Anti-Nuke U.

05/22/2010 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

THE DEPROLIFERATOR -- Last week we discussed how to communicate the subject of disarmament to the public, or at least the "persuadable middle" (a.k.a. independents). Research organizations have devised promising approaches to "framing" and "messaging" in order to divert members of the public from viewing deterrence as the ultimate defense against an enemy. Instead they're shown that, because of their risk, it's actually nuclear weapons themselves that are the enemy.

We also proposed that widespread enlightened childrearing would likely produce a generation of citizens who would find national-security policies that leave the lives of tens of millions hanging in the balance unacceptable. The introduction of courses on, if not arms control, national-security options, into schools at all levels would follow suit.

A prominent member of the disarmament community is already making significant strides in that direction. William Potter, the director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, kicked off a presentation he gave at the end of February with a description of the UN Experts Group on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education, which he was instrumental in forming. (Though, he admits, "relatively little progress has been made to date in translating [it] into global action.") He reveals the group's raison d'etre:

[Because] of a fixation on quick solutions to immediate crises, neither national governments nor international organizations invest adequately in long-term programs of disarmament and nonproliferation training. As a consequence, we face a predicament on a global scale in which otherwise well educated citizens (and many of their elected representatives) are amazingly complacent about and ignorant of disarmament and nonproliferation issues.

Potter then spells out the Monterey Institute's answer to the dearth of disarmament and nonproliferation education: ". . . as of fall 2010 we will offer the world's first Masters Degree Program in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. Among the unusual aspects of this program will be its use of. . . negotiation simulations, coverage of the entire range of WMD threats [and] international internship opportunities." [Emphasis added.]

In a non-graduate program in the past, Monterey used, "Skype and Teleconferencing to bring 'real-world' decision makers into the classroom," such as Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller and U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Sergio Duarte. By end of that course, Potter said, it was "impossible to discern professional diplomats from many students."

Nuke Tube?

Monterey has also "increasingly made use of various forms of distance learning, including lectures to students at Russian universities via. . . Facebook, Twitter, and our own variant of You Tube called 'Nuke Tube.'" It has also "collaborated with Russian and Chinese universities. . . to develop nonproliferation textbooks and other training materials in those languages," as well as "university courses in nonproliferation in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and. . . other post-Soviet States."

Sounds promising -- how can other schools be brought on board? "One of my long standing -- but to date unrealized -- recommendations," Potter says is the passage of "legislation to create a National Nonproliferation Education Act, similar to the U.S. National Defense Education Act. . . to create competitive scholarships [to encourage] the best and the brightest students to specialize on WMD issues."

How about the earlier grades? Potter remarks that, "Few high schools have curricula that expose students to issues of disarmament or weapons proliferation and strategies for their control."

We shouldn't wonder. Look at the reactions to teaching the Holocaust to kids. Deniers aside, some parents think that it scares kids; others think that it's given favoritism over other tragedies by Jews who just can't let it go. In fact, since many parents believe in retaining nuclear weapons as deterrence, courses incorporating nonproliferation and disarmament are likely to be even more controversial.

Too bad. Exposing young students to nonproliferation and disarmament sure beats air raid drills, like when I was young.

First posted at the Faster Times.