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Backing Up the International Baccalaureate Program

May 30, 2011

One of meritocracy’s arch nemeses is the notion of entitlement. It’s a false sense of bravado that breeds parochialism and quashes opportunity. Racism is a perfect example. Patriotism could be considered another.

Everyone should love his or her country. But stubbornly opposing foreign ideas or systems simply because they are just that – foreign – diabolically counteracts any sense of meritocracy. So, I was stunned when I came across this article on the U.S. News and World Report website that condemns the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) program, which was founded in Switzerland in 1968.

The author of the article is obviously a staunch opponent of the I.B. program. She starts by stating that it is a waste of taxpayer’s money to implement the I.B. program in American schools. But the author’s true sentiment is soon revealed when she says the I.B. program is “a curriculum crafted in Europe, with a decidedly non-American and non-Judeo-Christian outlook on the world.” Then, to wrap up the article, the first sentence of the final paragraph reads, “with so many IB schools, how is it possible that the United States has become an established base for an education program that undermines our founding?”

‘Undermines our founding?’ Really? What about a standardized global education system undermines our freedom from religious and political persecution? (After all, that is why the U.S. was founded, right?)

It’s not 1776 anymore. Such parochial patriotism does more to undermine our founding than does supporting a standardized global education system. Considering the economic strain our country faces right now, I will not argue your point if implementing the I.B. program is a financial disaster. But if that’s your case, then stick to the point. Don’t rant about how an internationally acclaimed education system is “decidedly non-American and non-Judeo-Christian.”

First of all, what does that even mean? And secondly, who cares. An education system should be graded on one thing, and one thing only – meritocracy. May the best system win.

Ask any caring parent what she wants for her child, and the unanimous answer will inevitably be something along the lines of “the opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous, and upwardly mobile life.”

That above statement in quotation marks was lifted from a 2010 issue of Newsweek, in which the periodical chose five categories of national well-being—education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and political environment—and compiled metrics to determine the top countries that harbor such opportunity.

According to their research Newsweek proclaimed Finland to be the #1 nation in the world. Switzerland was #2, and the United States was #11.

Everyone knows our education system here in the states needs a makeover. And according to Newsweek, Switzerland – the country behind the I.B. program – has apparently been paying more attention in class than Uncle Sam.

I’m not saying the I.B. program is the end-all, be-all solution to our academic woes here in the U.S. But to think that we shouldn’t have a system with one international standard is naïve.

It’s time to put our bias and sense of entitlement aside and do what’s best for our children. The only way future Americans will have the opportunity to achieve their dreams is by embracing a transparent and meritocratic international education system. After all, knowledge knows no borders.

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