CALDWELL: I want to introduce myself. I’m Dan Caldwell, professor of political science at Pepperdine University. And I also chair the effort at the Council for academic outreach and initiatives. So it’s a pleasure to be here.
Let me remind you of a couple of things. One, this is on the record. Secondly, it is being recorded, so when we get to questions, I’ll ask you to identify yourself and then also to just indicate where you are a professor. We’ll have, as we’ve had previously, about half an hour of discussion with the panelists and then we’ll have half an hour of question-and-answer with you.
And Irina has asked me to mention one thing and that is to be sure to get on the conference app because that has the way that you can contact each other after the conference. So you can pick one of these up and it will tell you how to do that and I strongly encourage you to do that.
We’re really fortunate today to have three outstanding panelists.
Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, to my right, is chair for global, political, and security concentration in the Master in Foreign Service at Georgetown. And in addition to her academic experience, she has substantial government and nongovernmental experience as well, so we can call on her for not only academic questions, but also her experience in government and some NGOs.
Secondly, we have Jacqueline McAllister, who is the assistant professor of political science at Kenyon College.
And then lastly, we have Michael Nojeim, who is associate professor of political science at Prairie View A&M.
I’m not going to spend a lot more time about their bios, but you have them in your booklets and you can see how fortunate we are to have the three of them.
I’d make one other comment about all of them. All of the panelists have received awards for their teaching. In addition to that, each of them uses CFR materials. And I’ll ask some questions that relate to their use of CFR materials. And like, I think, most, if not all of you, all the panelists, myself included, are teaching and, like you, are probably grading exams or preparing for final exams or whatever else. So I would just note that we feel your pain. (Laughter.)
I want to start out just with two recommendations that you can take a look at. I have borrowed them from the book table in the back. The Council on Foreign Relations publishes books as well as some of the other materials that Carrie (sp) just described and that you’ve seen in the information tables. And two of the books I think are outstanding. One by the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, entitled A World in Disarray. And this is what the New York Times wrote about A World in Disarray, “A valuable primer on foreign policy, a primer that concerned citizens of all political persuasions, not to mention the president and his advisers, could benefit from reading.” So I would add that students benefit from it. I’ve used this book in class. And then the other book, that focuses specifically on the Trump administration, that I’m using in class right now is entitled The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership. And Jim Lindsay, whom you heard last night, was very modest and not sort of touting his own book, but I will tout it for him as a user of it. I have found it to be very useful in class. So I will put these back. I borrowed them for this hour, but I will put them back so you can take a look at them and consider possibly using them.
I want to start our discussion by quoting that great political scientist Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young—(laughter)—who in a song entitled For What It’s Worth, recorded most famously by Buffalo Springfield—so I’m really sort of revealing my age and my taste in music here—but the first lines of that song were “there’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Well, I think that applies to both American domestic politics as well as what’s going on in the world.
And so I’d like to start by asking our panelists what the CFR resources that they use are in the classroom and how they provide information that you can’t get elsewhere.
So Jacqueline and Nicole, let me start with you. I know you’ve both used model diplomacy that Carrie (sp) just described. And can you give us some reactions to using model diplomacy in your classes?
And why don’t we start with you, Nicole, and then we’ll go to Jacqueline?
SEDACA: Excellent. Thank you, Dan.
I’ve been using model diplomacy in my courses for some time. I teach a course in the master’s program at Georgetown in master’s in science and foreign service. I teach a course on ethics and decision-making, so I was delighted to hear that coming out in our panel this morning, as well as a course on democracy, and a course on human rights.
For us, we put a lot of emphasis on the practical learning, which is not just providing the information to students, which is our starting point, but also to ask the question of, why does this matter and what do you do with it? And when you go out into the real world, because many of our students are heading into government and into the U.N., what does that actually look like and how do you put it in practice?
So the model diplomacy package has been invaluable for me to be able to take the theories and the history that we’ve talked about and then put it in practice and challenge students to do that. And I’ve used both the package as well as just taking pieces of it and implemented it in different ways to tweak it a bit as well and it’s been a very effective tool.
MCALLISTER: Well, first off, thank you. It’s an honor to be on the panel.
So I come from Kenyon College, which is a small liberal arts college. I’ve used model diplomacy simulations both in my upper-level seminars, which can have ten to fifteen, and in our big lecture classes, which are about twenty-five to thirty, so that’s the context I used it in. I use it for international relations, U.S. foreign policy, human rights. We ran one in my civil wars in failed states seminar as well.
And part of the reason I employ these techniques in the classroom and why model diplomacy is such a useful platform is I have a series of four key learning objectives in many of my classes. It’s, one, I want them to really engage with the complexity of the world and that there are not any clean, neat answers to a lot of the most pressing problems in world politics. I want them to not just receive content, but be able to digest it, apply it, and synthesize it to make sense of emerging problems. And I want them to walk away with concrete skills that they can actually use in their post-graduate career. Many of our students go into Foreign Service or State Department, Department of Defense, NGOs, and so forth, so I want them to be able to speak clearly. I want them to speak up. I want them to be able to write well. And I want them to be able to work collaborative. So model diplomacy as a tool in my classroom has enabled me to hit all three of those goals.
The other thing in the—when I’ve run then, I see them hit all those goals. The other nice thing about model diplomacy is it’s a useful tool for engaging students at different learning levels or background experiences. So for the super-advanced students that are kind of the policy or they think of themselves as the policy wonks, they can really dive deeper into the materials through the platform. And then for the students who are like maybe an English major coming into my intro class for the first time, there’s enough kind of basic background there that they can kind of engage with it and make sense of it and not feel intimidated.
I do have to say that every time I’ve run the simulation it’s a really nice culmination. I usually run them the second half towards the end and it’s a nice culmination point of the semester. And it’s really fun. We did economic crisis in Europe last week and to hear them throw around things like swap lines and European stabilization mechanism, without even thinking about it, is just—it’s really fun to watch and they enjoy it.
CALDWELL: And, Michael, you’ve employed a different CFR resource. You’ve employed some of the backgrounders, including them even in your syllabi. So what has that experience been like?
NOJEIM: So I apply—I don’t just apply the backgrounders, I’ve applied some Foreign Affairs articles and there’s a Trump timeline of foreign policy things, there’s several documents that I’ve scoured the CFR website with. And the backgrounders, I think, are probably the prime ones. And the reason I use those is because of the context in which I teach. I teach at a historically black college at Prairie View A&M University. Ninety percent of my kids are on financial aid, more than half are first-generation students. They might get one international-type course their whole career and so this subject is very exotic to them and I need to find material that is accessible and really not just basic, but gives them the grounding that they need. I’ve got to get them the information that they’ve never been exposed to before I can get them to the critical thinking and the communication and so forth.
So I like the backgrounders because they’re accessible for my kids and also because I don’t have to make them pay for it. (Laughter.) We have a lot of students who are in financial distress and we have less than 50 percent buying textbooks. Most of my students do not purchase the books, so I’m using as much open source now as I can. So CFR has been—it’s been—I can mine a great deal of very, very valuable veins through CFR resources in that respect. Yeah.
CALDWELL: Yeah, there’s been a real strong effort on the part of Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Vice President Irina Faskianos the last fifteen years, is to provide Council resources to educators and to their students free of charge because we look on this as a real civic outreach very important to our country and the rest of the world.
And one of the other sort of programs that a number of us have used and I’m sure a number of you as well are the conference calls that are set up every couple of weeks with either CFR fellows or authors of Foreign Affairs articles.
And I know, Nicole and Michael, that you have used these conference call sort of opportunities. And what has your students’ response been to the conference calls and how do you integrate those into your classes?
SEDACA: Absolutely. Thanks. We run all of the conference calls that are available, we run them all, and make them available to our students. They are a great way for our students to be exposed to the highest-quality debate around the issues to get up to speed. I have both those students who are deeply interested in the topic or have absolutely no idea about the topic, but need to get up to speed, particularly as we’re going into exam period and as we’re going into our comprehensive orals at the end of our time. I see a lot of students saying this is a great way in one hour to get a tremendous amount of information back and forth.
And I would also add, and it’s not necessarily a campus resource, but the daily email update that gives you—it’s obviously open to the entire community and not targeted just towards just educators—is an invaluable resource that I would add, too, that I have—I encourage my students to get on that listserv so that they’re getting that every day. And the way we start my class, much to some of my students’ chagrin, it that I pick students randomly and ask them to brief on what’s in the news so that they get in the habit as foreign policy practitioners to know what are the big things that are breaking, whether it’s your issue or not, how up to speed are you?
I look at the CFR email every morning so that I’m up to speed and I know that they do that as well, because what that tells us is these are the top ten things that broke overnight, all of the regions are covered, which is not always the case in other publications. And so that’s just another huge resource which allows my students to get up to speed very quickly with very high-quality content.
NOJEIM: So I love the CFR teleconferences. I’m addicted to them. It’s like my crack cocaine now or something, I don’t know. (Laughter.) I’ve actually—since I—since I run the program, I control the scheduling and I’m thinking about scheduling my courses around the CFR teleconferences because this gives my students a—I have a layered approach to the way I use those CFR teleconferences. On one layer, they get to see me acting as a student and I get to model what I hope for them is a behavior with listening, paying attention, taking notes, and engaging the guest speaker. Above that, they get to hear different experts, who are, you know, famous, renowned, and even this week a student of mine was reminiscing about his exposure to Madeline Albright, which he would have never had without the access to the teleconference experience.
And so I love the fact that I can give my students this live experience. It’s harder for me to get them to read than it is for me to get them to listen, so I get them to listen a lot easier, and they get this great experience from a renowned expert, who I often—and by the way, I assign these as required listenings and I make them write a reaction paper where they find two things that their professor agreed with what the person spoke about and two things the professor did not agree with, because I want to undermine—this is going to sound strange—but I want to undermine their notion of me being the authority on this subject. Because, again, they’re just getting me and it’s not enough, so that I’m exposing them to these renowned experts gives them, I think, the space to critically filter not just what I’m saying, but now what they’re learning from these renowned experts. And I think that’s a really good way for me to expose them to this content.
And I was—I was telling Dan earlier, by the fourteenth week—this was a year or so ago—I had—I had students who had no exposures before. By the fourteenth week, there was this one speaker and they did not agree with what she was saying and they were rolling their eyes during listening to her give her talk. And by the way, which is why I don’t—I don’t want it to be video, I want it to be—(laughter)—I want it to remain just telephone because that also creates a space for learning that they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable with if it was recorded on video.
But the eyerolling, you know, they didn’t—they didn’t challenge her, but later they explained that I don’t think she understands how oppressed minorities experience U.S. foreign policy. And so that led to a conversation that I hadn’t even—I had never had before with my students. And so it really opens up vistas of learning that I hadn’t ever—never had been able to tap before.
SEDACA: Can I just add on that point? I think it’s interesting. I sit in Washington where you stumble over people who are talking about foreign policy and we all—and some people are in parts of the country where foreign policy is not conversation. But I think the great thing about this tool is it brings it into our communities.
I will say my students will not always get off of campus to take advantage of the many things in town and some people don’t have those things all around town. So I think the great thing is it brings all of that great high-quality content into your community, whether you’re in Washington or other parts of the country, and makes it accessible and then has a place for that conversation to continue. And that’s a really—to have that quality of content and that direct delivery into your community is a remarkable thing.
CALDWELL: Now, some of you may be thinking I really look forward to posing questions for all of these Council fellows and experts and so on. You’re precluded from doing that. The professors are supposed to, as Michael was saying, sit back and listen. And I’ve found this experience can be literally lifechanging for some students because it raises their academic horizons. And for them to have the opportunity to raise questions to an author of one of the articles that they read in Foreign Affairs or Jim Lindsay or Richard Haass, for them to be able to raise the questions I think raises their academic horizons and has really been valuable to a number of my students.
NOJEIM: It helps demystify the students’ image of what a U.S. foreign policy maker is or even a U.S. foreign policy scholar is. And I really like it when they bring on the practitioners because I think it helps our students realize that this is—this might be a career I could do, you know? I can do that. And so I appreciate that.
CALDWELL: And Irina often poses the question to the policymakers, how could students get into the field that you’re in? And again, that’s very helpful to sort of bridge that gap between academia and the policymaking world.
The other commonality of our three panelists is that they all focus on human rights issues in one way or another. And so I’m wondering how Council materials help you in your teaching of the particular foreign—or human rights issues that you focus on.
And, Jacqueline, let’s start with you and then talk something about that.
MCALLISTER: So the most recent example I can think of how I specifically use CFR materials to teach about human rights would be in my civil wars and failed states class. In the second part of the class, we focus on, how can you respond to civil wars? How can you end them and so forth? And we did the model diplomacy simulation of humanitarian intervention in South Sudan. And I think the most valuable part of that experience for the students was it’s all—it’s very easy to sit in your seat with our nice little political science tools to try to kind of think about how you can fix these things, right, and put it in nice little boxes. But once you start playing the game and you’re interacting with all these different players in the game and developments are happening really, really fast, it helps you think more about what it means to be a policymaker and the complexities involved with that and to be a little bit more humble and also think better and ask better questions about what’s going on, right, because a lot of being a good policymaker is getting the best information and processing it.
So I think, in terms of human rights and transitional justice and ending conflict, those set of skills are absolutely invaluable to students interested in these career paths.
CALDWELL: And, Michael, you’ve written about nonviolent resistant. Have you found sources that are useful to you?
NOJEIM: Yeah. So I’m going to be honest and transparent. No, I’ve struggled with finding CFR material that fits my—I teach a course on Gandhi and King. And I don’t—I’m not sure I’ve found anything on them. I mean, to be honest, the latest—I have not attended CFR teleconferences this semester because it’s been hard for me to find a point of entry for what the topics were for my—because it’s really a civil rights course, but it’s got a global angle because it’s got—half of it’s on Gandhi and the independence movement in India. So I’ve really struggled, to be honest, with finding CFR material that fits this course on really civil rights as much as human rights. That’s an honest answer.
CALDWELL: So CFR does not have everything. Sorry. (Laughter.)
NOJEIM: Yeah, it’s not—it’s not a commercial.
CALDWELL: We have some things to do in the future.
And, Nicole, you’ve focused on issues of human trafficking. Have you found some CFR resources that are helpful to you in that endeavor?
SEDACA: So there’s a wonderful resource on human trafficking. I don’t teach as much on human trafficking. I do teach, of course, on human rights and a course on democracy promotion. What I find, having been a practitioner in that field, is that those communities often lack the ability to make policy recommendations on bigger issues because they’re so convinced by it that it’s hard for them to speak to people who are not, who don’t think that human rights in China or Iran or Saudi should be our top issue.
What I find is, being able to have regional analysis from CFR that I can then challenge my human rights students to say fit your argument into this, the big picture, the entire picture, allows them to sort of step up their policy argument to game, to understand not just how to argue on the—on the value of human rights, but how to argue the big picture.
I will say, on the train up yesterday as I was grading memos, I do find the resource that CFR does have expert opinions and expert analysis. Quite often when my students get things wrong, I put links in their memos to say, well, that doesn’t actually make sense or that’s not true. And what I often do is put a link to CFR. I did one for the Uighurs in China yesterday just to say, look, here are resources that we trust that are—that are not—you’re not tapping into. So some of those broader pieces allow me to bring those into the—into the grading process as well as they’re writing policy memos.
CALDWELL: And Nicole has told me that if any of you really want to do some extra grading while you’re here this afternoon—
SEDACA: I have lots of memos.
CALDWELL: —she would be glad to turn over some of these memos to you. (Laughter.)
One of—one of the efforts, as Carrie (sp) mentioned, that CFR is making is to try to engage students not just in political science, international relations, and history, but outside of those fields that probably are most represented here today. And so I’m wondering if any of our panelists have had experience in trying to use CFR materials to engage students outside of our sort of narrow discipline of political science, international relations.
NOJEIM: So that is my discipline, so that is my narrow focus. But my program is housed in a division with sociology, social work, history, philosophy, geography. And when you—when you asked that question, I thought this is perfect. And you asked the right person because I’m deeply involved in my university’s reaffirmation process. And our new QEP, our quality enhancement plan, is be global. And so I am helping to incorporate global issues, global studies, global mentality, global competence in courses across the curriculum.
And so when I—when you asked that question, I can see exactly how CFR resources on climate change could work in a biology class, CFR resources on human rights questions could work in an ethics class, CFR resources on any historical component of any region could work in our history classes. It really—it really does—it’s a perfectly timed question for that which I’m doing, which is trying to globalize my curriculum, because you can find all kinds of applications literally across the STEMs as well as the social sciences.
MCALLISTER: Yeah. So at Kenyon, I’ve had some conversations with my colleagues in humanities and sciences about how to bring global issues into the classroom. And the great thing is, is global issues are also local, personal issues in many respects these days. So I’ll have colleagues in the English department teaching a book on immigration and the resources—CFR has great immigration, like, backgrounders, resources for faculty that might not consider themselves political, but that they can kind of get background information they need to teach the class effectively.
I think in the sciences, too, a lot of global issues are especially important. So at Kenyon, we have a class on science and politics, which brings together scientists and political scientists, historians, English majors, and so forth. And understanding how negotiations around climate change occur is absolutely invaluable to that, understanding the policymaking process and how to speak in ways that citizens and policymakers can actually understand you if you’re a scientist is also incredibly important, how to communicate information. So, yeah, I think there’s a number of ways you can definitely bring global issues into the classroom.
And another initiative Kenyon is doing, we’re going global to—we’re going to do a series of workshops and team-taught courses with different faculty to kind of shine a light on different issues, like democracy in crisis, immigration is a big one, to kind of really team up together to have these conversations, so yeah.
CALDWELL: One of the things I do is to—on some of these conversations that we have, the teleconferences, is to call them to attention to colleagues in other departments. So if there’s a conference call on climate change, I let our environmental studies people know about that. And that’s been one way that I’ve found of sort of extending Council resources to other departments in other fields.
Let me—let me go to another question, a little broader question. And I’ve enjoyed discussing this question with a number of you at dinner last night and breakfast this morning and that’s the question concerning what’s happened in the last two-and-a-half years under Donald Trump. As all of you realize, in many ways, Donald Trump has turned American foreign policy on its head and has reversed many of the policies that have been implemented the last seventy years after World War II as well as challenging some of the institutions that have been the foundation of American foreign policy and I think, more broadly, the liberal international order for the last seven decades.
So the question that I’ve discussed with some of you and that I’d like to pose to our panelists is, how has what Donald Trump has done the last two-and-a-half years changed the way you teach international relations and American foreign policy?
SEDACA: Well, there’s an easy question for noon on a Thursday—a Friday afternoon. (Laughter.)
So I like to think of the glass half full. So I think the challenge for us as educators is that all of us have much deeper roots than people who are, in my case, twenty-five to twenty-eight or thirty years old. And so when there’s a shake in the system, those of us who have been around longer, it’s not that—it’s not—it’s easier for us to figure out. For my students, it’s much harder because they’re entering into this and they’re trying to make sense of the world. But I see it as an opportunity to challenge them to make the case for why the things which we have believed for the last seventy years are the things we still should, in large part because not only so that they have good answers to this time when many of those things are being challenged, but also some things do need to change and their ability to discern what are those things which we need to hold tightly to, what are the institutions, what are the values, what are the ways of doing business in the international community that we need to hold closely to and what things do we need to look at new norms or new institutions to ensure that we’re dealing with new issues or issues which we’ve failed to address for many years, allows them to take this time, which the ground is very shaky, and say, all right, I’m going to double down and ask the hard questions, but also be able to answer them.
And what I’m hoping is that they come out of this season with very good answers as to why they know that certain institutions we need to hold onto and certain values we need to hold onto, but that they’re also creative enough to think about what can we do that’s newer and different in this changing world.
CALDWELL: OK. Jacqueline?
MCALLISTER: I’m going to give a bit of a counterintuitive answers. And my answer is, is that as an educator my goal is to give my students an analytical toolkit that they can use to explain past, present, future world political issues. So in that sense, the fundamentals of what I teach remain the same. I want them to understand order, power, legitimacy, how these things work together in the context of a state system, new actors in the states or in the state system and so forth.
I think the thing that has changed that has made teaching particularly interesting right now is the fact that we’re seeing a lot—and I’ll say it in political science speak—variation in the world. So what happens when some U.S. leaders step back from international organizations and institutions? Will these things endure or are they going to crumble and fall? I mean, it’s interesting to kind of see and test a lot of the variation in our concepts that we’ve kind of taken—or we’ve taken a lot of these things kind of—we’ve gotten used to having them around, right, this institutional architecture. And it’s a great time for probing, to what extent is it crumbling, to what extent does any of this matter?
And I agree with Nicole, too. It’s facilitated a lot of really interesting conversations about, OK, so you disagree, well, why do you disagree? And what kind of argument would you make to the current administration to convince them that you’re right? And I think that that has opened up a lot of really interesting learning opportunities.
And then the final thing I’ll say that’s changed in my teaching is there’s been a lot more fact-checking in class, which has actually been a really great learning opportunity in and of itself. Students are very eager to learn a lot and understand how a lot of things they never really thought about before actually work. So, like, what is the National Security Council? Why is this important? How is what’s going on in the National Security Council affecting our ability to be safe in the world? And those sorts of questions.
CALDWELL: I think that’s really a key point. That one of my greatest concerns now as a citizen and as an educator is facts in our society. If facts don’t matter, if anyone can create an alternative reality, alternative facts, then we’re in trouble. I mean, you know, why do we do what we do if facts don’t matter? So I think that’s really a key point.
Michael, how about you? How do you deal with this?
NOJEIM: So I’m with you on that. I guess this is where I get to say that we now see the real value of academic freedom in the tenure process because my teaching—my teaching style has changed to some extent. I mean, the fundamentals are still absolutely going to be there, but for someone who teaches a course on Gandhi, who teaches that truth is the most important thing, so, yeah, if someone’s lying I’m going to say it. If someone arbitrarily attacks an institution and tries to undermine an institution without a seemingly plan—a seeming plan for reform, yeah, I’m going to call that out. I’m not—I’ve never done that before. And I’ve agonized over this because, I mean, I’m the on the one hand, on the other hand kind of professor, but not always anymore. Now I will say this is not true. And I will—and then I will ask the class to help me prove that it is not true. And there are lots of teachable moments now where we learn about internet literacy, where we learn about fact-checking, where we learn about evidence-based analysis. That’s the boon that the current administration has provided my teaching.
But I—but I—what’s new to me now is me saying this is a lie. And I rarely had said that before, but now I’m not going to let a gross assault on the truth go un-responded or un-pushed back. I can’t.
CALDWELL: Two of the ways that I try to deal with this is, in some of the simulations, like model diplomacy, when I assign students to positions, I try to assign them diabolically. So if I have some sense of their political orientation, if they’re a liberal Democrat, I’ll assign them to play the role of John Bolton—(laughter)—or vice versa so that they at least see the other side. And then even more uncomfortable is sometimes I will play the role of John Bolton or Mike Pompeo or, God forbid, Donald Trump and that’s an educational process because students then have to engage the argument from a surrogate for the administration. And I try to present the administration’s view as accurately as I can to engage students so there’s a back-and-forth that way.
Let me—let me pose just one other question and we’ll open the floor up for your questions. And that refers to the attempt in the last several decades within political science to bridge the gap between the policymaking community and academia. A number of political scientists have focused on trying to do policy-relevant research so that our research is not just sort of ivory tower and irrelevant to policymakers’ concerns and to the decisions they’re making.
And so, Nicole, in particular, since you’re involved with practitioners in the education of future policymakers, how do you find CFR materials are helpful in bridging that policymaking academia gap?
SEDACA: Yeah, they’re invaluable because it forces students, particularly through model diplomacy, to actually not just learn the substance, but take a position and own the position. One of the things which we work a lot on is, how do you actually identify a policy problem? And how do you come up with solutions that actually solve it? We all like to come up with lovely policy solutions for a lot of things, but they don’t necessarily solve the problem, they are not actually realistic. And so running these real simulations allows us to be in those situations in which we have to come up with real practical solutions.
I think also just reading the way things on the CFR materials are written. They’re written the way policymakers would approach it. And I think for students to consume that material in addition to the theory and in addition to the academic research allows them to hear that voice and to understand that.
Lastly, one of the things which I think is most important for our students is emotional intelligence. And it is something that we spend a lot of time on and our ability to get in the shoes of another thinker, right? And so to your point about, could you make the argument, could you be John Bolton for the day, could you be Susan Rice or Condi Rice for the day? And our students’ ability to be able to articulate arguments on very complex issues from a standpoint which they may or may not understand is extraordinarily important, not that they become wishy-washy, but that they are able to understand where they’re coming out and that their opinion is an opinion and their ability to be strong and convincing policy negotiators is only as good as their emotional intelligence to understand who’s across the table. So these types of exercises are really important for building that emotional intelligence muscle as well.
CALDWELL: Great. Jacqueline, Michael, anything to add to that?
MCALLISTER: I would agree entirely. I think the best thing about the resources available from CFR is an ability to put yourself in a position of somebody else. And one thing I really push on my students is this critical analysis and ability to make constructive arguments. And to make those constructive arguments, you have to really understand the opposing arguments, their logic, their assumptions, and where they go wrong. And so in stepping into the mantle of a policymaker for a day, it really helps you to do that and in turn engage not just with policymakers, but your neighbors and so forth.
NOJEIM: I don’t use the model diplomacy from CFR. We have a model U.N. club on campus and I think that club performs those functions fairly well. I use the CFR teleconferences, especially with U.S. foreign policymakers. That helps bridge the gap. And I also do controlled debates and I do a roleplay in my own class where I pit four or five Clinton administration officials with four or five Obama administration officials against four or five Trump or Bush administration officials regarding the same foreign policy issue. So I simulate it myself, but I don’t use a CFR resource for that.
CALDWELL: OK. It’s time for your questions now. And let me just remind you that this is on the record and it is being recorded. So please wait until you get a microphone to ask your question and then if you would say your name and your association. So the floor is open for questions.
Q: Keith Ludwick from American Military University.
I take that all three of you teach a traditional classroom. Ninety-nine percent of my teaching is online. Maybe you—and most of it’s asynchronous. I have a large number of students globally, right? So maybe you could speak to how I could use some of their resources in an online environment. Clearly, there’s the library issue of just pulling information, but maybe you could talk about that.
NOJEIM: So I teach a lot online, too. And the CFR teleconferences are available asynchronously. You can—I forget the actual website address—but you can actually assign them, it doesn’t have to happen synchronously, they keep a recording then you can have access to it. And that’s public access as well.
MCALLISTER: I think you—
CALDWELL: Yeah. I had the experience, unfortunate experience, last November when fires closed my university, Pepperdine, in Malibu for two weeks and so we had to go overnight to online education. And so I relied very, very heavily on CFR resources, just kind of using them to plug into subjects in my syllabus to cover the topics that we were supposed to be covering in class. And I found the CFR materials to be invaluable for that.
Excuse me, Jacqueline.
MCALLISTER: Oh, yeah. I think you might even be able to do a model diplomacy game. So they have assessments online and you can have them do the assessments and then you could have them maybe do the deliberation back-and-forth maybe through chats or some kind of Skype session. I think it could work to do it. And it’s nice because if they engage the materials, it doesn’t matter—well, at least to prep for the game they can do that from anywhere, and then you could maybe create different teams in the same time zone and they could chat or Skype about it. I think it could definitely work. Yeah.
SEDACA: I also think the policy brief—I use things way off of just the campus one, so I use it all—the policy brief structure I think is an excellent tool. And to give that to the students and say pick a different topic, but do that in a way, write it according to this structure. It’s not an official structure, but it’s a really great framework to allow them to both have the background that’s needed, the context that’s needed, as well as the policy recommendations, but might be a good model to share.
NOJEIM: I forgot there’s one other thing. I didn’t learn it until just recently, but CFR has online quizzes now as well. And I don’t know how well those are pushed to your learning module, I’m not sure what you’re using, but I suspect that they’re pushed fairly easily from the online website to whatever learning module you have.
CALDWELL: But, Michael, that would prevent us from writing quizzes and things like that. (Laughter.)
CALDWELL: Other questions? Other questions?
Q: Hello. I’m Nyla Khan, Oklahoma Rose State College. I enjoyed the discussion.
I think the problem I have in the classroom is with the myth of American exceptionalism. So it’s relatively easy to get my students to talk about atrocities being inflicted on women in other parts of the world, but they don’t want to have to deal with atrocities being inflicted on women here domestically or the rate of female incarceration in other parts of the world. They are comfortable talking about that, but not about the high rate of female incarceration here. So what strategies would you recommend employing in the classroom to get students to see those links or parallels between domestic issues and global issues? That’s one.
My second question is about getting students to think about building horizontal global relationships as opposed to thinking in terms of Western dominance or America as the problem-solver. How can we get them to think about horizontal global relationships and those leading to peacebuilding and nation-building?
CALDWELL: Let’s take the second question first because Nicole has had extensive experience in dealing with some of the issues you’re talking about in terms of horizontal relationships.
So, Nicole, how would you respond to this question?
SEDACA: Yeah. Let me start with the second one and then come back to the first one. I mean, I think the best way is to have as many local resources brought into the classroom, right, so there are in every country the number of indigenous, meaning, like, from the country, organizations that are doing great work, every country has them, right? And to be able to bring those voices into the classroom and bring—I mean, and with technology now, we can do that much more easily. Next week, I’m having a young activist from Hungary zoom in to my classroom just to talk with my students about what does democratization mean in another country from a person who’s actually doing the hard work on the ground. So I think that ability to tap into those voices in other places and then also bring in the literature from other people is the best way to just have more diverse voices, either literally or on paper, in the conversation.
I think—I think on your first question, I think that we should train our students to apply the same question that we’re applying in other countries to the domestic context. I would also, though, encourage us to—and this is my democracy professor side coming out—to also look at, what are the tools that are available in the United States, which don’t exist in many other countries? And I do think that the difference between democracies—not just the United States—but democracies and non-democracies as far as the ability to address where there are significant shortcomings, and we do have them in this country, makes a huge difference.
So I think it’s both challenging our students to say, all right, we’re going to look at this problem, let’s look at it globally, look at what the numbers are, the per capita numbers as well as the real numbers, and then what are the tools that are actually available to citizens and communities to change them.
MCALLISTER: I would say make your classroom not a space, but an experience. So I think a really useful thing, at least in the context—so Kenyon is in a very rural area of Ohio and I think getting students out of the classroom to see refugee communities or engage with incarcerated people and those kinds of things, seeing that these things affect them at home, too, I think helps break down some of those borders or those walls.
I think also bringing in different people into the classroom that share their stories can be really invaluable. So I rely a lot on guest speakers that have different perspectives on these issues and then they get to engage with them I think is really important.
And I think case studies and stories of people are really, really important, right? Like, when you actually hear stories of what—Bosnia is one of my area, but, like, what happened there with the U.S. after the conflict and kind of the swarm of NGOs and kind of how people on the ground experienced that for good and ill, I think talking about those perspectives is really important.
So the more you can make your classroom and experience I’d say would be—that’s what I—how I try to do it.
CALDWELL: And, Michael, as you noted, you teach at a historically black college where 94 percent of your students are African American. So how do you deal with that question of American exceptionalism in that context?
NOJEIM: So, honestly, I think I have a head start when it comes to deconstructing—(laughter)—American exceptionalism in a historically black college. So that specifically isn’t the issue. The issue for me is exposure to diversity. You would be surprised how much diversity is an issue in a historically black college in terms of race, not in terms of gender or sexual orientation, but in terms of race. So in my case, it’s field trips. And I’m outside of the Houston area, so I’ve taken them to mosques, I’ve taken them to giant temples, and also—and also guest speakers, I mean to bring in people of different racial or international backgrounds to help them understand an international experience.
SEDACA: And can I just ask one—add one more thing on the question of American exceptionalism. I do think the challenge to our students is not how do we—for these concepts which have been held up and we’re now questioning, the question is not how do we—how do we stop holding them up, the question is, what is worthy of being held up and what’s worthy of being questioned, right? And I do think that equipping our students to navigate that—I think there are many exceptional things about the United States, I think there are many horrific things about the history of the United States. And I think we can hold those two things in tension.
I do think we have to be careful—and I think the same debate about the United Nations. I think the United Nations created wonderful, amazing things and, woo, we’ve got a lot of problems. And I think we’ve got to be able to challenge our students to step into that debate in a very nuanced and a very fact-driven and impactful way.
I find with my students, they love the bumper sticker, oh, the U.N. is terrible, oh, the United States is terrible. And they’re not incorrect in those statement, but they’re incomplete in those statements. And I think we equip our students very well to be able to articulate this is actually what’s good, this is how that term came to be, this is maybe where it came from and some of those things we can still hold onto and, gosh, this was not on the table and, boy, do we need to name that. And we can hold those two things as truths in tension as the full picture. And that that is how I think we’ll be able to equip our students back.
And part—back to your question—I see a big swing because of the challenges that have come through this administration of, like, well, everything is wrong. I think we equip our students well if we say, what is wrong and why and can you defend it? And again, not to say you have to agree with this policy or not, that’s up to every student, but to be much more rigorous analysts to move from the bumper sticker into the—into the well-equipped, articulate analyst.
CALDWELL: There’s a question in the center of the room here.
Q: Steve Nawara from Lewis University.
I’m looking forward to trying to implement in particular model diplomacy into my foreign policy course. But I would like to hear maybe some practical tips on how to do it. You’ve already sold me on to do it—(laughter)—but how to take the next step in terms of how many would you recommend trying in a given semester, how long to devote to these and, probably more importantly, how to incentivize active participation among the students without maybe scaring them or putting too much pressure on them that their grade’s going to tank if they don’t win or something to that effect. Thank you.
SEDACA: Yeah. Yeah. I would say, particularly for simulations, giving a chunk of time, sometimes a week before and sometimes a week after. So what do I mean by that? I often will assign students what their role is a week in advance and even let them get into that role in class for a little bit the week before so that they have a week to get the kinks out a little bit. They have a week also to research.
What I find, the students will often they’ll get a title and then they think that they just need to act crazy, right? Like, if I’m going to be this person, I’m going to be, like, totally crazy. What we want is fact-based simulation, right? And so to challenge them to say, look, being a boisterous person or being, you know, the best imitation of that person is not a win. What’s a win is you accurately representing what you think it is likely that that person, based on what their job is in this administration at this time, that’s a win.
Giving them time also afterwards to reflect on how their views change. What was hard for them? Was it hard to represent just a Defense Department view? Or was it hard to represent a National Security Council view where you have to get everyone to the table and allowing them to get out of the role, but then reflect on themselves and reflect on the process is important at the end.
MCALLISTER: Yeah. So I just did one last week and I’ve been debriefing in my reflections of how to do it better next time. And I think one key thing, when you do the game, I think you need at least four classes to do it. I think it’s best if you integrate it into a unit where you’re kind of lecturing and preparing them for the content. So we did it in the context for my IR class on economic globalization, so we talked a lot about trade and money. And then we went into the game, so they had a bit of a basis. I assigned the roles a week before and I think that’s important.
And I also think it’s really important to set expectations for them about what—students these days really like to be told how to do everything. They’re very uncomfortable with, like, figuring it out for themselves. So I think one thing that I would critique or I would do better next time in my role is set the expectation that I’m having you do this game because I want you to think for yourself and figure it out, like, I’m not going to be there all the time telling you what to read, the materials are before you, you can decide if you want to read, how much you want to read on the website. So having them do that. The debrief is very important.
And one thing in the past in the game that I think you can make better, they have assessment questions on the website, which can be really long and kind of tedious, but I think you should have them do some kind of response to some of those questions before class to, like, make them—if they think they’re going to get a grade for it, they actually study the materials way better, even if you just check them in. So, yeah, set expectations, get the game going early, do a full debrief on it, and, yes, set guidelines, a Rubrik ahead of time would be a good idea, yeah.
CALDWELL: I’d add just one other thing for preparation and that is to have a paper ahead of time so that they really do prepare something going into the simulation because then—and in addition to that is the grading that we’re all confronted with. And I find it very difficult to grade students in a simulation itself whereas a paper provides some tangible way to assess their preparation for the simulation and the grading of their performance in the simulation itself can be on top of that.
MCALLISTER: And one way to fix that—oh, sorry.
SEDACA: No, jump in.
MCALLISTER: I had them do a self-assessment at the end of their recent simulation because when there’s twenty-five, thirty of them, you can’t necessarily keep track. And I don’t know, maybe it’s that Kenyon students are very benevolent, but they were actually—I thought they gave themselves good grades. And it’s good because they would tell you what they did and did not see. And if you want a copy of the self-assessment question, I’m happy to share that with whomever.
SEDACA: Let me just add one point. I actually forgot about it until you said it. I ask my students to have what their going-in position is, like, and, what does a win look like for you as this person on this issue? What do you care about and what do you want out of it? And who are you going to build relationships with in the room? And what are sort of those pivot moments that you expect that are going to come out? What do you think the positions of the other actors will be? And how can you prepare if this person doesn’t align with you? So that they do write it on paper before, they’ve got a strategy going in. It also reduces their drama in the classroom, but it also then doesn’t leave the grading singularly up to the performance, it leaves it up to the strategy in advance.
CALDWELL: Let’s see, let’s go here to the middle of the room.
Q: Hi there. My name is Elinor Bray-Collins. I teach at Humber College in Toronto, Canada. I think I’m one of the couple of Canadians in the room.
I just have a general question. I teach globalization and international development studies to undergrads. And I talk a lot about how increasingly vulnerable we are to these systemic risks, how devastating it is and will continue to be for countries in the global south, climate change, et cetera. I often feel that I’m struggling increasingly to give my students any sense of hope, especially considering climate change and how unprepared we are for the future that they will face and their children will face. I’m wondering, how do you deal with that? How do you leave your students at the end of a semester with a sense that they need to take action—of course, I give them that—but a sense of hope for how we can really instigate the kind of change that we need to see that isn’t really happening as quickly as it needs to?
CALDWELL: What a—what an important question. And thank you, Elinor.
SEDACA: I’ll say, you know, I teach a course on ethics, so we talk about refugees, terrorism, genocide, so it’s a little bit of a downer some days. I think the historical context and remembering the progress that’s been made, right? So I think the historical context—you know, for my students, when I talk about Bosnia and Kosovo, which I think were recent, they have no idea. But if you—if you talk about what happened in the Second World War and where we are today, it does give a sense—we’ve overcome a lot of really difficult challenges. It does not mean that the future is rosy, it does not mean that things are clear and easy, but rather putting your shoulder to the wheel and pushing hard is the way we’ve gotten through these difficult things in the—in the past and we have gotten through them.
Secondly, if you look at poverty alleviation numbers, they’re actually, despite the fact that it is still a significant issue and unfortunate that anyone in the world is in a state of poverty, they are actually really positive, right? And what that means is progress has been made. We have a ton more progress to be made. But I do think if we have that historical progress and we—and we claim the wins where they have been made, we’re able to show students that, one, progress can be made and, two, it can only be made through a lot of really smart, good, hardworking people doing it together. And their—that’s their job going forward.
CALDWELL: I’d add to that that, along with Nicole, I sort of have to look at things as the glass half full. I have to be optimistic and have hope really on faith. But when I look back on some past things in my lifetime, I never thought that the Soviet Union was disintegrate as well as communism disappear in Eastern Europe. I never thought that someone who spent twenty-seven years in prison in South Africa would become the first black president of South Africa, that a poet in Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel, would become president of the Czech Republic, or indeed that I would see the election of an African American as president of the United States.
So the unexpected gives me some hope that I can convey to students. But I adopt that approach almost on faith, because if you go the other direction and look at the trends that you accurately described, Elinor, it’s so depressing that, you know, we might just adopt adage “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die.” (Laughter.) And so I choose to be hopeful and optimistic, even though so many of the trends that we all study and teach about are pessimistic and depressing. But that’s a—it’s a really tough question to deal with I think.
SEDACA: But just this—sorry—but just this week, I’ll say, you know, we have in Algeria and in Sudan two leaders who, for forty years, have been in power, are stepping down. Now, are we out of the woods? Absolutely not. Do we have really hard things coming ahead? But there are signs of hope and progress that are living in tandem again, in tension, but in tandem with all of the huge, huge challenges that our students will inherit.
I’m sorry, Michael.
NOJEIM: I was just going to say that I try to—I mean, I use the prisoner of hope metaphor myself. I’m an inmate to hope. (Laughter.) And I try to—I try to have a lecture or a presentation where we have an on the one hand, on the other hand thing where we talk about these negative trends. But I try to point out positive trends, too, and a lot of those positive trends on climate change are not happening at the state level, you know, they’re happening at the NGO level, they’re happening at the local level, they’re happening at the—at the—even at the international corporate level, you know? And I think those positive trends can help balance the gloom and doom that they’re getting from the media and from some of the readings that I assign them. (Laughter.)
But yeah—no, it’s the prisoner of hope metaphor that I lead with and I end with, too.
SEDACA: I like that.
MCALLISTER: I think, too, there’s some fascinating trends and opportunities available in contemporary world politics for action. Right? We’re seeing all these new courts and laws and these things are all there and they’re abstract and kind of idealistic, but they’re there and they’re there for the taking and I think motivating or pointing those trends out and talking to students about pioneers who figured out some legal loophole to hold different corporations accountable for egregious human rights violations abroad, like, it takes creativity and engagement and learning about the world so that you can go out there and change it.
CALDWELL: Yes, sir.
Q: Dr. Khan from the University of Delaware.
I have noticed a very peculiar change in the last two or three years in students, reflected on my student evaluations. (Laughter.) It is this, that just like people now watch media not for news, but affirmation of their political views, students are beginning to do the same thing. So I attract a lot of very liberal students because of the politics that I engage in who are then very amused that I believe in God and pray and there is stuff out there in the public sphere about my religious activities and that attracts very conservative students because they have a professor who is willing to talk about God and then they are horrified with my politics. (Laughter.)
So you have this extremely polarized constituency in the class, so there are no martyrs in my class anymore. The classes are packed, we have to book very early, they fill up the fastest. But I have extremely left, activist students who want to go out and change the world and I have some very conservative people who just can’t stand one word critical of Donald Trump, and then we are off the track and running.
So my question to you all is, do you feel that can professors be neutral anymore? Or should we take a stand? I think that in the secular world, the universities are the new temples of our society, we are the guardians or morality and ethics and how can we be neutral to these issues?
CALDWELL: Who wants to take that one on? (Laughter.)
NOJEIM: Well, I’ve already—I’ve already shared my own—I don’t think—you have to be careful about it. In my case, I let them know. I think it’s—I think it’s important to be careful how you—how you—how you present that. But I think transparent—I believe in transparency. I believe in openness. And I believe in letting them know how a certain way I feel is. But it has to be grounded, it has to be evidence-based. It can’t just be how I feel, it has to be based on this evidence. But then I have to have a counterpoint, so I’ll bring in a reading, I’ll bring in a guest speaker. But I’m sorry, there are some things that don’t deserve a counterpoint and that there are good people on both sides does not deserve a counterpoint. You know, I’m not going there with it. That’s, again, where I’m going to use my academic freedom to push what I think is a universal truth.
SEDACA: I would—excellent—I would love to pick up on that. I think absolutely there are many things which are not open to debate. But teaching our students that there are things that are not open to debate and that there are things that are open to debate is where we have a huge role to play. And I don’t—and I think our students put more things in that basked than deserve to be there.
Now, I think we don’t debate whether all people are human and people should be respected of any color of any—like, that is undebatable. But I don’t think immigration policy is in that basket, for example. I think people can say we should have tighter borders or we can have more open borders. Now, I’m not saying the extremes, but I’m saying, when our students believe that there are things that have a legitimate policy spectrum are treated the same way as, like, someone who’d want to debate white supremacy, like, that, to me, is not debatable—but there are things which are debatable.
But our students are putting too many things in that basket of, well, that’s not debatable because it’s my opinion and I can’t sit at the table with an Obama or Trump supporter. We have to challenge our students to distinguish between those un-debatables and those things which we really wish everyone wouldn’t debate, but they are debatable and to put them in a situation where they are either challenged to debate it or they’re challenged to take the other position.
I put my students—they have to debate, they have to debate whether you get rid of the refugee convention or you keep it and I always put them on the side that they don’t want to be on. But they have to make their argument and they have to make the counterargument.
And one of the most crucial things I think that educators can do right now is to differentiate between the important point that Michael says, which is there are non-debatables and we’ve got to call them out and there are very debatables and we’ve got to be willing to be in that space. So I would say that as educators being neutral is not the goal, fostering respectful, diverse debate in which you say I have a very strong opinion, I’m not going to bring it out here, but I’m going to foster a classroom and I’m going to push on you and I’m going to push on you, what’s the counterpoint to you argument—not that you have to change, but can you accept that there is a diversity of views and that in a democracy it’s important that we have a diversity of views on many of these issues?
I think one of the greatest challenges is that our students don’t differentiate between legitimate policy diversity and those things which are nondebatable.
CALDWELL: I’d just add one brief thing and that is that I think I’ve found in my long teaching career that the more open I am to presenting who I am as a person and my own personal beliefs, the more effective a teacher I am. When I started out, I tried to just be sort of objective and hold students off from knowing about my own personal beliefs, perspectives, and so on—at arm’s length—but over time, I’ve become more open and I think a more effective teacher as a result.
SEDACA: I would add to that. When I say that I’m a person of faith, when I say what my political views are and then let’s engage in this, it is the strongest argument, I think, for, how can you engage people from very different backgrounds as opposed to something that closes that down?
CALDWELL: It’s riskier, but I think it’s more effective.
Yes, sir, you’ve been very patient here.
Q: (Off mic.) I’m from Phoenix College in Phoenix, Arizona.
My concern is probably something more basic and fundamental. There’s been a—there’s a diversity in terms of introductory students in terms of their level of knowledge and their level of interests. Quite surprisingly, I don’t know if my colleagues have discovered this, in the past twenty years of ten years, Fox News has been such a pervasive source material for probably—for, I don’t know, for an average American. How do you deal with that?
And then more fundamentally, I’ve been teaching for more than thirty years now, is there has been a decline in our literacy or reading culture. A lot of our materials are so video-dependent. And I would even argue with textbook salespeople telling me, oh, you should adopt this textbook because these are things that are online. And I’m saying, well, I’m trying to teach my students and have them to have the habit of reading.
So those two fundamental things, how do you deal with that in the classroom before we could go to the Council on Foreign Relations materials that are indeed lofty and useful? (Laughter.)
CALDWELL: Who wants—who wants to take that on?
MCALLISTER: One way I’ve tried to deal with it is ask them why all the time, you know, because if they’ve just read the first paragraph of a New York Times article or a blurb on Fox News, they oftentimes can’t explain, they’re just, like, this is. And then when you start probing them to get at the assumptions they’re making, they don’t have that ability to kind of fill in the blanks, they’re kind of stuck. And then I let them call on a classmate to help them out and then the whole class gets stuck. And then they go read more is one way I’ve tried to do it.
But that and giving different students different materials. So, like, podcasts, it—like, different students respond or engage to different things and, like, having the policymakers come in through the calls or having them have a podcast or on my syllabi I provide a list of sources that they can check or a blast, so like the CFR blasts, so at least they can, I don’t know, try to introduce them to things they didn’t even know exist.
And interestingly, when you—when I found I’ve done this at the start of the semester, over the course of the semester, students will find all sorts of new stuff that I’ve never even heard about that’s excellent. And when they really get into it, then they start kind of looking beyond. And I think that’s really important.
SEDACA: The thing that I’ve found—I don’t—I teach only graduate students, so it’s a little bit older demographic, but similar problems, unfortunately. The thing which I have found effective is to force students to always name the tradeoff of the position that they own, right? So if you say, well, the United States should never do this, I say, OK, great, that’s your position, tell me what the tradeoff is, like, who loses in that scenario? And can you own what that tradeoff is, right? So I have students who say never use force. And I’m, like, great, OK, so do you believe that if there’s a case of genocide and a country could stop it, do you just own that that is what—and for them to move past that, again that bumper sticker of I feel so strongly about this to I own the tradeoffs because every policy has tradeoffs, forces them to actually just think about the implications of the position they’re taking. It’s super uncomfortable, it’s super difficult, but I think it pushes them past easy, what they consider to be easy and really rock-solid positions into the really grey and human area of the impact of what they’re saying.
CALDWELL: Unfortunately we’re running out of time, but I want to make a couple of closing observations. One, one of my favorite quotations is from Diogenes, which is more than two millennia years old, and Diogenes wrote “the foundation of a state is the education of its youth.” And all of us are involved with that. I appreciate what each of you does at your respective institutions
And I wanted to close with a couple of thanks. One is the people who make all of these Council materials possible. And so if Carrie (sp), Irina Faskianos, and Maria Casa, and their staffs would stand up to let us thank you for your efforts. (Applause.)
And I wanted to thank each of you for coming to this, for posing some excellent questions for us to think about.
And lastly, let me thank our panelists for a very stimulating discussion. So thank you. (Applause.)