Why do young people have the lowest voter turnout rates for all ages? Are school systems at fault? Should parents be doing more to educate their children? Nobody is necessarily at fault, but providing youth with tools to be engaged, knowledgeable individuals is everyone’s duty. Schools should be encouraging political discussions as well as extracurricular activities that focus on world issues. Parents should be encouraging the independent thought of their children instead of forcing their own opinions onto their kids. Young people should be informed on and engage in international affairs through Model United Nations (MUN).
MUN mimics the United Nations by having students debate world issues that the international community struggles to solve. After serving on the Dais for the Security Council at the National High School Model United Nations conference, I am fully convinced that MUN is a meaningful opportunity for students to learn about world issues from different perspectives, develop and master important skills such as diplomacy and collaboration, and to meet and engage with students from all over the world. Throughout the five committee sessions, I listened to the delegates challenge each other, propose comprehensive solutions, and work with, not against, each other. The benefits and relevance of MUN continues to be questioned, but the benefits are apparent.
International conflicts occur because countries do not see eye to eye on many issues. These differences are because of differing cultures, demographics, and political systems. People, especially the youth, should have access to different perspectives on current events in our world. With recent technological improvements, some believe traveling to conferences is unnecessary because high schoolers have easy access to a wide variety of information. While technology has made accessing news effortless, much of the media shares it through the United States’ perspective. MUN promotes learning through the perspective of other nations. While representing another country, students must look at data, documents, speeches, etc. from that nation. They then must work to debate and create solutions also from that country’s viewpoint. Through this type of learning, students are exposed to different views on issues. While representing countries with vastly differing values, students will only form solutions through diplomacy and collaboration.
As students learn about and debate multifaceted issues, they are also learning important skills that will help them in the future regardless of their individual path. The first skill that MUN teaches is collaboration. Often, our world leaders bicker over policies. The next generation should be discouraged from this as it prevents solutions from being developed. At MUN conferences, collaboration is encouraged and awards are given to those who exhibit extensive collaboration. Even without the dais specifically discussing the importance of collaboration, the students would soon learn as it is almost impossible to come to a solution if everyone is yelling at each other. To solve these multifaceted issues, students must also work hard, compiling their research and adjusting their specific policies based on the discussion.
Hard work is a skill that MUN is able to foster in young people. At conferences, they learn that problems cannot be solved without countless hours dedicated to writing and reworking solutions. Listening to feedback and then adjusting work is a necessary skill at MUN and in the world. The hard work students do to prepare for conferences teaches them that there are many aspects to each problem. The full issue can only be understood through lots of research and analysis. This preparation allows students to be ready to debate with other students from all over the world.
There is no better way to learn about another part of the world than from someone who lives there. MUN allows this type of interaction to happen. Many students travel either across the country or even across the world. This travel in MUN is sometimes criticized as some say conferences are social events that prioritizes traveling to new cities. While there will be some students who use MUN to travel with friends, for most students, it provides a way for students to travel while gaining educational benefits.
Two weeks ago in NYC, I experienced the importance of travel first hand. One of the other staffers is from Venezuela, which is an incredibly scary place to live right now. Her bubbly personality prevented me from knowing the hardships she faces that I cannot even imagine. She shared a story about how when she got the call from the conference letting her know she got the position, she was in the mall and could not answer the phone. She explained how being a female, taking out an iPhone, and talking in English in the middle of the mall would get her robbed, if not killed. Instead, she had to go into a corner and have her mom shield her so she could call back. This heartbreaking reality is something that I could never imagine. Learning that one of my new friends had to deal with this brought a lot of light to the situation in Venezuela. She explained how her people need help and the United States is shutting them out. Through the media, I would not have gotten to hear this story that will always stick with me. Engaging with people from different areas who have their own story to tell is so important. MUN allows for people from all over the world, all with different stories, to come together to work to complete one common goal.
The common goal of solving issues plaguing the world inspires young people to educate themselves and each other, and use their new knowledge outside of the conference. While it sounds cliche, young people are the future. It is necessary to provide the youth with the information they need to form their own opinions and use them to change the world for the better. Voting turnout for younger people should increase when educational opportunities such as MUN are encouraged.