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School program protested

Sat., May 15, 2010

Pickets say International Baccalaureate misguided

Foes of an internationally focused curriculum offered in some North Idaho schools have been taking to the streets to publicize their fears that the program spreads anti-American ideology.

Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies had to be called to keep protesters of the International Baccalaureate program at Hayden Meadows Elementary School from snarling traffic.

The protesters fear the advanced studies program, offered at the public school in Hayden Lake, as well as Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene, is too closely linked to the United Nations.

Similar controversies emerged in Utah in 2008 and in Michigan in 2005. As a result, the International Baccalaureate organization has developed what it calls “a playbook” to counter opposition, emphasizing that the program isn’t anti-American but focuses on providing a global education and critical-thinking skills.

In an event Monday at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library that attracted 100 people, foes of the program denied they were “members of any radical right-wing organizations, or left-wing for that matter.”

Luke Sommer worries the program aims to undermine American values – and promote anti-American ideology.

“They want to change the way your child thinks, not feed your child’s mind with information, and information about our history, heritage and why we believe what we believe,” Sommer said.

The International Baccalaureate offers three programs for students through the age of 19 to “help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world,” according to its website. It says it has 812,000 students at 2,935 schools in 139 countries.

Drew Deutsch, director of the International Baccalaureate Americas program in New York, said his program’s curriculum “isn’t anti-anything.”

“It’s a program that approaches education from a global perspective and it reinforces a rigorous curriculum with high standards,” Deutsch told the Associated Press. “The emphasis is on critical-thinking skills.”

Idaho State Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath estimated only two public school districts in Idaho – Coeur d’Alene and Meridian, near Boise – have adopted or are considering the International Baccalaureate curriculum for some of their schools. Such decisions are left to local boards, McGrath said.

At the two Hayden Meadows Elementary School protests – one last Friday, another Monday – officers had to keep people out of the street, but there weren’t any altercations. Meanwhile, parents of kids at the school had to explain to their children why people were picketing.

Angie Phillips, next year’s Parent Teacher Association president at Hayden Meadows, says she’d like people to take a step back from the controversy, which has resulted in her getting phone calls questioning whether Hayden Meadows has children say the Pledge of Allegiance – or even displays the American flag.

“I’m a Republican, I’m a Christian,” Phillips told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “I’m as all-American as you’re going to get.”

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