow woven into all the [IB] classes as they promote the U.N. agenda.”
She convinced two like-minded Republicans—Sens. Howard Stephenson and Darin Peterson—to join her. There the bill died, a victim of terminal legislative knee-jerk reaction.
It’s easy to turn nasty during the first quarter of the year in Utah. It’s cold. Winter drags on. And so many of our citizen legislators take pleasure in talking like a gang of hillbillies. For observers, it’s too easy to grow weary and sarcastic.
But since the IB program is something I know a good deal about, I’ll resist the urge to go snarky. The truth is, contemplating the ignorance that permeates Dayton’s arguments makes my stomach hurt. She was able to kill an entire measure by citing only third-hand information gleaned from The Education Reporter, a publication of the ultra-conservative Eagle Forum.
Dayton has never visited an IB class, though programs are in place at seven high schools along the Wasatch Front and she would be welcome. Instead, she chose to hit the 40-year-old program with a charge straight out of the old and dead Cold War: that it’s merely a pawn of the United Nations, and that is because the international headquarters for IB is in Geneva, Switzerland. Her connection between Geneva and teaching high schoolers critical thinking skills seemed a bit thin, so I re-read the statement Dayton’s intern sent out.
“Swiss law governs [International Baccalaureate Organization] procedures and dispute processes,” intern Kendyl Bell wrote. “As of January 1, 2004, Switzerland replaced its arbitration rules with that of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, otherwise known as UNCITRAL. According to UNCITRAL’s Website, this organization is the “core legal body” of the U.N. whose goal is to promote law reform across the globe.”
“Dr. Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, asserts that the goal of IBO is global education . . . to mold global citizens. These servants of the global community must stand so firm in their new ideology and global world view that any argument against their ideology—no matter how factual or rational—will be met with scorn and condescension.”
“Senator Dayton states that a more worthy goal would be to raise AMERICAN citizens who are very capable of functioning in the world.”
Dayton also criticized IB teachers for failing to use textbooks and relying only on handouts and Websites. She’s just wrong. But then, my memory of my daughter’s journey through West High School’s IB program, up through her graduation in 2006, is a bit sketchy. So I e-mailed her at college in Los Angeles
“I absolutely read books,” she wrote. “We often read college level textbooks. In taking my IB Art History/IB Social and Cultural Anthropology course, I used the same Gardner’s Art Through the Ages text that [my college] art history department does. I had textbooks for math and science courses.”
“In English and history, we did not use textbooks as much because we had already studied general history or English compilations in earlier grades. Instead, we read books such as [former Secretary of State] Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy and a biography of Mao and Stalin. We read novels, including The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. We read Shakespeare in every Honors or Advanced English class—Twelfth Night and Hamlet, I recall.”
“In IB history, we sometimes used online resources. Miss Nick (Jenny Nicholas, a much-lauded West High history teacher) would find primary documents posted on college course reserve Websites and e-mail them to us. They usually went hand-in-hand with whatever text we were reading at the time.”
Finally, I asked my kid to tell me what she gained from an IB education, which essentially amounted to a rigorous private education at a public school.
“The best thing I got was my ability to analyze information competently,” she wrote. Beyond that, she reminds me, IB allowed her to test out of many entry-level college classes. So far, that’s added up to a savings of $22,000.
So if Dayton and her colleagues are listening, I’ll let my daughter sign off:
“I now have so many extra credits, I could graduate a semester early if I like and travel the world.”
With a stop, we hope, in Switzerland.