'International schools' idea dies
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 20, 2007
Legislators describe plan as un-American
Everyone agrees: The world is shrinking.
Businesses need people skilled in world languages and economics. The government
has gaping holes in diplomacy and intelligence. Universities are begging for
more students with sophisticated learning.
It all gives credence to a bill in the Arizona Legislature to create
international schools to help make students globally competitive.
But, in the end, the bill died. As its supporters learned,
is a dirty word among some at the Capitol.
Key leaders there suggested the bill was un-American and part of a
slope to a U.N. takeover and the end of U.S. sovereignty.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, would have put three
schools in the northern, central and southern parts of the state, where
would begin a second language in kindergarten, and set up new
programs at seven high schools. Big business and universities pledged to
partner with the schools. First-year costs would have been $2.3 million,
less than 0.02 percent of the proposed state budget.
Wisconsin, Kansas and Ohio have launched similar programs.
The bill took some twists and turns:
* Some Arizona legislators were so opposed to the bill that supporters
changed the name from international schools to American competitiveness
project schools to appease them.
That didn't sway Sen. Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu City Republican.
"What I'm assuming is that they changed the name, trying to get us to be
less objectionable, as if, you know, a rose by any other name is not as
sweet," said Gould, a member of the Senate's K-12 Education Committee.
"There's a lot of us here who are not internationalists. These schools
actually have kind of a United Nations flavor to them, and we're
into educating Americans into Americanism, not internationalism."
* Sen. Karen Johnson, a Mesa Republican and chairwoman of the K-12
Committee, never let the proposal out of committee. Johnson instead
in a professor from Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn., to
lawmakers on the dangers of a popular international studies program, the
International Baccalaureate. The 37-year-old high school program offers
rigorous courses and diploma programs in schools worldwide, including
the United States and 12 in Arizona. Its goals are intercultural
understanding, community service and preparation for university work.
"The International Baccalaureate is un-American," Allen Quist, who
the Minnesota Legislature in the 1980s and ran for Minnesota governor as
Republican in 1994, said in a phone interview. He said that
Baccalaureate's links to the United Nations are disturbing and that its
sense of right and wrong is ambiguous.
It teaches students to see the American system of government as one of
not as the only one that protects universal and God-given rights to
property, to bear arms and free speech, Quist said.
* To get around Johnson, supporters took the proposal to the Senate's
Education Committee. The proposal eventually reached the House
Appropriations Committee, which helps decide what bills get funded and
much. There, it ran into Rep. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican. Pearce
recalled this week that his research on international schools in general
found them to be dangerous, and he suggested their agenda was tied to
U.N., not America.
"Our schools ought to be focusing on education that we, as Americans,
espouse," Pearce said. "We ought to concentrate on United States history
United States heroes."
So the proposal did not survive its first round in the Legislature. Tom
Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction, said he'll bring
proposal back next year. In the meantime, he'll be looking for private
federal grants to help move the project ahead.
Horne has some experienced allies, including Richard Mackney, a 1977
graduate of the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale who
spent 30 years in international business, mostly with Goodrich Corp. He
volunteered to help the Arizona Department of Education develop the
Like principals, teachers and students in international studies, he was
surprised at some lawmakers' attitudes.
The value of the proposal is that average students could start in
kindergarten learning a world language and preparing to enter rigorous
international studies, he said.
Universities and businesses have promised to use these Arizona schools
laboratories for school reform, sending scholars to help teachers and
creating internships to help students build careers. Then, businesses
as Goodrich, Intel and American Express could find executives they need
Arizona and not look elsewhere, he said.
"Then, we say, 'Hey, Arizona state Senate, what were you talking about,
this internationalism destroys Arizona?' " Mackney said. " 'We've just
you that you were wrong.' "
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