Our perspective on the International Baccalaureate Program and how it compares to classical Christian education.
Several Boise area schools including Northstar Charter and Riverstone International School use the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Parents occasionally ask how these compare with classical Christian education. IB programs have high academic standards, as do classical Christian schools. The main difference is in the IB worldview. The IB program is typically recognized and preferred by liberal colleges because it combines strong academic standards with the progressive (liberal) multicultural view. The main difference between the two systems is that classical education bases itself in the traditional Western Christian ideal of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. The IB pursues a postmodern view of tolerance and relativism.
Below is the mission statement of the IBO:
“The International Baccalaureate Organization 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 IBO 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.”
From this mission statement, families can expect an approach that is not sympathetic with the Western cultural tradition of America’s founding fathers (the position generally described as “conservative”). Of course, nothing in the IBO’s statement is directly objectionable. As classical Christian educators, we want to understand other cultures and respect their people as image bearers; we want students to be caring, knowledgeable, and inquiring; and we want our students to be humble in understanding that other people can be right.
However, these phrases are euphemisms that mean much more than they say. They represent postmodern ideas that permeate the educational environment and reject a divine standard of Truth in favor of personal truth, God’s goodness in favor of social relativism, and Beauty in favor of personal preference. What is really meant by the progressive mindset is that we cannot claim that a Western idea of justice is superior, for example, to the justice system from another culture that reveres human sacrifice. The IBO’s values are more in alignment with the Humanist Manifesto which represents the moral system of progressives.
Classical Christian educators discuss the great ideas of human history and judge them based on their conformance to the standard of Truth outlined in Scripture and through reason. This is what develops our students’ passion for Truth, and enhances their mental and verbal reasoning skills. This is also what offends many who believe in progressive ideals. The claim that Truth can be judged by a universal standard violates their value system.
Many major universities are philosophically committed to tearing down traditional educational absolutes because they reject America’s Western cultural roots. At the same time, many of the country’s finest colleges recognize students who have a “Great Books” type of education in the Western Classical tradition. We’ve found that colleges are quite impressed with graduates from classical Christian schools.
So what should a parent conclude? If you seek an education centered on the values of tolerance and relativism, without a common understanding of Truth, then the IB schools are probably the right choice for your family. If, however, you desire your student to be taught under the assumptions that built traditional Christian values, you may want to consider classical Christian education.