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by Betty Peters

Joe Warren’s recent letter to the editor expressed the concerns I have been hearing about Dothan City Schools’ new education plan. However, Mr. Warren did not include one major item — the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. This global program from the United Nations is almost totally under the public’s radar. Those who have mentioned it to me were very concerned and full of questions. Since it was first mentioned by the previous superintendent, perhaps our new superintendent does not realize how little we had been told about IB.

Dothan has, unfortunately, had a history of introducing a string of unsuccessful, controversial, and often expensive “innovations” over the years: whole language; new math; Common Core math; open classrooms; “Pumsy;” “Peace Education;” block scheduling; and so on. The pattern has been to build up consensus for a pre-selected outcome after a series of meetings and then bring in the new program. I’d like to suggest we slow down and have some serious, open, and comprehensive discussions.

Here are some of the questions that I think need to be answered about IB:

>> What will be the total cost to get started and then what will be the annual cost? How will this program be funded? If the answer is “raise taxes,” what is Plan B if the public votes no? What are the odds that people with no children in Dothan schools or those parents whose children go to private, county, or home schools will vote to raise taxes especially for a “global” school? ”

>> Will the IB school(s) in Dothan teach the UN/UNESCO aligned content used in other IB schools?

>> Does the IB content align with the current Alabama content standards? If a student transfers in or transfers out of Dothan’s IB program, will it be difficult to adjust?

>> How will IB impact AP in Dothan? Which southeastern colleges and universities give credit for IB?

>> What exactly are the beliefs and values embraced by IB? From what I can find, they are UN/UNESCO-aligned, the values that drove President Ronald Reagan to withdraw America from UNESCO. Unfortunately President George W. Bush supported those values and rejoined. Will the IB program in Dothan be modeled after the one in Decatur, Georgia, where Dr. Edwards apparently served as the first superintendent?

Here are some excerpts from an interview with their current principal: Fostering Global Citizenship

“When our students initiate fundraising for hurricane victims or write letters to state senators to express their concerns about budget cuts for space programmes (sic) or the US’s commitment to the Clean Air Act, you see the embodiment of the IB learner profile as well as the attitudes of a global citizen. The school explores and celebrates cultural differences in a challenging, nurturing, and intentionally multi-ethnic educational environment to foster global citizenship , helping students grow as individuals without parochial biases and with critical thinking skills necessary to improve their world.”

The principal’s predecessor said, “Internationalism and open-mindedness are innate in our school. You see it and you feel it, and the combination of both results in being global thinkers. For example, the library serves as a quiet refuge for our Muslim students to pray each afternoon at 2 pm. Their recognition of, and respect for, other people’s religious customs demonstrates they are globally minded.” The principal also said “At its core, PYP (Primary Years Program) has six transdisciplinary themes, which are visited each year in increasing complexity. These six themes are global in nature…”

So the $64,000 question is: Do Dothan parents and other voters want our graduates to be “global citizens” or American citizens with the education and training to be successful in a global market? It seems that we have been pushed along a bit too fast, leaving the community unclear about what is about to come down the pike. I know I would feel less uneasy if I knew more details.

Betty Peters of Dothan is a former state Board of Education member serving Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.