Letter: McDonald-Smith is wrong about UNESCO

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Many online commenters took issue with Julie McDonald-Smith’s linking Common Core State Standards to UNESCO. McDonald-Smith rebutted those comments by suggesting that Microsoft’s Bill Gates’ involvement with both is a sufficient link to cause concern, because in her opinion UNESCO is “herding children into ‘global development’ agendas.” Although unrelated to Common Core and the issue of over-testing, which was the subject of the opinion piece, the impact of UNESCO policy-making on the U.S. is worth addressing.

Any policies adopted by the U.N. or its agencies are not binding on the United States, unless and until they are adopted into our own laws. When UNESCO launched its Education First Initiative in 2012, there were three key principles: putting every child in school, improving the quality of learning (e.g. reducing or eliminating illiteracy), and  fostering global citizenship (respect for the world and each other). As the U.N. secretary general explained, “when we put Education First, we can reduce poverty and hunger, end wasted potential – and look forward to stronger and better societies for all.” This is an encouragement for nations to devote more resources to education; certainly not a mandate for a “global development” curriculum, nor for standardized testing.

Notably, the U.N., individuals and non-governmental organizations throughout the world are considering post-2015 “Sustainable Development Goals” to be determined this September. These will likely include educational goals similar to those embodied in the principles stated above.

Lucinda E. White
Freeport

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