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"Our Children ... Become a Subject of So-Called International Law":

Here's a strange sort of -- apparently vaguely conservative -- concern about "international law": The Eagle Forum Web site has a piece about the International Baccaulaureate Organization, which complains about the fact that disputes with the IBO have to be resolved under foreign rules related to international contracts:

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, offers three different International Baccalaureate (IB) programs and is responsible for assisting schools with implementation so that children learn how to become "engaged world citizens" (IBO, 2006).... All of the programs come with tests administered by the IBO.

Like many other schools in the United States, some Oklahoma schools offer at least one of the three IB programs at the taxpayers' expense....

To offer IB programs, schools undergo a process governed by the IBO. Once complete, the schools operate with the guidance and support of the organization.

In its Rules for Authorized Schools, the schools must "abide by all the IBO regulations and procedures" (IBO, 2005, p.18).

Interestingly, Article 12 notes that Swiss law governs the Rules and all other documentation related to the authorization for teaching an IB program (IBO, 2005, p.22) (emphasis added).

Under Article 13, arbitration is the way to resolve disputes regarding the Rules. The arbitration process consists of three arbitrators who act under the Rules of Arbitration from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Switzerland; the seat for arbitration is in Geneva (IBO, 2005, p.22)....

As of January 1, 2004, Switzerland replaced its arbitration rules with that of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, otherwise known as UNCITRAL ("New Swiss Rules," 2004). According to UNCITRAL's web site, this organization is the "core legal body" of the United Nations, whose goal is to promote "commercial law reform" across the globe (UNCITRAL, 2006)....

Neither Switzerland nor the United Nations operates under American law, which seems to be further proof our children and IB schools in America become a subject of so-called international law once the school signs a contract with the IBO....

This strikes me as a very odd, and rather hyperbolically worded, objection. If U.S. schools want to get for their students the benefits of an internationally recognized credential, they need to enter into a contract with a foreign entity -- just as if U.S. schools want to get for their students the benefits of, say, foreign-produced computers or lab equipment or gym equipment, they need to enter into a contract with a foreign entity. With such contracts, one or the other side (or perhaps both) will have to agree to have the contract decided by laws other than its own home country's. Sometimes it makes sense for us to demand that such disputes be governed by our own law, but sometimes it's just not a big deal (especially when we're dealing with an international organization that understandably wants all its disputes governed by the same legal rules).

This is especially so since the typical dispute, I imagine, will have to do with an American family's claim that the IBO authorities somehow didn't give their child proper credit or the proper grade. The only thing at stake is the benefit that the child will get from his IBO participation.

If somehow the foreign legal rules end up unfair to the child, he'll lose very little -- it's hardly that the "child" will "become a subject of so-caleld international law" in any meaningful sense. And there's not even any real reason to expect that the rules will end up being unfair. Plus if for whatever reason a school district becomes dissatisfied with the value it's getting from the IBO program, it can simply wash its hands of the program. (The paper I point to also makes a more substantive criticism, suggesting that the IBO may not maintain proper security of student records -- that at least is a sensible thing to argue about; and if the state is concerned about this, it may well demand contractual assurances from the IBO, just as it can demand contractual assurances of information confidentiality from any other organization, foreign or domestic, which it does business.)

In some situations, there may well be reason to worry about submitting to foreign legal rules, or to the jurisdiction of foreign courts. But in some situations, there's little reason to worry about it -- and when one is trying to get the benefits of contracting with international organizations (whether service providers, certification providers, or product providers), such transnational choice-of-law rules or choice-of-forum rules make perfect sense. Conservative or liberal, we must realize that we live in the larger world, that our children can benefit from credentials and products that come from this larger world, and that sometimes disputes arising under international business relations will be decided under foreign law. Nothing inherently bad about that, it seems to me.

Thanks to reader Carl Sanders for the pointer.

Connie (mail):
Ah, but hyperbole is the staple of Phyllis Schafley's Eagle Forum.
8.14.2006 8:30pm
Veritas:
One cannot fail to be sympathetic to those who are horrified at the thought of being under the jurisdiction of the "U.N. types."
8.14.2006 8:34pm
Porkchop (mail):
This was one of the silliest complaints ever.

I have a kid in the IB program. I can't imagine any dispute that could arise outside the grading of tests and the awarding of certificates and/or diplomas that would affect students. IBO does sample written work product to determine whether schools are following international standards. What is the problem? Does the writer really think that there is an international conspiracy out there ready to screw Oklahoma students and then laugh while the tearful victims are left without a remedy except a fruitless appeal to the UN Security Council?

There may be matters relating to accreditation that could be a matter of dispute between schools and the IB Organization. If schools want the accreditation, they have to comply with the accrediting authority's rules. End of discussion.
8.14.2006 8:37pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
I only find this of any interest if the student graduates, and then goes on to a military career. But then, I seriously doubt if any kid even remotely considering a military career would also consider this program.
8.14.2006 8:54pm
Joe McDermott (mail):
I thought the cited concern from Eagle was bizarre, until I read Mr. Connors' comment -- now THAT'S bizarre. Is he seriously suggesting that participating in IBO might subject a student who later entered the military to some sort of international jurisdiction for actions arising from his service? And just what about seeking this credential is inconsistent with military service?
8.14.2006 9:01pm
Mark Brady:
I believe Phyllis Schafly is a member of the John Birch Society so we shouldn't be surprised this is an important issue for her.
8.14.2006 9:07pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I would note that there is, in fact, a conspiracy, the purpose of which is to screw Oklahoma students. It has many guises, but the most well known are the Oklahoma Legislature and the Administrative staff at the school districts.
8.14.2006 9:36pm
John Jenkins (mail):
IB wouldn't have any effect on getting a security clearance of any kind. It's a credentialing organization (think "AP exam"), not an international conspiracy. That's preposterous.

On another note, does this mean every time I work on a contract under CISG I'm being unamerican? I think I need some guidance here. (and damn it, the citations to Oklahoma law are incorrect It's Okla. Stat.).

Would this woman have a problem if the Oklahoma School's contracted with the supplier of A.P. exams and that contract had a forum selection clause for New York or New Jersey? Hell, this just looks like a choice of LAW provision anyway, without the forum selection.

Besides, if the shcools didn't like the agreement, then don't bloody well sign up for it.
8.14.2006 9:52pm
Fub:
Porkchop wrote:
Does the writer really think that there is an international conspiracy out there ready to screw Oklahoma students and then laugh while the tearful victims are left without a remedy except a fruitless appeal to the UN Security Council?
Maybe the writer really believes it, or maybe not. What is certain is that the Eagle Forum writer wants readers to believe it.

They aren't very good at it though. I've read better trolls on usenet.
8.14.2006 10:04pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Let's not forget that this very website is a conspiracy.
8.14.2006 10:15pm
Gordo:
You were very polite Eugene. My response was "WHAT A BUNCH OF FRICKIN' IDIOTS!"
8.14.2006 10:22pm
byomtov (mail):
So Eagle Forum, including Phyllis Schafly, is a bunch of nut cases. That's hardly news.

But they are more than "apparently vaguely conservative." They have clout in the Republican Party and the conservative movement in general.
8.14.2006 10:37pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
Wow Kevin, congratulations! That's the most biting satire I've ever read.

Unless you weren't being satirical. In which case you're an idiot.
8.14.2006 11:00pm
Freddy Hill (mail):
The IB is a godsend to expats from any nation that must move their families every few years while at the same time ensuring that the children do not waste time, maintain a reasonably consistent curriculum, and, upon graduation, can return to their home countries and compete favorably for admission in their respective university systems. I think it provides an amazing service for families in this situation, and I would even recommend it for people whose jobs move them from one state to another within the good ole US.

The key to its success, apart from a somewhat debatable academic superiority, is the recognition an IB diploma receives in almost any country in the world, from Egypt to Japan to America. This derives, in my opinion, from the benefit the IB offers the elites of participant countries. That the UN would be involved in one way or another is practically inevitable, but if the UN limited its involvement to matters such as this it would be just peachy by me.
8.15.2006 12:51am
Tracy Johnson (www):
If IB is anything like France, they can toss High-School records after seven years. As there is no permanent retention policy. I hear it is a real bitch if you're 40 and want to enter a University late in life. (Going to a U.S. Junior College is a workaround of that issue, though some prestige is lost.)
8.15.2006 10:04am
nc3274:
As an IB grad, this was very funny--thanks to EV. Perhaps it was ghost written by the people who sell AP exams.

Come to think of it, does anyone know if international law reduces the discretion given to graders relative to US standards? I want to challenge my Extended Essay score--it was good, dammit.

Aside--the IBO's records are minimal. They know your exam scores and school. Your real transcript is a school issue.
8.15.2006 10:39am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
The Eagle Forum should pay more attention to a real international conspiracy.
8.15.2006 11:07am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Ah, but hyperbole is the staple of Phyllis Schafley's Eagle Forum.


I have to agree. It's one thing to be concerned about courts using foreign law to interpret/apply our Constitution but that doesn't meant that it's illegitimate to look at foreign law for things like treaties or contracting with a foreign entity and agreeing to follow their rules. This concern seems rather overblown to put it mildly.
8.15.2006 12:34pm
seanofthehillpeople (mail) (www):
nc3274: Don't try it. I filed a dispute over my extended essay score, and then a UN black helicopter came and whisked me away to a detention center in the Alps. I was only questioned for a few hours and then released, but it was still an unpleasant experience.

I then entered college, where I was also enrolled in AFROTC. I was commissioned an officer on graduation, and was serving when one day my CO called me into his office and informed me that I was being hauled before the ICC. I spent 2 years in Europe, arguing that my exploration of existential overtones in Catch-22 was deserving of a 1 and not a 0. Bottom line: not worth it.
8.15.2006 1:16pm
Hoosier:
But you got to spend two years in Europe. Geez! I wish I could do that!

Like all those Bosnians complaining ten years ago. Cry me a river. At least you're in EUROPE!
8.15.2006 1:23pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):

That the UN would be involved in one way or another is practically inevitable


*SIGH*

Okay people, repeat after me. "The UN isn't involved."

Let's walk through it.

It is common for the parties to international commercial contracts to include a provision resolving disputes by private international commercial arbitration.

IB and the Oklahoma schools have elected include such a provision in their agreement.

UNCITRAL has formulated a set of procedural rules that countries and private parties can adopt to govern arbitrations. Think of them like a set of 'model rules' sitting on the shelf.

UNCITRAL is part of the UN.

Switzerland, like many countries, has chosen to adopt the UNCITRAL Rules as default rules to govern unadministered (ad hoc) arbitrations sited in Switzerland.

So, a UN commission drafted the model rules that Switzerland adopted to govern unadministered private arbitartion international proceedings occuring within its jurisidiction.

BUT, any arbitrations pursuant to the agreement between IB and the Oklahoma schools would NOT be conducted pursuant to the Switzerland default rules because, as the agreement excerpted above clearly states but no one has bothered to read, such arbitrations will be conducted "under the Rules of Arbitration from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Switzerland" and not the Swiss default rules.

And what are these CISS rules?

Well, it turns out that the CCIS has based its procedural rules upon a modified version of the UNCITRAL Rules. In other words, the CCIS lawyers did what all lawyers do. They started drafting from a precedent.

So to summerize, the parties to a private agreement have opted to have their disputes resolved by private arbitration, before a panel of private citizens, governed by a private set of procedural rules which were modified from a set of model rules originally drafted by a UN commission.

Scary huh?
8.15.2006 2:06pm
dweeb:
Once complete, the schools operate with the guidance and support of the organization.

In its Rules for Authorized Schools, the schools must "abide by all the IBO regulations and procedures"


This would seem to be the real sticking point. The concern is placing taxpayer funded public schools under the control of an international body. Much conservative/libertarian rhetoric is tossed around opposing No Child Left Behind, and seeking the elimination of the Federal Dept. of Education, and local control of education is a central tenet of conservative/libertarian thinking. In light of this, how can conservatives feel good about some international organization? How can one be concerned about Washington,DC, dictating curriculum and standards in the local school, while being apathetic about Geneva doing so?
8.15.2006 2:52pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
Dweeb:

Because, unlike No Child Left Behind, an Oklahoma shool board's decision to affiliate with the IBO, and the students' decision to enroll in the IB program, is VOLUNTARY.

The right to freely and voluntarily enter into mutually benefial agreements is a bedrock of conservatism/libertarianism belief.

For example, when a University elects to join the NCAA it agrees to abide by the NCAA's rules and regulations. What's the difference? That the IBO is run by damned foreigners who want to corrupt the flower of American youth?

Of course you can't offer an IB diploma without agreeing to abinde by IBO rules and regulations. Do you really expect the IBO to allow a school to piggy back on the pesitige and name recognition of its brand without effective oversight and quality control? There's a prescription for disaster.

Finally, while I can't be bothered to check it, I suspect that the IBO's rules and regulations relate only to the operation and administration of the IB program. Indeed, wouldn't an an attempt to extend them further, in the case of public schools, likely fail on public policy grounds?
8.15.2006 3:54pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Ming and McDermott: Point taken - that really wasn't a well considered comment.
8.15.2006 11:32pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I believe Phyllis Schafly (sic) is a member of the John Birch Society so we shouldn't be surprised this is an important issue for her."

Do you have evidence to back up this assertion? Now the JBS had one of Schlafly's books on their reading, list A Choice not an Echo, but that hardly makes her a member.
8.16.2006 5:07pm
dweeb:
Ming, a state has the choice not to participate in NCLB, they just have to forgo federal money - Wyoming briefly flirted with doing this.

The right to freely and voluntarily enter into mutually benefial agreements is a bedrock of conservatism/libertarianism belief

The right of individuals, yes, but not the right of governmental bodies to do so on their behalf.

A school board, not individual parents, make the decision to affiliate with the IBO, and then all parents in the district are subject to whatever impact that has on how the schools are run (more on what that may constitute below.) School boards are notorious for their "it takes a village" disdain for the wishes mere parents.

The wording quoted in this thread seems to indicate the entire school would be under the rules of the IBO, and it's not much of a stretch - if, as news accounts indicate, the IBO is highly enamored of political correctness, they might try to dictate the entire school environment. At the very least, the obligation to conform to IBO standards with respect to the IBO program in an era of ever more fiscal pressure is certain to impact school programs not controlled by the IBO. For instance, non-IBO course offerings may be eliminated due to staffing constraints created by the need to offer courses mandated by the IBO.

Maybe such concerns are not valid, but given the past track record for trustworthiness from public school administrations, it seems reasonable for conservatives to bristle at anything that smells like a loss of local control, which they value greatly.
8.17.2006 3:25pm