Social Education 58(7), 1994, p. 432
National Council for the Social Studies

Celebrating the United Nations: Global Education at Morristown-Beard School

Rose Franke Koch and Alan H. Cooper
The guiding principles of the United Nations and the issues that the UN faces are given clarity and substance through Morristown-Beard School's multidimensional approach to global awareness. Through class work, extracurricular activities, and the Model UN, attention is given to the principle of respect for others and the issues of health, the environment, gender, and rights of indigenous peoples, allowing students to see the origins and developments of crises, to learn the causes of conflict, whether spiritual or physical, and to participate in the UN ideal of collection of information, discussion, consensus building, and, it is hoped, conflict resolution. Social education can have no higher ideals than those on which the UN rests; students can have no greater exposure to their world than through these same guiding principles and concerns.
Course work that exemplifies this ideal includes the Area Studies classes. For one trimester each, juniors and seniors study such countries/regions as India, China, and the Middle East. The focus of the class is development economics with collateral material on the issues of health, gender, and the environment. In Anthropology, a full-year senior class, students learn the theoretical background of cultural relativity and thus come in contact with indigenous peoples. They see the plight of these people, such as the Yanomamo and BaMbuti, and reach, it is hoped, a greater respect for their rights to life as they practice it. Students in a full-year senior course in Russian Studies intensively examine the history of Russia and investigate the effect of history, culture, and conflict on the psyche of the people. In Middle School Geography, the characteristics of developing countries, such as natural and human resources, are explored with an emphasis on interdependence and an examination of the roots of conflict, challenging students to consider possible resolutions. In World History, a component is awareness of problems over time. Included is an emphasis that is decidedly non-Eurocentric, with excursions to West Africa, India, and China.

These classes, and those in that most global of studies, Foreign Language, feed into study tours and exchange programs. What is abstract in the classroom becomes warm and alive and quite human. The French and Spanish departments offer a three-week exchange program in which our students, third-level or above, live abroad and then host foreign students here. Both are home-stay programs and include extra instruction in culture. A Russian exchange in a similar format is planned with a school in Yaroslavl. This exchange grew out of previous trips to Russia that were centered on international student conferences on the environment, preceding the Earth Summit in Brazil. Other study trips have included Spain, France, India, Italy, and Greece. In a recent trip through the Ecology class, students studied the rain forest of Costa Rica and met with local students. AFS (American Field Service) is also represented with occasional year-long exchanges. And, in the area of health, the Los Amigos program sponsors fieldwork in Latin and South America. Students work at the local level in various health screenings, construction of sanitary facilities, and reforestation. Other programs at the school include a latchkey tutoring program with local Hispanic students and participation in the International Book Project.

Finally, there is the Model UN, the one club that receives students from all of these courses and programs and directs the information gained. Our school typically selects a less developed country (a product of Area Studies), and several students opt for third committees on issues (from Anthropology). With the combination of factual knowledge and the more elusive sense of respect for all peoples and ways of life, the Model UN serves to reinforce the principles gained in other classes or programs. Although Model UN conferences may take on aspects of a forensic tournament and lose sight of the idea of consensus and resolution, the fact remains that the Model UN represents a celebration of diversity. Morristown-Beard School likewise celebrates that diversity in its curriculum and, by extension, offers its commitment to the ideals that have made the UN the most potent force on earth for understanding and cooperation.

Rose Franke Koch and Alan H. Cooper are faculty members at the Morristown-Beard School, a K-12 independent school in Morristown, New Jersey.