The International Baccalaureate Program Proves Problematic

The International Baccalaureate program proves problematic because it proposes a philosophy and epistemology that is, in fact, counter to the Catholic Church’s claim about truth and how man can know truth (and the Greeks and Romans in antiquity as well). Thus, the entire I.B. program can be seen as a contradiction to Catholic education, the Catholic intellectual tradition and classical or more traditional education in general.

At the heart of the I.B. program is the epistemology called “Theory of Knowledge” (TOK). The following is directly from the I.B. official website [my emphasis and comments]:

Theory of knowledge
The theory of knowledge (TOK) requirement is central to the educational philosophy of the Diploma Programme.

It offers students and their teachers the opportunity to: reflect critically on diverse ways of knowing and on areas of knowledge to consider the role and nature of knowledge in their own culture, in the cultures of others and in the wider world. In addition, it prompts students to: be aware of themselves as thinkers, encouraging them to become more acquainted with the complexity of knowledge to recognize the need to act responsibly [believe me, this will not include Catholic social teaching] in an increasingly interconnected but uncertain world.

As a thoughtful and purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing, and into different kinds of knowledge, TOK is composed almost entirely of questions. The most central of these is “How do we know?” [philosophy of doubt and skepticism; ie: we cannot really know truth]

It is a stated aim of TOK that students should become aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge, including personal ideological biases, regardless of whether, ultimately, these biases are retained, revised or rejected.

TOK also has an important role to play in providing coherence for the student as it transcends and links academic subject areas [some areas, such as materialist science are “objective” truth, and other areas are only an interpretation], thus demonstrating the ways in which they can apply their knowledge with greater awareness and credibility.

What this is essentially saying is that knowledge is provisional and that man ought to engage in the “cafeteria” of different accounts of truth. In many ways, it is steeped in the Enlightenment “philosophy of doubt” of Rosseau, Kant, Hegel, and the like; in other words, reality is not “out there” for me to discover and engage, but reality is merely a construct of my mind (which can be different form your mind). Truth is relative. Truth is also viewed as a human construct, depending on which society an individual lives. In other words, I.B. is rife with Modernism and various other erroneous philosophies outlined in Fides et Ratio, The Syllabus of Errors, and Pascendi Dominici Gregis.

IB’s Mission Statement states, “These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate, and life-long learners who understand that other people, with their differences can also be right. [You have your truth, and I have mine.]

Central to the IB is the Learner Profile whose attributes collectively define what it means to be an intentionally-minded person with a common focus on the whole person as a lifelong learner. IB learners are: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. [The I.B. account of man, Anthropology, is that he is the product of a material accident, and that reality is a product of the mind. This is a total contradiction with Catholic Anthropology. The Theory of Knowledge component of I.B. would render Catholic Anthropology as simply “one interpretation.”]

Collaboration is a cornerstone of the IB programmes. Working together for the good of students results in dramatic improvements in academic achievement.

The learner profile unites each of us with a common focus; on the whole person, as a lifelong learner. It applies to us all – students, educators, and parents – for we are all continually learning. [Once again, this “collaboration” according to I.B. has nothing to do with Bishops and Catholic teaching. It likewise has nothing to do with Catholic idea of “communion.” For I.B., it’s not about the theology or claims of the group or individual that matter, but “life together.” We all need to keep learning (ie: being tolerant and even accepting of other “truths”).]

Part of the IB’s Mission Statement states that it works to, “develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.”

A call to action and service to others are central to all three levels of the IB. [Social justice devoid of the spiritual component and adherence to the Truth found in Church teaching.] The action component of learning reinforces the relevance of the curriculum and allows students to apply what they know in service to others in their greater world. [Action vs. contemplation of Truth. Likewise, nothing here acknowledges intellectual and moral truth claims of a faith.]

In the end, for a Catholic school to adopt this would be nothing short of a “house divided against itself.” Likewise, Catholic religion courses would be understood by students as part of the “cafeteria of ideas,” not essential or necessarily even true. In addition, the program focuses on creating “global citizens” (based in progressive social justice) with an exclusive aim at technology, engineering sciences, and other utilitarian arts. I have been in an I.B. classroom before and witnessed the immense problems of the program (from the view of the Church). The key elements are: 1) truth is relative and provisional; 2) science, math, and technology are the key to progress (and the only “objective” ways to find truth; 3) all of history (via Social Studies) is merely cultural interpretation, which we ought to re-write; 4) creating a “global citizen” (as opposed to local patriotism).

Written by an administrator and teacher in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis