I’ve recently attended an informational meeting on the International Baccalaureate(IB) program. It is a nonprofit educational foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland. The IB mission statement is as follows:
The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.
These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.
This is the kind of preparation students need for the way the world has become. It is not enough to speak only one language anymore; IB graduates have two or often three. It is not enough to retain facts anymore; this program requires kids to think critically. They are brought to understand how they learn, so that they will continue to do so when they are no longer in school. It gives them time to reflect, so that they will develop the ability, and willingness, to improve their understanding and refine their opinions as new evidence presents itself. It gives them personal experience at being active, contributing, compassionate – and, yes, patriotic – members of their local community and country, but at the same time demands that they understand how their community fits into the world community. John Donne said, “no man is an island”, but today, no community is an island. The actions we, as communities, choose to take will unquestionably impact people in far away places, and therefore having responsibility for our actions entails an awareness of those people – how their community works, what their culture is like – and a desire for what will best serve the common interests of both communities, rather than only our own. This is the level of awareness and sense of responsibility with which the IB program endows its students. With this awareness, it becomes apparent that our rights and freedoms in the Western and first-world countries come with responsibilities and obligations to use them wisely, and never to use them in a way that diminishes those rights and freedoms for others, by putting our interests above their subsistence. We cannot consider one nation as more important than any other anymore. We are all humans, first and foremost. With our constantly increasing capabilities in communication and transportation, as long as people anywhere are deprived of the basic necessities of life – food, water, shelter, education – the people and countries who have far more than they need bear a correspondingly increasing guilt for the existence of that discrepancy. I think that people who come out of IB programs will be among the most effective leaders of the coming generation, in solving problems on a global scale and thus creating a peaceful world. It is for these reasons that I hope that our school district, and many many more, will join IB.