It’s a fact of life. Today’s students are growing up in a world that is vastly different from the one that we knew as children. Computers and cell phones keep kids connected round the clock and, for adults, the pace and breadth of technological advancement has increasingly taken businesses off Main Street and thrust them into the virtual global arena.
How things will shake out in the wake of this current financial meltdown is anyone’s guess. But it’s fair to say that there is a seismic economic shift coming and it will likely require the United States to become a far different player on the world stage than it ever has been in the past. Which means in the future, instead of competing against other factories, towns and states, we’ll be going up against other countries, continents and currencies. And based on data we’ve seen about where U.S. students falls when compared to students from around the world, we’ve got plenty to worry about.
Which is why we think it’s smart for the Sag Harbor school district to look into the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The IB program was born in Switzerland close to 50 years ago, and it is based, according to its website, on “intercultural understanding and respect, not as an alternative to a sense of cultural and natural identity, but as an essential part of life in the 21st century.”
That makes sense to us — a program that is focused on fostering understanding of people and events that shape the world we live in today. It’s not just the fact that the program calls on students to learn about other cultures, or master a second language that excites us, but the way in which it’s done. Forget about Power Point. In IB, field notebooks, performance based tasks and other creative ways of presenting information are all part of the curriculum.
Though we still have a lot to learn about IB, what we’ve heard from Pierson teachers who have gone through IB training is intriguing — the notion of encouraging students to develop critical thinking skills by actively debating current events, for example, or a teacher demonstrating how an Internet source like Wikipedia can be easily manipulated to include false information.
With No Child Left Behind it seems that test scores, not life skills, have become the defining marker for students in recent years. And look where that’s gotten us. So we encourage Sag Harbor to be proactive and take a serious look at IB — or any other program that will help make our children think critically about the increasingly competitive world they stand to inherit. Because at this point, we can’t afford to keep thinking inside the box that got us here.