Having the opportunity to assist my supervising teacher one a week long trip to Den Hague was an imaginable possibility just three weeks ago. Now that I am back from the long tiresome week, I realize that teaching is so much more than basic curriculum. In fact, I believe the classroom can actually stifle learning. The students went to the World Forum Conference Center, the same place that the real United Nations meets, to pass and debated resolutions they had been developing all semester. The Hague International Model United Nations, or THIMUN, is designed for students who are above and beyond what a regular student could achieve. INTASC 3 makes THIMUN very important for a gifted student. THIMUN can be used to fulfill the needs of those students who are not properly challenged in their everyday school setting. The students at THIMUN are children of diplomats, shareholders of multi-million dollar corporations, the heir to great fortunes, and sometimes even royalty. They have all received the best education. They have all been expected to do something great in their lives. Unfortunately, many people do not expect a lot out of the Baumholder students. For the most part, their parents are not highly educated. Most are expected to go into the military. Yet, THIMUN demands excellence. These nineteen students who attend work very hard to research, compile, and analyze not just CNN, but scholarly journals to form a strong, supported opinion about many global issues.
For the people from non-military schools that attend, the cost of the conference is inconsequential. Prior to the conference, Ms. Magowan went out of her way to raise immense funds to make the trip feasible for her students. Using INTASC 10, community resources and communicating with families, she managed to raise $5000. The students were still required to pay over $300 each. The total for Baumholder to attend THIMUN is over $10,000. This is a huge undertaking for any teacher or faculty member and they must wholeheartedly feel that this will greatly benefit not just the students going, but will help their community and the world. I was quite inspired this week as I watched Ms. Magowan with her students. Although this was very difficult to coordinate, their were many after school hours without pay, and the week was physically exhausting; she knew there was something greater that would become of this week. The students are going back to Baumholder with a significant understanding of the UN, of other cultures, and of themselves.
The United Nations is a very complex organization that consists of 190 countries and numerous Non-governmental Organizations, NGOs. Baumholder, being a very large delegation represented Finland, and Human Rights Watch. The senior who was the head of the Finland delegation got to meet the ambassador of Finland to the Netherlands. He also had to give a speech on behalf of Finland to over a thousand people (INTASC 6). Although not every student spoke in front of a number that large, they all communicated with other students while they lobbied for resolutions, made a “point of information” or a “point of personal privilege” in their committees, or gave a speech in favor of an amendment.
These skills they have acquired will be taken back to their classrooms, where speaking in front of fifteen classmates will seem like a piece of cake. They now know that they are just as smart as royalty and diplomats. I truly believe that many of them have gained a new sense of self worth that will not be taken lightly. One incredible student did not want to return home because at THIMUN, he realized that it was okay to be smart. At school when he voiced his opinion or said something too intellectual, the other students teased him.
Whether the students realized the significance of their attendance may not be important, but the students were cultural ambassadors. In a world where the US is despised (after going to THIMUN, I can assure that the US is indeed looked upon as evil) the students helped others realize that our government may be doing things that are looked down upon from the outside, but the American people are not bad. I heard many stories of unlikely friendships forms between students from Iraq and Britain, or Korea and France. One of the Baumholder students made a deep connection with a young man from Lebanon who is now living in Den Hague after last summer’s war. Not only did the American learn about life in Lebanon and the atrocities being committed, but the Lebanese became aware that there truly are Americans that care about his livelihood and not simply oil.