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McEntee: IB program isn't anti-American, it's pro-education
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Once again, state Sen. Margaret Dayton has gone after the International Baccalaureate program, which expands educational opportunities for high school students in Utah and around the world.

The Orem Republican is among many deeply conservative Americans who, if they know anything at all about the program, consider it a threat because it exposes students to ideas such as global disarmament, population control and sustainable development.

Nasty stuff, huh?

The crux of the matter in the Utah Senate last week was whether IB credits would be given "weighted status," along with Advanced Placement and concurrent enrollment credits, to candidates for state-sponsored scholarships.

Dayton, a stalwart friend of the Utah Eagle Forum, links the IB program to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which is designed to "contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture."

And don't forget its "hostility to basic institutions of free society," as Dayton put it.

Now, the International Baccalaureate, based in Switzerland, is offered in seven Utah high schools. It is designed to offer a curriculum and diploma that are recognized worldwide. Its courses include foreign language, theory of knowledge, social studies, math and other subjects.

It's no easy route to graduation. Students have to demonstrate mastery through essay-based exams, independent projects, a 4,000-word essay and community service.

I know about these things because my daughter graduated from a Utah high school with two diplomas and college credits that helped her get into the University of California-Santa Cruz, from which she graduated two quarters early with two majors and honors.

Oddly enough, she doesn't hate the United States, although she worries about certain politicians and policies. She just knows a lot more about the world than I did at her age.

Dayton, who has gone after the IB in years past, didn't go unchallenged, however.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said he was asked to carry the IB credit bill — which cleared the Senate — by the state Board of Regents, which governs higher education. He also noted that every college and university in Utah accepts IB credits, including Brigham Young University.

Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, said the IB is "absolutely critical" and that students in the program and their parents are "vehemently and adamantly in approval" of it. "Its fruits have been proven," she said. "It's highly effective in educating and preparing students for the real world."

But it's precisely the real world that, I've concluded, Dayton and like-minded IB critics fear.

We'll have to see how Stevenson's bill, SB100, fares in the House, which has its own collection of hard-right representatives. But I suspect that the virtues of the International Baccalaureate will be recognized there, too, by people who understand that a global perspective isn't anti-American now and never has been.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.

Column • It does students around the globe a world of good.
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