Expanding Its Reach in New Ways
A priority for our society must certainly be to prepare young Americans to understand the world in which we live, the threats to our globe and the uncanny richness and variety of the human experience across nations. Young Americans should be prepared for the impact of globalization on their lives and for the opportunities that can be gained from acting as a global citizen.
The primary objective of the United Nations Association of the USA is to educate Americans about the United Nations. Our educational role has become most methodical, and perhaps most meaningful, in our effort to build into urban public school systems the roots for a sustainable and expanding Model UN educational program. We call this effort Global Classrooms, since the work is primarily in the classroom, and since it helps young people learn about the world, conflict resolution and global citizenship in ways that few other programs in the public school system can. Like the other UNA-USA educational ambitions, we want to engage and excite young people about the world and the crucial role of the UN in that world. Much of the initial work in developing the US program has been made possible through the guidance and support of the Annenberg Foundation.
Growing Global Classrooms? We have been expanding our Global Classrooms educational program for the past eight years and are now taking it in new directions. We want to transform significantly the reach of Global Classrooms to more students and make this expansion sustainable. Our core objective from the beginning has been to bring the Model UN experience to children in urban public school districts in major US cities. The key components of the program have been our unique curricular materials, our teacher training programs and the Model UN conference that we organize for our students in each city. Global Classrooms’ curricula cover conflict resolution, sustainable development, human rights, and our newest curriculum being tested this year is the Economics of Globalization.
To date we have: (1) tens of thousands of young people across the United States who have become engaged in understanding the world through Global Classrooms; (2) more than 800 teachers trained in our curricular material; (3) another 800 university students who have become Model UN Conference Staff who help as mentors and student leaders for participants in our Model UN conferences, and (4) for each conference in 10 US cities between 200 to 2300 students participating annually. As a supplement to our expanding US program, our visionary Global Sponsor, Merrill Lynch, has encouraged our expansion to capitals around the world. We now have Global Classrooms programs in 11 cities: Beijing, Beirut, Berlin, Johannesburg, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Mumbai, New Delhi, Saõ Paulo and Tel Aviv. The impressive aspect of this global reach has been to build the concept of global citizenship using the same curricular material and standardized Model UN conferences everywhere that are not America-centric culturally.
The next step in our work beyond US borders will be to link up our international participants with our US students in unusual ways that will enrich the experience for all participants in our program. Global Classrooms is becoming a globally recognized program. This was always anticipated as the real payoff for American children, which is to link them ever more directly to that broader world.
New Directions. Our vision now will be to achieve a broader and more sustainable community commitment to this program in all of our cities, and a more effective way of linking our expanding international community of global citizens with our American students.
First, we are linking our international students with our American students through two important initiatives: Internet Connection. We will be expanding our use of the internet for Global Classrooms and in the first six months of 2008, we will launch an upgraded website and a new design for Global Classrooms that will enable us to increase the scope of real internet interaction among our students world wide, including enhanced online simulated Model UN experiences.
Hub City International Conferences. We are beginning this year to expand the number of international students who join our conferences in three major cities—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In Los Angeles, the city itself is getting behind a Los Angeles Pacific Rim Model UN Conference that will concentrate on economic and trade issues bringing students and teachers from the Pacific. This will be a unique regional experience with LA County and city support. In Chicago, which hopes to be the home of the Olympics in 2016, there is a high commitment to be a global city. Chicago supports the idea of having an international Model UN program that will attract students from our cities around the world to develop relations with students in the Chicago community and enlarge Chicago’s development as a city of the world. In New York, we aim to greatly improve our annual international conference at the UN for over 2300 students annually making it the premier event for high schools in the our network of Global Classrooms programs worldwide.
Secondly, our goal is to develop strong community support for Global Classrooms in each of our American cities. As we reduce funding from our national programs, we expect our Hub city approach in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles will help us expand the community commitment to the program. We are also expanding the participation in our annual conferences in each city to include students from private schools and suburban public schools on a paying basis to help cover the local cost of the conferences. Finally, we are asking students who travel from around the US and from abroad to raise money for their travel while we seek support from local corporations to fund our greatly expanding international exchange program.
Thirdly, we plan to renew our programs to support world wide Model UN programs and continue to be the central repository of information about the scope of the Model UN experience and sharing experiences with Model UN groups who have not been part of the Global Classrooms initiative.
At a time when international education for urban public school students in the US is decreasing due to pressures in the public school system for ever greater concentration “on the basics,” Global Classrooms is bringing excitement to students across the United States who are interested in learning about and experiencing the world. And in doing so, it is building an appreciation for the role of the UN in that world. #
Ambassador William Luers is the president of UNA-USA.