As a longtime school choice advocate, I am always in favor of giving parents the tools they need to ensure their children receive a high quality education, which is necessary to compete in today’s global marketplace. And as a visiting professor of law at Liberty University and former associate professor at Xavier University, I know how a rigorous education is critical for students to be prepared to get the most value out of their time at college.
Therefore, I am disturbed by a recent development in states such as Idaho, where members of the school board are questioning the worth of this program despite its value to students. Or in New Hampshire, where fringe activists claiming to be members of the Tea Party are supporting bills to shut down a rigorous education program. You may be familiar with schools which have advanced placement (AP) classes, where students are given the opportunity to take accelerated classes. The program in question, International Baccalaureate (IB), was started in 1968 and is even more rigorous. Offered in 1,311 primary and secondary American schools, IB has a track record of helping shape young minds into accomplished life-long learners and ethical leaders. And for poor minority students in rough neighborhoods such as Chicago, IB has been a ticket for many motivated students out of dependency and poverty.
IB is accepted by more than 1000 U.S. universities- such as MIT, John Hopkins, and the Naval and Air Force academies- as an exemplary mark of academic achievement. Some universities automatically enroll high school students who finish the IB Diploma Program. And hundreds of universities offer college credit for IB classes, which saves students time and money.
In addition, according to a recent study by the Stanford Research Institute, not only are IB students much more likely than other students to attend a selective college, most (81%) finish their program within 6 years. That is compared to the national average of 57%, which has been a strain on taxpayers and has added to our current student loan default crisis.
So, what is the objection to IB? Because the program is available across the globe, encourages students to learn a second language, and teaches students about other cultures, it appears that the conspiratorial-right is claiming the program is part of a plot to erode American sovereignty through the United Nations and create a one-world, socialist government.
It is a shame William F. Buckley is not alive today because he spent a lifetime building a respectable and electorally-successful conservative movement, while rejecting kooks from organizations such as the John Birch Society. Our movement needs to be concerned about actual threats to our sovereignty, such as unelected judges who cite international law in their decisions or inappropriate treaties such as the Law of the Sea. No one can fill WFB’s shoes, but I am here to insist that an intense and vigorous education to prepare students for a global world is a good thing! To claim otherwise makes self-labeled conservatives sound anti-intellectual, paranoid, and detached from legitimate political discourse.
As Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said while visiting an elementary school with a successful IB program, “I think the one-size-fits-all (model) coming out of Washington is not the way to go. I think we need to empower innovative, creative, talented principals and teachers to do their jobs and let the success come.” Programs such as No Child Left Behind and the elimination of voucher programs are examples of how busybody bureaucrats inflict permanent damage on entire generations of students.
We were each endowed with abilities from the Almighty. And education policy must free up local communities to offer programs to allow students to maximize their God-given potential. School choice, parental control, and a vigorous, classical education are at the heart of conservative philosophy.