Originally posted on the TOI blog on February 12, 2012. To read the full post, click here.
For more than a month now my fellow MUN teammates and I have been working with two groups of high school students, teaching about international diplomacy, debate skills, and how to express themselves and represent countries. One group is comprised of Jewish students who wish to represent Israel abroad. The second is an Israeli Arab group of students who come after school to improve their English.
Understandably, the two groups of students have shown to have very different perspectives, and with both groups we experienced challenges initially when trying to see other perspectives on such emotionally and politically divisive issues as a UN vote to create a Palestinian state. Yet one very important lesson that I have learned from my students is that the ability to understand other perspectives, even those we may ultimately disagree with, is something that any young student can tap into, simply by making the effort. Both groups of students showed me that they were very capable within a matter of minutes of being put to the challenge.
To me that is the ultimate benefit of Model UN conferences, and the ultimate challenge of international diplomacy and conflict resolution. The first step must be the understanding that there is always another side to the story; there will always be different perspectives, including and perhaps especially those with which we may disagree. This is a lesson that I have learned from my students, and it is something that would have been lost from the conference if not for the wonderful ability for virtual communication that social media offers. I believe that the skill to see other views is in fact an ability that everyone is capable of inherently, and that social media amongst other aspects of globalization offers a huge opportunity in this regard.
Ultimately freedom of speech and expression are important rights—we should protect these rights, but we should also utilize them to learn from others.
To read the full post, including reflections from an MUN trip in Dubai, click here.