2015-16 Critical Issues Forum Project Starts with Online Teachers’ Workshop
by Masako Toki
The 2015-16 Critical Issues Forum (CIF) kicked off with an online teachers’ workshop, held during the first and second week of December, the final month of the seventieth anniversary year of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As a flagship education project of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), CIF is a unique nonproliferation and disarmament education project for high school teachers and students around the world to promote awareness of the importance of these issues. Ensuring disarmament and nonproliferation education for next generations has become increasingly important; the average age of atomic bomb survivors is now over eighty, and these hibakusha are vital for passing on the memory of the effects of the use of nuclear weapons.
This year’s topic “Global Nuclear Vulnerability: Lessons for a More Secure and Peaceful World,” encourages CIF participants to examine and investigate nuclear “close calls,” human and technical mistakes that nearly led to the accidental or mistaken use of nuclear weapons. Students will explore the current status of nuclear arsenals and how international nonproliferation and disarmament regimes are preventing nuclear weapons from being used. Students will also assess the degree to which the current nonproliferation and disarmament regime is effectively working and contributing to making a safer world. Moreover, students will examine how the recent international environment, such as the deteriorating US-Russia relationship, could increase the risk of the use of nuclear weapons.
Students will need to investigate whether there are any ways to prevent the future use of nuclear weapons, and explore possible pathways toward the goal of total elimination of these weapons. Although some may strongly believe that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only solution, students will also need to study if there are practical ways to prevent the use of nuclear weapons while they still exist.
Teachers from Japan, Russia’s closed nuclear cities, and US schools around the country participated in the online workshop. Participants engaged both synchronously with the online workshops and asynchronously, at a later, more convenient for them, given time differences. All workshop sessions were recorded and remain available on the CIF website for asynchronous viewing.
CNS deputy director Ms. Elena Sokova gave welcoming remarks, congratulating the CIF teachers for their important work in disarmament and nonproliferation education for the next generations. She also highlighted the successful spring conference that was held in Hiroshima in April 2015 that commemorated the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings.
She emphasized the importance of remembering horrendous human effects of the use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She delineated the current alarming world nuclear weapons situation and the need for this type of disarmament and nonproliferation education in order to improve the security environment, highlighting the importance of raising awareness among the future leaders, the danger of nuclear weapons, and nuclear vulnerability.
In her remarks, she quoted former US Defense Secretary William Perry’s new book, “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” which is directly relevant to this year’s topic. In his book, Dr. Perry introduced six pivotal experiences in his life and lessons about nuclear weapons that he drew from those experiences. And these lessons all contribute to reducing nuclear dangers—also one of the goals of this year’s CIF project.
This year’s teachers’ workshop lectures covered a wide range of topics related to global nuclear vulnerability. Dr. Benoit Pelopidas, a distinguished nonproliferation scholar, provided an introductory lecture to this year’s topic. In a separate lecture, Dr. Pelopidas discussed the case studies of close calls of nuclear weapons, highlighting in particular the Cuban Missile Crisis. In his final lecture, he examined implications of past and present nuclear weapons policies and practices, emphasizing the importance of future leaders, especially high school students, to study this topic in order to understand the nuclear danger and consider how to reduce the nuclear risk.
Other lectures covered global nonproliferation regimes, the current world status of nuclear weapons, the basics of nuclear weapons, the 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), nuclear disarmament initiatives, and scientific perspectives of nuclear weapons.
Dr. Nikolai Sokov, CNS senior fellow and leading expert of Russian nuclear policy, discussed US-Russia arms control and nuclear policies to help CIF participants better understand the recent heightened tensions between the two countries and its impact on international nuclear nonproliferation regimes.
Dr. Jeffrey Knopf, chair of the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program at MIIS, presented an overview of the current nuclear situation and challenges to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. He also highlighted modern nonproliferation concerns and some causes of possible use of nuclear weapons.
Ms. Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, director of CNS’s International Organization and Nonproliferation Program (IONP), articulated what happened at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, and shared her analysis on the causes of the failure of the Review Conference and uncertainty of the future of disarmament efforts.
Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, scientist-in-residence at CNS, explained how nuclear weapons work, breaking down the basic physics behind nuclear science. He also gave a lecture on the impact of the use of nuclear weapons from scientific perspectives.
Mr. Joe Brazda, an IONP research associate, explained international nonproliferation regimes and the role of international organizations.
For the complete lecture video and presentations, visit the CIF website’s teachers’ workshop page: http://sites.miis.edu/criticalissuesforum/2015/12/01/2015-2016-teachers-workshop-lectures/
After teachers have studied these topics using the online materials, they will work with their students at their own schools towards the Spring Conference that will be held at Santa Catalina School in Monterey, California, in April. This year, we expect to have several Japanese high schools from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, and Osaka, several US high schools from around the country, as well as schools from Russia’s closed nuclear cities.
CNS is grateful to the United States-Japan Foundation for their support of CIF.
For more information, please visit CIF website at http://sites.miis.edu/criticalissuesforum