Sunday, May 6, 2012

Us vs. The World

I have heard for years (and have believed, too) that American high school graduates and American college graduates are now and will be competing in a global market. I knew this. I believed this. However, I perhaps didn't fully comprehend this... until very recently. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago I chaperoned a Model U.N. group on the Model U.N. trip of a lifetime. After cutting our Model U.N. teeth first in Houston (we were named Best Delegation at the 2012 conference, which drew over 900 students from around Houston), then in Chicago, the sponsors and I decided to take our show on the road. After some research, we discovered an international Model U.N. competition held annually in St. Petersburg Russia. Each year, SPIMUN draws delegations from around the world to compete and participate in a truly international Model U.N. conference. That sounded like the kind of experience we wanted for our Model U.N. kids. We booked the trip, boarded a plane, and set out for the frozen expanse of Russia.

Our delegates performed extremely well at the conference, especially considering the rules of procedure turned out to be slightly different than our kids had become accustomed to in their other conferences. Despite the cultural and procedural differences, our delegation earned a Best Delegate nod, a Special Recognition nod, and a committee chair position for one of our delegates. We were one of only a handful of schools who received any recognition, much less multiple awards. We felt pretty good about what we accomplished there (and still do).

Here's the catch, though: the rules of the conference dictate that all proceedings are to be conducted in English. Considering the conference drew delegation from Russia, India, Italy, Germany, Belarus, Qatar, Turkey and other countries, the accomplishments of our English-speaking kids seem somehow slightly less impressive. The other delegates competed in their second language (and, in some case, their third language). Who dominated? The school from Mumbai. The school from Mumbai where English is studied as a second language. Could my students have competed in Spanish or French? Not likely. Could yours? Also not likely. Are we way behind the curve globally? Way, way behind and I've witnessed it firsthand.

Now more than ever, I fully grasp the competition our students will be up against in the coming months and years. Suddenly I feel an incredible sense of urgency to double my efforts to equip our students to be successful in an increasingly global community and marketplace.

By the way, kudos to Gymnasium 157 in St. Petersburg for the incredible conference! What a phenomenal experience.

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