I think, therefore I be. That’s what
we used to say in 11th grade English class. Ms. Harding would stand
at the blackboard and laugh before reminding us that the streets in
E. M. Forster’s “A Passage to India” were
crisscrossed like a net over India, representing British
colonialism. It’s a good thing Thomas Sowell, the well-known
conservative columnist, wasn’t there that day. He probably
would have missed the joke and condemned that day’s lesson
for promoting the hidden left-wing agenda of the International
Baccalaureate Program.

D.C. Lee

Two weeks ago, in a column for townhall.com, Sowell
congratulated a group of citizens in Fairfax, Va. for standing up
against “one of the endless series of fad programs that
distract American public schools from real education in real
subjects.” The citizens there were successful in eliminating
the IB program from their local school. Sowell commented that
programs such as the IB program have been “substituting
back-door indoctrination in place of education.”

This, of course, is news to me. The IB program is a broad-based,
comprehensive college preparatory education. One IB school lists as
its mission the developing of “inquiring, knowledgeable and
caring young people who help create a better and more peaceful
world through intercultural understanding and respect.” I
find it hard to believe that this type of mission statement
promotes socialism and undermines traditional Christian values
— as some of the program’s critics assert — but
assuming arguendo that it does, it does not necessarily follow that
an education of this sort will produce thousands of Ted Kennedys. I
myself used to write for The Michigan Review. A friend of mine who
attended an IB school in New Mexico interned one summer for the
Center for Individual Rights, the law firm responsible for
challenging the University’s affirmative action policies.

Sowell’s argument against the IB program is three-pronged,
and I address each of these criticisms in turn. First, the IB
program is not a “fad” program that “distracts
… from real education in real subjects.” Among the
classes taught at IB schools are English, American History,
Calculus I and II, Physics, Art, Biology, Chemistry, Theory of
Knowledge and French VI.

Moreover, colleges and universities across the country respect
IB classes. Much like Advanced Placement students, IB students are
required to take exams at the end of the year, and these exams can
be converted into college credits. For example, a score of at least
five (out of seven) on the IB Biology exam will earn a student
coming into the University four credit hours. As a bonus, IB
credits count for a student’s LSA distribution requirement,
while AP credits do not. These four credit hours are just as
“real” as if a student had taken the class in 1800
Chem.

Second, Sowell claims that one of the reasons the citizens of
Fairfax eliminated the IB program was because they thought
“that their children would have trouble getting into quality
colleges.” I don’t keep in touch with many people from
high school, but here’s a list of the schools where people I
graduated with currently attend: Yale Law School, the University of
Michigan Law School, Columbia University Medical School, Washington
University in St. Louis Medical School and Duke University School
of Public Policy. Furthermore, two freshmen here at the University
went to my high school and completed the IB program — one is
on scholarship in the School of Art and Design and the other is in
the LSA Honors Program.

Finally, Sowell claims that the IB program “has a
left-wing hidden agenda.” This claim is similar to the
“back-door indoctrination” claim mentioned earlier and
if true would warrant serious consideration. Unfortunately, the
immutable laws of logic proscribe this conclusion. One of the
central tenets of the IB program is to challenge everything. When
put into practice, this alone is sufficient to defeat an argument
of liberal “indoctrination.” How can one indoctrinate
if one is constantly being challenged?

In short, I take issue with Sowell’s column, and though
the IB program “encourages students across the world to
become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand
that other people, with their differences, can also be
right,” I just happen to think he’s wrong. Very
wrong.

Lee can be reached at
“mailto:leedc@umich.edu”>leedc@umich.edu.

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