By Jack Stedman
Model United Nations comes with myriad benefits. Preparing for and engaging in these conferences not only allows high school students to gain experience in diplomacy and international relations; it also also strengthens their writing, research, and public speaking skills, among many other benefits. And it's an activity that perfectly ties into a Commonwealth education...
Debating decolonization in the Middle East, coordinating vaccinations to promote global health with the World Health Organization, negotiating international incidents on the U.N. Security Council: these exercises are all part of the Model U.N. experience. They are also examples of recent performances by Commonwealth delegates at last year's MIT Model U.N. Conference.
The latest recognition for a Commonwealth student comes from the recent Brown Model U.N. Conference, held November 6–8, 2020, where Parmis Mokhtari-Dizaji '24 won Outstanding Delegate Representing Canada on U.N. Women.
Parmis researched, wrote position papers on, and debated such topics as eliminating barriers to women's political participation, combating the trafficking of women and girls in Southeast Asia, and promoting women's economic empowerment through microfinance.
Being a global citizen and understanding how to take sides and discern moral arguments are essential aspects of Model U.N., and Parmis, like all MUNers, brings it back to the Commonwealth community.
"By gaining the skills of defending a country and an issue as serious as women's rights, it has helped me defend and make sure people's voices are heard in my freshmen class as the new class representative," says Parmis.
The interplay between Model U.N. and the academic environment at Commonwealth allows students to grow tremendously as they integrate their classroom experiences with their extracurriculars.
Chief among those experiences is writing. Before conferences, students are expected to churn out position papers quickly and also spend ample time doing extensive research beforehand. These skills come in handy as students take on increasingly more complex research papers in their history courses.
"The Model U.N. club at Commonwealth has definitely helped me gain more skills in writing resolutions," Parmis notes. "This is both helpful during the committee but also benefits my work in the classroom. Organization and clearly stating your main points are essential in writing a resolution and are just as crucial in other writing."
At Model U.N., the spoken word and the written word go hand in hand. Foundations for intense committee debates are set by the meticulously written and researched position papers.
The same holds true for a Commonwealth education. In addition to taking classes like Reasons for Writing and writing research papers in history, every ninth grader takes Language and Ethics, a course currently taught by Headmaster Bill Wharton. In "Lethics," as it's known within the school, students address matters of critical questioning, the relationship of thinking and emotion, and the ethics of argument while honing their public speaking skills.
"One of my aims in teaching this course is that you learn to distinguish between an opinion and an argument (and between a good argument and a bad one) and to see how words, with the social and political baggage they carry, shape human relationships," says Mr. Wharton.
Of course, Model U.N. is not just a practice in academic skills. Current MUNers love the experience of connecting with schools both near and far, especially as virtual conferences allow for broader participation. They benefit from making friends with students at peer schools, debate against people and perspectives from different states, and even learn how to tie a tie.
Plus, thanks to Parmis, they'll be particularly well-versed in women's rights in Canada, among other things, and will be ready to bring those important issues back to the school and argue their merits relentlessly.