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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Smart Kids Need Competition Too

http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/maplib/flag.htm
Not a very smart title to this post because many of you will have seen competitions such as Speech and Debate , or  Robotics Competitions, National Academic Quiz Tournaments, or even Model UN.  But there are others who may not realize what these competitions are all about.

If you are in that camp then I would like to suggest that you find where your school's academic teams are competing and go and support them.

This weekend I am attending my first Model UN. It is the Central Texas Model UN (CTMUN) and is hosted by the University of Texas. I have brought 21 students who are mostly 10th graders.  For several students this is their 4th or 5th MUN and for others this is their first. After an opening ceremony last night there was a first session that lasted until 10. These students were in classes all day, withstood a nearly 1 hour drive in crowded vans, and then participated in their first sessions.

As we walked to the vans, at the end of the night, the energy was palpable. There was laughter and discussions about students who they had encountered at other MUN's (both good and bad comments were bantered about). I talked with the students about the Saturday sessions and the end of the day "Social." I almost fell to the floor with laughter on hearing the description of what the MUN Social is like: "It's just a dance with some food. But it's fun to watch nerds, who have had no contact with the outside world, getting sweaty and grinding on the dance floor."

MUN is a perfect specimen of 21st Century Skills on display. Students have to think critically, communicate ideas, cooperate and collaborate, and many will show their creativity by using accents based upon their country or even dressing in character.

And they do so for HOURS.  Today I spent much of the day in the session where students were representing Japanese leaders in the 1850's. They started discussions based around the last decade of the Shogunate starting right after Commodore Perry's arrival. Whether to include the US in a trade agreement was considered.

As I came in and out the years progressed and as I am sitting here right now they are discussing whether to assist the United States (Union Troops) or Confederate States (Confederate Troops) or whether to stay neutral. We have obviously moved into the 1860's but the discussions are still as emotional and the delegates appear to have just as much energy as they did when I first came into the room 8 hours ago.

And how many spectators do we have for this incredibly exciting and entertaining competition? Right now I AM the spectator in this room. In no room have I seen more than 3 spectators (including myself) all day. And all of the spectators I have seen are wearing badges, like myself, that indicate that I am a school sponsor.

I interrupt this writing to say that we just lost a delegate who disgraced his people for working with the Chinese. There was a trial with 2 Pro and 2 Con speakers. The delegate on trial was found guilty and was sentenced to death. A MUN moderator appeared, asked the delegate to rise and plea for his life. While mid plea he was viciously stabbed by the MUN moderator and he died on the session floor.

From this point forward he will be a Spirit, although there was some discussion of calling him Zombie for the rest of this session. [No students were actually hurt during this session!]

So far this weekend I have rubbed shoulders with Vladimir Lenin, who has been in and out of the Russian Revolution sessions, and various public figures who arrive periodically to add flavor to the discussions.

As I come to a close they are debating whether to take control of Hawaii; to side with the Union by sending troops into California; or to invade China or the Philippines.

This writer rises in defense of academic competition and asks that we have a vote on making these spectator sports. This delegate recognizes that, in the past, we have not had large groups of supporters for these events and it is time that we show that our academically talented students need our love. This delegate yields the rest of his time and takes his seat.

Sunday, November 15, 2015