WEST HARTFORD — Kingswood Oxford hosted its eighth year of Model United Nations for middle school students on Sunday, Nov. 17, an opportunity for younger grades to acclimate to the rigors of research, public speaking and critical thinking that is necessary at the high school level.
Organized and run by Upper School history teacher Stacey Savin, KOMUN requires the student to thoroughly prepare and research prior to the event from the perspective of the delegate from the country they are representing: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
This year, the students prepped for two pressing topics: “Global Economics and the Race to the Bottom” and “Global Health and Infectious Diseases.” The race to the bottom refers to a competitive state where a company, state or nation attempts to undercut the competition’s prices by sacrificing quality standards or worker safety, defying regulations, or paying low wages.
The students read a paper about low standard garment factories, tanneries that emit toxic liquid waste into the rivers in Bangledesh, mining, tainted pharmaceuticals, and child labor. Students wrestled with the question “What can be done to stop globalization from turning into a race to the bottom, and who should do it?” They needed to develop many suggestions while keeping in mind that the UN has no power to send personnel of any kind (whether inspectors or aid workers) into a non-consenting state unless authorized by the Security Council. Students had to build consensus by thinking about which states would be most interested in the topic and what could be done to induce them to get involved.
For the health care topic, students read a paper on SAARS, HIV/AIDS, ebola, and the resurgence of polio and measles. As a delegate assigned to a particular nation, the students researched the state of health care in the country, the average level of education, whether or not the country provides free medical care and free public education, the country’s per capita income, and other pertinent facts.
Since the topics are very relevant, students are expected to keep abreast of current events by reading the newspaper and watching the news and become familiar with their country’s history, culture, political structure, and current political affairs. In order to seek cooperation or compromise with a delegate from another nation, the students needed to know their allies and opposition. Knowing the positions of the various countries on a topic could help predict their arguments during debate.
Middle school history teacher Andy Krugman coached the 25 KO students through the process, meeting with the students every Wednesday morning. He helped them navigate gathering information, working on their opening statement, and understanding terminology. Upper School student Ishaa Sohail ’21, who has had extensive Model UN experience, has served as an advisor to the young delegates by reviewing procedural issues like the difference between a moderated versus unmoderated caucus. “She’s been there to help the kids if they have questions or worries. She’s been great,” Krugman said.
“These middle school students volunteered to be part of this; they are interested in it; they work hard and are curious. Keeping in mind what Head of School Tom Dillow said about being intellectually curious, these kids are doing it. For many of them, it’s their first time in Model UN. It’s a form of risk-taking and good for them,” he said.
The KO delegates who were recognized included: Lili Goldman ’25 of West Hartford- Outstanding Delegate, India, (International Labor Organization); Ryan Wang ‘25 of Unionville- Honorable Delegate, Afghanistan, (International Labor Organization); Julie Werner ’25 of West Hartford- Honorable Delegate, Congo, (World Health Organization); Supriya Chatterjee ’25 of Farmington- Outstanding Delegate, United Kingdom, (World Health Organization), and Allie Arcaro ’24 of West Hartford- Honorable Delegate, Congo, (World Health Organization).