I am writing in response to the Oct. 7 article by Scott McIntosh, as it relates to comments made by state Rep. Tammy Nichols, equating Model United Nations programs with “indoctrination.”
Model League of Nations and Model United Nations conferences have been held for nearly 100 years. These organizations were founded in efforts to prevent the occurrence of another world war. Since the foundation of such cooperative efforts, ambassadors and students alike from around to world meet every year to discuss issues and possible responses.
Politics and preconceptions aside, I believe a strong argument can be made in favor of Model U.N. programs. My position on the applicability of teaching Model U.N. in college and high school settings has been greatly shaped by my upbringing. Let it first be noted that I am a product of rural America. Being born the child of a farmer and attending public high school in a small agricultural community strongly influenced the development of my values; moral, political and faith based. That being said, my parents and community encouraged me to keep an open mind and learn to hold civil conversations under any circumstance. As a current sophomore at The College of Idaho, I have participated in Model U.N. for the last three semesters, twice on campus, and once with a simulation in New York City.
Participation in Model U.N. simulations require students to conduct in-depth topical research on viewpoints and arguments of a particular country, further representing those ideas from a stance with which he or she may not agree. Simulations encourage students to develop speech writing and presentation skills, summarization and analytical skills, predictions of future outcomes, identification of allies, teamwork, task delegation, critical thinking and reasoning skills, working under time constraints, and skills of arguing in favor or against a proposal.
Does participation in a Model U.N. simulation have the potential to influence a student? Yes. Will that participant gain valuable verbal, analytical, team-based, writing, and other skills as a result of their participation? Yes, if effort is applied, I believe so. Are skills like those previously described valuable in real-life application? Ask any employer and see what they think. Is it detrimental for high school and college students to learn about how other nations around the world operate and react to situations including poverty, genocide, hunger and war? No, I would argue that, in fact, this type of education has great potential for allowing U.S. students to gain greater appreciation for this country. Are the United Nations or the Model United Nations flawless organizations? No.
There are many aspects of the United Nations I disagree with — things I learned from Model U.N. and by my own critical assessment of the U.N. system. Model U.N. simulations encourage students to think critically, so, perhaps studying international relations through simulations is more about education than indoctrination. My experience with Model U.N. is common. Reach out and talk to other Model U.N. participants and see what they have to say about their own education.