What is the CIF?

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey began its educational outreach effort in response to a question from a local high school student. In the summer of 1997, Dr. William Potter, Director of CNS, spoke of issues surrounding the spread of weapons of mass destruction to a community organization in Monterey. After his presentation, the high school student asked Dr. Potter why information like this was never taught in high schools — in fact, the student said that until that moment, she had never heard of the subject of nuclear nonproliferation.

To meet the need evident in the student’s remark, CNS initiated the Critical Issues Forum (CIF) in 1998 in partnership with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Science and Technology Education Program. The objective of the program is to provide curricula and instructional materials on weapons of mass destruction nonproliferation to secondary schools.

Each annual Critical Issues Forum project typically includes three key elements:

  • a Summer Workshop in which a core group of experienced CIF teachers gather in Monterey to develop the curriculum that will be presented to students,
  • a Winter Workshop where the core CIF teachers and CNS personnel introduce the CIF curriculum to all participating teachers, and
  • a student-teacher conference to learn of student work in other schools.

The CNS program modeled its activities on a previous nonproliferation-education initiative developed in 1996 by the Science Education Team (SET) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 1997-98, the Science and Technology Education Program (STEP) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory began to collaborate on nonproliferation education projects.

In the fall of 1997, STEP sponsored three Bay Area high schools, one of which went on to attend the student conference on Terrorism in the Nuclear World held in May 1998 in Los Alamos. In 1998-99, CNS joined the CIF program by providing lectures at the Summer Workshop in Los Alamos and sponsoring a Winter Workshop in Monterey. In 1999-2000, CNS became the program leader while continuing to cooperate with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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This year’s CIF Program is sponsored by the US-Japan Foundation. CIF has been supported in the past by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ford Foundation and hosted at The Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.