Education for a Better World

SAN FRANCISCO — For anybody who has dreamed big about building a better world and is starting small, let the … Continued

SAN FRANCISCO — For anybody who has dreamed big about building a better world and is starting small, let the story of the International Baccalaureate (IB) serve as an inspiration to you.

The IB started as a small diploma program in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968 for internationally mobile students. Today, there are IB programs in nearly 2,500 schools in 128 countries around the world enrolling over 600,000 students.

The IB combines high academic standards with a powerful humanist purpose. Its mission statement speaks of developing “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”

As the Aga Khan noted in his Peterson Lecture to the IB this past April, “Pluralism is a value that must be taught.”

The IB recognizes that the first step to teaching students those qualities is attracting educators with those qualities, and treating them like real professionals. I just spoke at their North American Regional Conference in San Francisco, where over 1000 educators came together to deepen their knowledge about teaching, and I came away deeply impressed by the sense of pride and purpose that IB teachers have.

I was especially struck by the number of educators from places we don’t normally think of as especially internationally-minded: Florida, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina.

One of the people honored at the conference was a Floridian named Don Driskell. His acceptance speech was a set of “Aw Shucks” stories of his farm boy days. But he’s been quietly serving as one of the most effective ambassadors of international education in the United States for the last quarter century. Thanks to Don and his crew, Florida graduates more IB Diploma holders than most countries and he’s helped over 150 schools start their own programs.

Because the IB’s mission is centered on changing the world, it is constantly learning and changing itself. I was there to talk about the importance of directly engaging religion and religious diversity in the curriculum. The conference organizers warned me that I might get some resistance from the powerful secularist streak within the movement. But the only reaction I saw was hundreds of teachers asking, “How can I learn more about your methodology so that I can teach it to my students?”

Each one of the educators in that huge conference hall is changing countless lives, opening up powerful possibilities, and setting new standards. As the Aga Khan said in his Peterson Lecture: “(their endeavor) is redefining what it means to be well educated.”

Written by
  • Shame on YOU

    I am sorry but I do not accept the UN as my government.I am still under the US Bill of Rights and the IB has no right to corrupt our children with UN propaganda!

  • Anonymous

    eboo…eboo beeboo.eboo seeboo peeboo deeboo geeboo meeboo teeboo!

  • AMH

    I am familiar with the education systems in the Middle East, North Africa and the USA. My complaint about the American system is it does not emphasize enough “foreign matters”, such as geography, history and culture of places outside the Western Hemisphere.

  • c/o

    Thank you Perspective for that intelligent and thought provoking answer.I am one very interested in preserving the freedoms that our democracy affords us.I admit to being wary of home-schooling as a child might not, under such circumstances, be offered a breadth of varying perspectives which we need in order to consider what our “best” options may be. In such an age, it seems to me that critical thinking skills and debate are extremely important skills for children to acquire.One could say as much too for adults.It may be surprising or even objectionable to some, but the notion of logic was influential in my choice to become a Muslim.The concept of the sacredness of every living thing, that is evident in every moment when we care to notice, made me wish for a theology that recognized the sacred in every moment. This is what I wish Islam were known for, yet the politicized Wahhabi version so prone to aggression towards others has tragically gained ascendency.This is the sad reality that must now be faced and that we Muslims must work to change.

  • Elric66

    “the politicized Wahhabi version so prone to aggression towards others has tragically gained ascendency.” Well when they can justify it in the Qur’an and hadiths it makes it easy

  • what??

    From the IB website: “The IB learners strive to be:How is this a UN agenda? How is this anti-American? Of course, why WOULD you want your students to be able to think? (that was sarcasm)

  • Elric66

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — A bishop in the southern Philippines reported receiving a letter threatening him with harm if he does not convert to Islam or pay “Islamic taxes.” Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela also told the Asian church news agency UCA News that he got text messages from Catholics saying they, too, had received threatening letters. The bishop sent a copy of the letter July 19 to church-run Radio Veritas in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. They said Bishop Jumoad should choose to convert to Islam or give “jizya,” Islamic tax, to their group in exchange for protecting him in the “place of Muslims.” If he refuses to convert or pay, the letter threatened “force, weapons or war may be used” against him. It warned him not to feel safe even if he is “surrounded by soldiers” and cited bombings in various cities.

  • convert’s opionion

    I don’t understand the way people are responding to Mr. Patel’s article.Humanism – a religion? How so?Humanism is a framework of ethics. One could even be an atheist and a humanist.What about the UN strikes some as so anti-American. I am genuinely interested in being educated as to your perspectives on these issues.Maybe you know something i am not aware of.Please inform us further.

  • perspective

    While secular humanism is by no means a religion, it’s an excellent ethical alternative to the mythology of religion, if you’re not persuaded that mythology represents literal truth – as many religionists seem to be. Humanism is very predominantly both a positive and realistic view of humankind, where religions by comparison often present a far more limited, exclusionary, and negative view. While religion is all about right beliefs and wrong beliefs, humanism transcends religion while recognizing that in spite of conflicting beliefs, humanity is generically far more similar than different, and in every way. While the distinctions are often quite interesting, the underlying homogeneity between all humans is an obvious universal truthThe United Nations as a concept sought to operate with this global vision in mind. How it may fall short is another matter. We in the USA should never forget that secular democracy is the backbone and strength of the nation….and was designed originally to function in just this way – that is, separation of Church and State, for good and obvious reasons. Hopefully home-schooled children are taught that very fundamental fact, as a lesson about our particular form of government.

  • Scary

    “The IB combines high academic standards with a powerful humanist purpose. “Humanism is a religion and schools should not be teaching politics or religion.When people go home, they are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Bhuddists, whatever, but they are NOT HUMANISTS.That is UNESCO’s religion. They have no right to propagandize our kids and tell them they must meld into one belief.Education is about learning facts and skills NOT activism.Homeschooling is the only way to go these days to avoid this nastiness.

  • Anonymous

    One cannot deny that throughout western world there is tension between westerners and Muslims. In every European country Muslims are seen as not only outsiders but also as a menace, a threat, to their values and their culture. In many countries this tension is quite palpable and in some countries it remains subdued. The fact is that for Western world pluralism is a very new phenomenon and they are finding it very hard to digest it. Their democracy has been monolingual, mono-religious and mono-cultural. As far as political democracy is concerned it is well established but freedom of opinion and differences of opinion are confined merely to political sphere and within the frame- work of mono-religious and mono-cultural situation. For Asians, on the other hand, pluralism has been the way of life. They have lived and co-existed with different religions harmoniously. Even in the absence of political democracy tolerance towards other religions and cultures has been their way of life. We do not find bloodshed in Asian countries between followers of different religions throughout medieval ages. In the West, on the other hand, though there has been political democracy and tolerance for political differences, its record on religious and cultural tolerance has not been very glorious. Since political democracy demands tolerance and freedom of opinion, they tried to apply it to religious and cultural field too but I am afraid, not with very great success. Below the skin they remain mono-religious and mono-cultural. There is one more dimension to this problem. West has never been very comfortable with Islam and Muslims. It was always seen as a religion of the alien, and hostile alien, at that. France with all its democratic and secular values interpreted secularism within a very narrow French framework it became very uncomfortable with hijab worn by school girls and at last the Central Government banned it. How the hijab worn by schoolgirls could be a threat to French secularism, we fail to understand. In fact hijab was only a symbol. Behind it they saw Islam as a threat. In all European countries, Muslims are recent migrants and are perceived as double threat – as migrant and as Muslim. All migrants make natives uncomfortable and more so if they belong to a religion or culture perceived to be hostile. Prof. Huntington of Harvard had given vent to the western feelings when he wrote Clash of Civilizations. Western countries were compelled to allow Asian and African migrants as they were experiencing acute shortage of human-power after Second World War but once migration reached saturation point and economic downturn began tensions began to surface and in many countries racial riots broke out. There is yet another factor: these Asian and African migrants soon realised they are condemned to remain on margins of western society. They do not get opportunities for better and well paid jobs and their children, out of frustration, take to drug or crime or to violence further reinforcing the images of violent outsider. The rejection becomes more intense leading to more tensions. Recent disturbances in France, which continued for several months between the police and young Africans, proves the point. Since there is so much hostility between Western Christians and migrant Muslims, it erupts in different ways. The recent cartoons and caricature of the Prophet should also be seen in this light. The events of 9/11 have only aggravated the whole situation. Be it Salman Rushdie affair or the cartoons published in the Newspaper of Denmark, it is part of same phenomenon. Deep prejudices against Islam and Muslims spring up in different forms and are defended in the name of press freedom. I need not say that freedom of opinion cannot be absolute as many Westerners maintain. One cannot defend right to abuse others or caricature founders of religion in the name of freedom of press or freedom of opinion. One can concede that west is much more secularised and Muslim world is not. Let us not forget that West has taken more than three centuries to secularise and this process of modernisation and secularisation has begun only in last few decades. Cultural differences are there but these differences should not be depicted as hostile resulting in clashes. Muslim world is still far behind in the field of science and technology. As pointed out above when west with all its progress has not been able to shed its prejudices and hostile perceptions, how can one expect it from the Islamic world? CSSS

  • Anonymous

    My, what a ringing vote in favor of dialogue. Does that mean that the censorship practiced on this blog is finally suspended?

  • Elric66

    My dialogue is why do Muslims expect special treatment in the West when non Muslims in Islamic countries are treated so horrifically?

  • Nouri

    Personally, I am more optimist with the young of today more than the likes of McCain, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and co. that are full of prejudice, ignorance, lack of education in other faiths apart form their Sunday service and the name of their preacher.For those human beings with good intentions and with no sense of feeling superior, arrogance and willing to debate in a civilised way, they are usually willing to look what is in common between the Mono-faiths or what I call the Abrahamic faiths (i.e. Islam, Christianity and Judaism).As a Muslim, I feel the Quran teaches me to respect people of the Book (i.e. Torah, Bible, Gospels, Tulmud) and to look at the similarities that the one God comes up with in differents ages of history from the time of Abraham to Moses to Jesus to Mohamed (Peace be upon them all).In all 3 faiths, we notice that certain characteristics are shared and form the basis of the true teaching of God’s messengers who were dictated to see right from wrong and to teach it to fellow human beings in their communites and tribes.As is the case nowadays, the essence of these faiths is to stand by the weak, the poor and the needy and to help them as we have the resources to do so. However it forbids us to steal from others, humuliate others, enslave others, cheat, bribe, corrupt, back stab others, lie, invade others, enforce our will on others and disrespect the values and norms of others.In Islam, there is reverence for Jesus and his mother Mary the Virgin (May God be please with them), a chapter in the Quran is dedicated to the life of Mary the Virgin and this is a good sign that indicate the willingness of Islam to close the gap with other faiths and having a mutual respect unlike certain Christian sects (Thank God not all the Christians can be put in the same basket) who are eager to compete and to show their total lack of respect to the prophet of Islam.Furthermore, as a Muslim, we do share other attributes with the Jews as well from Circumcision (Male) as dictated by the prophet Abraham to deep respect for Moses and other prophets mentioned in the Bible and the Torah and moral teachings.I believe this is the way to build a trust between these 3 Abrahamic religions by focussing at the points that we share rather than what divide us.

  • Elric66

    “As a Muslim, I feel the Quran teaches me to respect people of the Book (i.e. Torah, Bible, Gospels, Tulmud)”BS It teaches you to threat them as 2nd class citizens at best. There may be a lot of Dhimmis on here that will buy your taqiyya but not me. More and more of us are learning what Islam really is and it will be harder for you to deceive and distort.

  • Elric66

    Pakistan: Christian teenager beaten to death for his relationship with Muslim girlIslamic law allows a Muslim man to marry a Christian woman, but does not allow a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man. Since in Islamic cultures a woman generally joins her husband’s household, this is yet another provision that ensures the ascendancy of the Muslim community and the decline of the Christian community.”Christian teenager beaten to death for relationship with Muslim girl,” from the International Campaign Against Honour Killings, July 18 (thanks to Block Ness): LAHORE, Pakistan (ROD) July 18th: The corpse of a Christian youngster Peter, 19, has been hauled out of a canal after he was brutally beaten to death in an ‘honour killing’ for courting a Muslim girl of 19, whose name is kept secret and Christian boy’s name is changed due to some security/ legal reasons. This gruesome episode took place here at Lahore, Pakistan, ROD has learnt. Interfaith marriages between Christians and Muslims are allowed by the Islamic sharia. But such interfaith wed locks are totally unacceptable and strongly opposed by the fanatic Islamic clerics and common hard line Muslims, according to local customs. The relationship of love developed between them through mobile phone chatting. Peter’s mother met Muslim girl’s parents and informed them, too, so that they could nip the association in the bud. This deteriorated the circumstances of her son, as they issued a stark warning to Peter. They cautioned Peter’s parents that they would not permit a Christian man to scandalize Islam, and in jeopardy to kill Peter if the relationship sustained….

  • Elric66

    “Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war (Jihad), do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them…If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.” (Hadith Muslim, Book 19, No 4294)

  • Anonymous

    Tangential Elric: I couldn’t help but notice that nothing about Islam is mentioned in the article. Would you like to add anything to the discussion?

  • Nouri

    “Elric66: BS It teaches you to threat them as 2nd class citizens at best. There may be a lot of Dhimmis on here that will buy your taqiyya but not me. More and more of us are learning what Islam really is and it will be harder for you to deceive and distort.”You must have mistaken Islam with other faiths where until recently blacks and whites were separated from each other though citizens of the same country as was the case in South Africa with its Apartheid system. Or may be you are talking about those Zionists extremist settlers that came from Europe and elsewhere to settle in Israel and gain Israeli citizenship and turning the Arab Native Palestinian Muslims into second class citizens. IN Islam we do not have the cast system! There is no difference between an Arab and non- Arab except in good deeds.This is why you notice Islam is found in the 4 corners of the World and accepted by Blacks, Asians, Africans and Whites as noticed during pilgrimage in Mecca. All citizens of the World wearing one white garment and you will never tell who is rich and who is poor, where women and men, able and disabled, old and young sharing this spiritual experience with inner peace and in a harmoniou way with the Creator.After all no one can force you to join Islam and you have the free choice to refuse it in the West. If your assumption about Islam is correct.HOWEVER ABOVE ALL, IT IS TIME THAT YOU DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN CULTURE AND ISLAM.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Nouri,From Hirsi Ali’s book, Infidel, paperback p.68:”The Pakistanis were Muslims but they too had castes. The Untouchable girls, both Indian and Pakistani were darker skin. The others would not play with them because they were untouchable. We thought that was funny because of course they were touchable: we touched them see? but also horrifying to think of yourself as untouchable, despicable to the human race.”

  • Elric66

    “If you think that Islam is a violent, injust and unfair way of life, I wonder why it is the fastest growing religion in the Western World!” Because of overbreeding and Apostasy laws.”After all no one can force you to join Islam and you have the free choice to refuse it in the West. If your assumption about Islam is correct.” Funny how you say you can refuse it in the West not in the Islamic world. Very interesting.

  • Elric66

    “I couldn’t help but notice that nothing about Islam is mentioned in the article. Would you like to add anything to the discussion?” Inner faith cooperation includes Islam and thats impossible with Islam.

  • Elric66

    Quoting the Qur’an is subject to approval? Very Stalinist of you guys.

  • Elric66

    “IN Islam we do not have the cast system! There is no difference between an Arab and non- Arab except in good deeds.” Just between Muslim and non Muslim hence dhimmi laws. Your taqiyaa doesnt fool me one bit.

  • Elric66

    “Islam doesnt Pigeon hole people as some other religions do! This is the strength of a faith that is universal based on common sense, humility, peace, brotherhood and justice for all.” Total BS unless you mean among just Muslims; non believers are treated totally different.

  • tplumlee

    As a former IB student it is encouraging to hear that interfaith dialogue and the ideas of pluralism and religious education have entered into the discussion for the educators of IB. If I am grateful for anything I took away from the program, besides the academic rigour necessary to participate, it would be the sense of intellectual responsibility and critical thinking it attempts to instill in its students.It took until college for me to discover and foster an interfaith ethic, in part because of my work as a religious studies major, and while I still credit IB for creating the strong foundation upon which I was to later build ideas of pluralism, I wish they had done more in encouraging, or at least presenting, such a mindset. Unlike what some posters below would like to think, education is NOT simply learning the facts and gaining “intellectual capital” and knowledge is not simply a measure of that capital. It is about exposure and conversation which encourages curiosity and growth. Whether you agree with a philosophical, ethical or moral system, religious belief, or intellectual idea, to be exposed to it in a way that creates intellectually responsible conversation-which means at least taking it seriously enough to approach it without discrimination and judgment-is the responsibility of educators. I believe that it is the ideal IB that does this and it cannot reach that ideal without first taking religious belief, religious education and pluralism seriously itself.