Last week, Dallas International School competed in its first ever Model UN conference in Waco, Texas. Eight delegates from the 25 person team were sent to debate political issues and reenact negotiations surrounding an historical crisis.
“They had a lot of fun with it,” said Patrick Dennis, the faculty supervisor for the team. “It was a more relaxed conference, but it was still formal in its presentation. We weren’t the only school there participating in their first conference.”
The Model UN team at DIS was created last school year, pulling participants from among the sophomores, juniors and seniors at the Waterview campus. Though the students trained throughout the year for the rigors of competition, Dennis waited patiently to sign them up for their first conference.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm for it, but we wanted to make sure it stuck,” he said. “The competitions aren’t easy.”
Indeed, they are not. Model UN conferences typically consist of two parts: a general assembly and an historical counsel. The general assembly deals with more contemporary issues, such as piracy and human trafficking. The historical counsel is a recreation of an historical crisis, such as the Six Day War of 1967. Those topics were the puzzles that students at the Waco conference were tasked with solving. In each situation, teams are assigned a country to represent (DIS was Bulgaria). Debate and, hopefully, compromise ensues amongst the participants to help move the theoretical United Nations to a resolution. Each issue takes hours to solve.
“It takes a lot more than just raising your hand and saying ‘Yep, that’s a good idea,’” Dennis said. “It gives students a great appreciation for how hard the real UN’s job is. They love the engagement.”
A little preparation doesn’t hurt either. Before the conference, students read up on the Six Day War of 1967 and its aftermath. They researched various historical aspects and drafted papers on what their group’s position on the war would be. They came to Waco ready to go.
“I think they can learn to understand the world’s problems, especially as it relates to global politics,” Dennis said. “They also understand the peacekeeping process. They see how cooperation is necessary and how compromise works. Overall, it gives them a more global perspective, and it allows them to see the point of view of another country or another person.”
The students are already planning their next conference. They could go to San Antonio in January or participate in Dallas in April. They’re already trying to convince Dennis to enter them in one of the national competitions in New York or Virginia next year.
“They wanted to enter in the conference at Harvard,” Dennis said. “I kind of nixed that idea. But the enthusiasm is there.”