In the late 1970s, the faculties of The Glenbrook High Schools developed a Statement of Philosophic Goals and Objectives for the 1980s. At the core of that document was the following assertion:
“We believe that man is essentially a rational being with the potential for developing his unique talents to create and sustain a wholesome existence. To realize this philosophic goal, we believe that the school should teach and the young should achieve the following objectives: 1) To recognize that individual and cultural values other than their own have purpose and validity; and 2) To know that the world's people are becoming increasingly interdependent and to accept membership in an ever-widening world community as essential to human progress.”
Implicit in this statement is a recognition of the same global realities which prompted 35 nations to sign the Helsinki Accords in 1975. The final act of those Accords committed the signatory nations “to encourage the study of foreign language and civilization as an important means of expanding communication among peoples.”
American efforts to fulfill the terms of this international agreement were initiated in April of 1978, when President Jimmy Carter appointed a special commission to evaluate the current state of foreign language and international studies and their impact on our nation’s internal and external strength. In November of 1979, The President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies published its report and recommendations. That report included the following statement:
“We are profoundly alarmed by what we have found: a serious deterioration in this country’s language and research capacity, at a time when an increasingly hazardous international military, political and economic environment is making unprecedented demands on America's resources, intellectual capacity and public sensitivity.”
Illinois was one of the first states to respond to the challenge of finding ways of improving the critical global component of education. A state task force recommended the establishment of a series of planning seminars to encourage serious public consideration of the issue. In December of 1979, The State Board of Education sponsored the first of these meetings in Peoria; a delegation from The Glenbrook High Schools was in attendance.
In February of 1980, a joint committee of Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South faculty was organized to research the development of a district-wide international studies program. The work of this committee resulted in a proposal for the creation of a four-year program to be called The Glenbrook Academy of International Studies and designed for academically talented students. On February 2, 1981, the Board of Education unanimously approved the program.
In the fall of 1981, The Academy opened with its first class of ninth graders. For the next three years a new class entered each year. In the spring of 1985, Dr. Lee Anderson, Chairman of the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University and a respected authority on international education, examined The Academy’s program as part of a district-wide educational evaluation. After witnessing the work of students and teachers, Dr. Anderson summarized his feelings: “Seeing what you have accomplished with this program has restored my faith in American secondary education.” Dr. Anderson continued as follows:
“To visit The Academy is to observe a living example of excellence in American education. Were the members of the visitation committee to be asked by foreign visitors to show them some examples of outstanding American educational programs, there is no question the committee would take them to see The Academy.
“The Academy offers students an outstanding opportunity to learn a foreign language. Moreover, the strength of the overall program is augmented by efforts to link foreign language instruction with social studies and literature.
“The classroom climate clearly facilitates learning and particularly the development of thinking skills. It is relaxed but demanding of students and teachers alike. Emphasis is placed on the development of analytical skills. A high level of intellectual excitement is clearly evident. Indeed, the level of intellectual discussion observed by the committee members exceeds much of what they have experienced in college classrooms, including graduate seminars.”
By June of 1985, the first graduates of The Academy agreed with Dr. Anderson that the program had indeed made a significant impact on their lives. More than two decades later and several years into the twenty-first century, today’s Academy faculty and students remain committed to academic excellence with a global vision.