Tim Mitchell, Shaker Heights IB Diploma Programme coordinator, confirmed that the IB learner profile term “risk-taker” will be switched to “courageous” for the Shaker Heights School District.
However, there has been no change yet to the profiles on the Shaker Schools website.
The official IB Answers website states that “schools are allowed to replace the attribute ‘risk-taker’ with ‘courageous’.” The reason for this change may be the two words’ different connotations. The word “risk-taker” is synonymous with “gambler” which is not an attribute commonly endorsed by school districts.
Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. who is the only person in the nation to have written a dissertation on the IB Middle Years Program, was aware the change was a possibility. “I heard bits and pieces about that, so I don’t know how true it is, because I haven’t seen it on the website,” Hutchings said.
There also have been complaints among district members that the IB learner profiles are not parallel, meaning that the terms are not aligned grammatically. While six of the traits are adjectives, four are nouns, much to the annoyance of English teachers, such as Aimee Grey. “I think that all of the attributes should be the same part of speech or should be broken into categories based on what they are describing,” said Grey. Of the different connotations of “risk-taker” versus “courageous”, Grey said, “I do believe there is a difference . . . I think risk-taker connotes dangerous behavior. Courageous is much more positive.”
Students have also agreed with the change. “Courageous sounds more like you can conquer a battle,” senior Bianca Zarders said. “Risk-taker sounds like you can try but not succeed.”
“It’s more so semantics,” Hutchings said. “I think they define similar things, because you can be courageous in a negative way or positive as well as a risk-taker can lead to some negativity or positivity.”
There is also concern among the IB community internationally that the IB profiles are too exclusive of the Eastern world. In a paper titled “East is East and West is West,” George Walker, the former IB director general, stated that “‘courageous’ might be a more appropriate word [than risk-taker] and certainly one that would resonate more clearly with eastern cultures.’ ”
Chinese teacher Raina Li prefers “courageous” to “risk-taker.” The translation of “risk-taker” in Chinese refers to facing up to danger, while the translation of “courageous” is simply brave. She also thinks that “friendly” should be a part of the profile.
“Some IB students or teachers are too much focus[ed] on their own zone. . . .They are not really nice or helpful to other students and teachers. So I believe that good teachers should set up as a role-model as [a] friendly global citizen,” Li said.
Mitchell said, “It fits into some cultures but not others. I think it’s good they are changing it.”