For students at a model United Nations conference held in Washington last month, standing up for the “bad guy” was a lesson in diplomacy.
Students at George Mason Junior-Senior High School in Falls Church, Va., initially were shocked to discover that they would be representing Middle Eastern nations, including the United States’ current wartime enemy, Iraq.
Along with 2,700 students from 150 high schools from across the nation, they convened in mid-February to participate in the conference, sponsored by the International Relations Association, a student group at Georgetown University.
Gail Nolan, who co-sponsors the high school’s model un club, chose those nations because she wanted her students to have a better understanding of the Arab world.
“I knew I was putting the students in the hot seat,” Ms. Nolan says. “But by making them confront how Iraq would have to defend itself, they would learn about the other viewpoint.”
Although her students were less enthusiastic to begin with, some research into the nations of the Middle East led them to an understanding of the historical background to current conflicts, she adds.
Amie Camden, a 14-year-old freshman who represented Iraq in discussions on child safety and the environment, says she enjoyed herself, but found out the hard way that diplomacy does not always lead to friendship.
“Unless they were allied with me or had to argue with me, other representatives stayed away,” she recalls. “I had to stay in policy, be antagonistic, and that’s hard. ... I wanted to be friends with
A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 1991 edition of Education Week as Playing the ‘Bad Guy’