In my last post focused on global education in the U.S., I lamented that this is an area where the U.S. is way behind in the pack. I find it hard to believe that the American educational system isn't more focused on preparing students to live in a world that is increasingly connected due to the speed and transparency of online communication. Forget traveling to other countries. Forget learning other languages. How about just understanding the world in which we live?
Luckily, there are programs in America that do promote an international perspective. One popular and well-respected program run in the U.S. that has had positive effects on the development of globally-minded students is the Model United Nations. It's an opportunity for high schoolers and middle schoolers to become representatives of a country, understand the international politics, and learn about other countries' positions on certain world issues. Students get a chance to see what's going on outside of the U.S., even if they don't get the opportunity to travel.
I recently attended Georgetown University's NAIMUN XLIX (annual Model UN conference held in D.C.), where I was able to observe this firsthand. I've participated in Model UN throughout high school, and have taken a particular interest in topics from health to equality and environmental issues. Sitting in my 300-person committee discussing media freedom, I started thinking... Instead of congregating in one place to talk about other countries' issues, why don't we actually do something? With this many students all clearly interested in the topic, why aren't we taking some time to create a real action plan, not just a resolution to get closer to a gavel with a name engraved on it? It got me a little angry. Sure, most people who come to these conferences are probably part of other clubs at school that work on different causes, but why are we here pretending to be implementing action instead of trying to do something? I was beginning to second guess Model UN altogether, until I was reminded of the impact such a conference can have on the way students see the world and their future.
One Georgetown student, Tommy Larson, who was Undersecretary of General Assemblies at NAIMUN, made a statement that stuck with me: "I ultimately chose Georgetown and became interested in international relations after experiencing Model UN, particularly at NAIMUN 46 when I was a delegate." Talking to him recently, he emphasized the impact Model UN had on delegates while he was a participant, and "Seeing 3,000 other high school students who were passionate about improving the world across a spectrum of issues in combination with knowledgeable, talented staffers who cared as much as we did really inspired me to try to make my own changes on the largest scale possible, globally." Tommy is just one fine example of how Model UN can direct a person's life and give them a meaningful enough experience in international affairs to change their lifelong trajectory, ultimately making them a positive contributor to the global economy.
My current internship with Global Classrooms DC hosts a Model UN every year at the State Department, and working behind the scenes with them in preparation for the May 1 conference has made me appreciate the goals they share with every other Model UN in the nation. Global Classrooms DC and Model UN strives to produce a genuine interest in global affairs, a higher level of global awareness and stimulating meaningful debate that may carry me and many of my fellow students into intercultural careers as well as being citizens who, because we understand the global context, may better appreciate and contribute to the communities in which we choose to live.