Gibbets and Gavels: One Freshperson's First High School Model UN

By Division 3 student Clary

I’ve been part of middle school Model United Nations (or Wee Ones MUN, known as WOMUN) conferences quite a bit in the past three years. I’ve met delegates from as close as Boston to as far-flung as Ghana and India, and I’ve debated with each of them on proposed policies. It’s always exciting and interesting, and I’ve learned about many issues, ranging from maternal health to ISIS, that I otherwise may never have understood in such depth.

This year was my first high school conference, and I was part of an eight-person group in a conference at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. It was daunting; I was expecting a more rigorous standard of work, and sessions were scheduled to run for three and a half hours, as opposed to the middle school conferences that only go for around two. To make things more intimidating, the first session went until 10:30pm, and I was without a partner to keep me awake (not to mention discussing ideas or splitting up tasks).

At this conference, like many in high school, there were a set of historical recreations and crisis committees in addition to the traditional UN committees. I was lucky enough to be representing a parliamentarian named John Rolle in a simulation of the Long Parliament of Charles I, which went from 1640-1648, right to the outbreak of civil war in Britain. When we got to the conference, I was overjoyed to find myself in a committee of 17 engaged and intelligent delegates with undoubtedly the best chairperson that I have ever had. She kept us on track with historical accuracy and allowed debate to flow beautifully, giving us plenty of time to sort out solutions and learn from our own mistakes with parliamentary procedure. In historical simulations, the committee isn’t forced to stick to the path that was really followed, but are instead allowed to forge a new outcome (within reason); this poses the challenge to not over-limit oneself with real events while also staying fully within the time period and character. This meant that when a resolution was proposed by some royalists suggesting that traitors (which included myself and six other delegates) be executed with a guillotine, it was naturally brought forth that guillotines hadn’t been invented yet and that was amended to the Halifax Gibbet. Of course, we avoided passing it anyway.

We moved through the issues at a fast pace, not getting stuck – as larger groups are certainly wont to do – with repetition and misunderstandings, and having more nuanced and purposeful debate than I had ever experienced in middle school committees. With an astonishing amount of compromise considering the essential divides of the characters (fervent royalists versus Puritan regicides), we managed to dethrone the king, put his son, Charles II, on the throne, and avoid the Civil War and Cromwellian Rule entirely. And, what with the traditional set of committee jokes alongside serious and fascinating discussion, we had a great deal of fun while doing it. I was incredibly honored to receive an award for best delegate in my committee at the end, particularly because I found this to be a stunningly focused and talented set of people to work with. It was an introduction into high school MUN made brilliant by the enthusiasm of our wonderful delegation and the members of the committee I was in.