Observer's Notes

The ideas of a thoughtful college student (Updated Whenever)

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    I'm Brian. This is my blog. I write about things that I think about, since verbalizing it helps me put things in more concrete terms. So here you'll find my occasional thoughts.
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Posted by Brian on February 22, 2008

So here’s the first of my promised Friday updates. I’m going to put on my anthropologist hat for this one, and make the claim that IB is not designed to educate students and grant them a more worldly perspective, as the whole program claims. Rather, I’ve come to the conclusion that the International Baccalaureate program’s objective is to make students callous and bitter, to help them survive in the real world.

Just think about the subject matter that’s covered in IB at Gresham High School. Starting with Biology, where part of every unit is a lecture on disorders, also known as an hour and a half every month learning about all the things that could go wrong in your body. Move on to history, where one subject is “causes, practices & effects of war,” where you spend your time talking about the deaths of millions of people as though it’s just another quiz question; that is, right after you finish discussing the histories and methods of the most brutal dictators in the history of the world. After that there is IB English class, where most of the novels you read deal with existentialism: a philosophy which is based around the idea that nothing in the universe really matters. Finally, Theory of Knowledge, where you review existentialism AGAIN and are also forced to accept that the entire human experience is ultimately subjective and unreliable.

Then there are all the extra requirements for the IB program. The Extended Essay and CAS for example. Now it might seem at first that CAS (which includes 50 hours of volunteering) is an honest attempt by IBO to do some good in the world. But there are a few problems with this. First of all, the entire point of volunteering is to do something good in the world, for no other reason than because it’s good. What happens in IB isn’t volunteering: it’s IB students being voluntold to do good things. There’s also the Extended Essay, which is just 4,000 more words for a student to schedule into their time.

“But wait, Brian!” you’re all saying, “Are the IBO coordinators really sitting around thinking of ways to disillusion us?” Well, of course not. But one of the most interesting things about culture is that it evolves on its own. If it finds that its young are unable to survive in the real world, it finds a way to adapt. The members of culture aren’t necessarily always aware of this; for example, many anthropologists argue that the Hindu people don’t worship cows because they’re actually holy, but because eating cows would ruin the entire economic structure of India. I’ve come to believe that idealists really don’t do as well in the “real” world as people who are disillusioned to a certain degree. If school is supposed to be the place where students are prepped to deal with the real world, then wouldn’t it follow that school has to disillusion us somewhat? IB seems fairly adept at doing that.

(My heart’s not really in this one tonight, guys. Sorry.)


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