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### Enhancing Discernment: International Baccalaureate’s Approach to Controversial Subjects

The seniors at Riverview High School, enrolled in James Minor’s International Baccalaureate English Language and Literature class, formed groups to complete concept maps related to existentialism—a topic they had been exploring recently. They delved into questions centered around existentialism, drawing connections between themes in Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot” and Albert Camus’s work The Myth of Sisyphus with other materials studied in class. These additional works included poetry exploring gender and identity, Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness critiquing European colonialism, the Marvel movie “,” tackling neocolonialism, and comedian Trevor Noah’s memoir delving into his upbringing during South Africa’s apartheid era.

The discussion surrounding the inclusion of these works in educational curricula has sparked debates on whether they should be taught in schools, featured on reading lists, or made accessible in libraries, particularly in the context of teaching about race and gender in public schools.

The Sarasota County school district in Florida, which includes Riverview High School, gained national attention due to school board member Bridget Ziegler’s involvement with the conservative parents’ rights group Moms for Liberty. Ziegler’s departure from the group in 2021 and subsequent disassociation has been noted, with additional information regarding her resignation from the school board amid a sexual assault investigation involving her husband.

The recent educational restrictions in Florida have impacted schools offering advanced courses, including the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which covers topics related to race and gender. Despite these challenges, students at Riverview High School continue to engage in stimulating evidence-based discussions on intricate philosophical concepts while adhering to state regulations, as confirmed by school officials who attribute their approach to teaching to the IB framework.

The International Baccalaureate organization provides various program models for schools globally, with the diploma program and the career-related program being prominent at the high school level. Students at Riverview High have the opportunity to earn college credit through individual IB courses or by completing the full IB diploma. While not all seniors pursue the IB diploma, the majority take at least one IB course as part of the school’s initiative to promote IB education for all students.

The IB programs encompass core components and diverse subject areas, offering students the flexibility to explore topics within a structured framework. In contrast to other advanced learning programs like the College Board’s AP courses, IB empowers teachers to design their own syllabi within an international framework, ensuring consistency across schools.

The Florida League of IB Schools plays a crucial role in supporting IB educators in the state, facilitating networking opportunities and advocating for new courses to receive state approval. Despite the evolving educational landscape and recent legislative changes, IB schools in Florida have successfully navigated compliance with state standards, including the updated regulations on race and gender discussions.

While recent laws in Florida have affected AP courses, the IB instruction at Riverview High remains unaffected, providing a conducive environment for students and teachers to explore diverse perspectives and engage in critical thinking. The IB curriculum encourages students to take ownership of their learning, fostering skills that are essential for higher education and beyond.

Students at Riverview High actively participate in group activities, research projects, and Socratic seminars, where they lead discussions on academic topics akin to university-level studies. The emphasis on critical thinking and independent inquiry is evident in classroom interactions, where students analyze complex issues and draw connections to real-world scenarios.

The IB programming at Riverview High extends beyond academic enrichment, involving parents in the educational process and providing support to graduates as they transition to college. The school’s commitment to mentorship and community engagement reflects a holistic approach to education, ensuring that students are equipped not just academically but also personally for future endeavors.

In conclusion, the IB framework at Riverview High School continues to thrive, offering a dynamic and enriching educational experience that empowers students to think critically, engage with diverse perspectives, and take charge of their learning journey.