In the not-so-distant past, Americans lamented, "Why can't Johnny read?"
Then came the Reagan administration's clarion call. Unless the United States drastically overhauled its public education system we would become a "nation at risk."
Now, we fret that students in a growing number of nations across the globe outperform American students on standardized tests. The question has become "Why can't Johnny perform as well academically as Kanji in Japan or Anna in Germany?"
One way American schools have attempted to close the international achievement gap has been to institute the International Baccalaureate program in the nation's junior highs and high schools. In Utah, the two-year program is offered in seven high schools. The program, launched in Switzerland in 1968, was intended to create a curriculum and diploma recognized worldwide. The rigorous curriculum has an international focus and is taught by IB-trained teachers. Students demonstrate their mastery of subjects on essay-based exams. To complete the program, students must complete a 4,000-word essay. They must also perform community service. Selective colleges virtually require the International Baccalaureate program or Advanced Placement classes for admission.
IB sounds like something Utah students, parents and employees would want to support, if not offer in even more high schools across the state. It seems a natural fit given that many Utahns are members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an international church with intense interest in global affairs and foreign language attainment. The program requires that students complete two years of foreign language instruction.
Somehow, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have become convinced that the IB program promotes the United Nations agenda and therefore the curriculum contains an "anti-American philosophy," according to Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Provo, speaking in a recent meeting of the Senate Education Committee. Dayton referenced HB226, which would appropriate $300,000 to seven school districts to help defray program costs. After sailing through the House Education Committee and a unanimous vote in the House, it was killed in the Senate Education Committee on a 3-3 vote.
IB is not "anti-American." It recognizes that the days of isolationist politics and protectionist trade went the way of the dinosaurs. IB provides an enriched educational experience for students willing to complete the rigorous requirements. It also can mean the equivalent of 30 credit hours toward post-secondary education.
For many reasons, the Senate Education Committee needs to reconsider its actions regarding HB226. This program not only provides educational choice for motivated high school students, it provides a tools that will enable them to succeed in an increasingly global society.