Allen Miller’s Model United Nations class was holding a symposium on nuclear security, with each student preparing to write a position paper from a different country’s perspective. Across the Harkness Table, kids worked out the nuances of the security dilemma and Game Theory 101, but without employing the language of Dr. Strangelove or The RAND Corporation.
“Information brokering can be a form of terror, and unilateral disarmament is taking a leap of faith that subjects your country to domination,” said Caleb G.
Victoria G. wondered aloud if disarmament wouldn’t undermine the “mutually” in mutually assured destruction.
Zoe W. and Madison B. mused that even if countries acted with good intentions, there would always remain the problems of verification and mistrust between even purportedly united nations.
Then Caleb chimed in again, touching on a more fundamental problem.
“It’s one thing to disarm, but the knowledge of how to make these weapons is still going to exist. How are you supposed to deal with that?”
Miller is teaching MUN for the first time, and after class he explained the larger goal behind the symposium exercise, as well his vision for the course as a whole.
“What I want is for students to write position papers from a global perspective rather than a parochial one. Two of the things that make [The Hague International Model United Nations] conference so appealing are the fact that it’s simply by far the largest international conference, and that means it offers a level of diversity not found anywhere else,” Miller said.
The fact that the conference is in the Netherlands and that travel is an integral component adds its own benefits, Miller said. “I think any time you can incorporate travel into a course, it makes the students more aware and more self-aware,” he said.
When Miller heads for Holland next January, 12 of his students will represent the sub-Saharan nation of Namibia. Six others will play non-delegate roles representing UN Water, a United Nations agency dedicated to freshwater concerns, with sanitation at the fore.
While Miller and the gang are boning up on Robert’s Rules of Order and focusing on getting the most out the THIMUN experience, Miller is also looking beyond the course’s historically Dutch-centric horizon to make the second part of the year as valuable and engaging as the first.
“I would like to see MUN become more a program about global issues and I want students to think about how to deal with transboundary problems” such as climate change and humanitarian crises, Miller said.
“The class offers a lot to sink our teeth into.”
In addition to MUN, Miller teaches Middle School courses on the Modern World. He is currently working toward his doctorate in history from the University of Virginia. His scholarly work examines state building and technology in the early American republic. In the modern American republic, Miller spent more than 25 years working in the software industry before leaving to become a teacher.