Ukraine is becoming a class lesson in Orange County

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Students stood in front of Mark Sprint’s class on global issues Orange High School in Hillsboro last week and discussed the merits of Ukraine’s accession Organization of the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO).

Divided into two groups, the students – one group of three and one of two – took turns presenting arguments that raised a number of questions that should be considered by all who are interested in the current crisis.

Is Ukraine’s accession to NATO a threat to Russia? Does Russia need a buffer country between it and the rest of NATO? Has NATO returned to its promise not to expand to the East?

And on the other hand: even if Ukraine was banned from joining NATO, would this conflict between it and Russia end? Shouldn’t Ukraine be admitted to NATO if it wants and fulfills all the requirements, like any other country? Isn’t Russia an aggressor?

Lucas Calvin, a 10th grader, argues why Ukraine should be allowed to join NATO. Alex Granados / EducationNC

Back and forth the student from each group stood up and argued for and against. And then after a short break to gather their thoughts, they stood up and refuted the arguments of the other team.

This debate last Friday was the culmination of a week-long study of Ukraine by a class of globalists. It’s all part of Sprintz’s efforts to make current events come alive for students who once look back on that moment as an important part of the story.

“I realized that with the conflict going on, I came up with a project that would allow students to interact with history, what led us to the conflict, and then come up with a practical project where they can share with everyone else what they learned.” he said.

He said that this situation, more than any historical events, significantly attracts students. He talked about how in an American history lesson he teaches about the First World War, and tries to tell how dramatic historical events can sometimes happen suddenly.

“The fact is that one day you’re not at war … and then because of things that are completely out of control, your cities will be in ruins,” he told students. “People in Ukraine, most of them, two and a half weeks ago just sat in their classes, lived their lives, and then, as you know, you have to make this decision: do you want to stay with your family – or when you’re young man or even an old man – stay and fight until the family leaves? “

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The class assignment on the situation in Ukraine included students creating an illustrated schedule that runs through the ancient history of Ukraine and Russia and continues to this day, a map that includes sanctions against Russia, and a list of counties that promised to help Ukraine.

Sprint even managed to get the guest speaker to come and discuss the conflict through Zoom: Graham Robertson, Director Center for Slavic, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies UNC-Chapel Hill. And then on Friday there was a debate.

Timothy Mitchell, a student who called for Ukraine to join NATO, said the debate was a chance to truly “delve” into world events and find out what is really happening through historical evidence, not on based on the things you see on TV ”.

Ethan Horton, a 12th grader, was one of the students who opposed Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO.

He said the process of making something happen in the world, turning it into a class project, and then engaging in research and debate to understand it, helps him and his classmates develop a better understanding of the world as well as new skills.

“It’s good for all of us that we can broaden our horizons and learn about these issues,” he said.

From left to right, Ethan Horton, Tristan Plummer and Shirel Maitra discuss their strategy in preparation for a debate on why Ukraine should not be allowed into NATO. Alex Granados / EducationNC

Shirel Maitra, a 12th grader, said she paid attention to what was going on in the news, but before this assignment she felt she had a very superficial perspective.

“I think it’s very easy to look at things from a U.S. perspective, and it’s harder to get out of it,” she said, adding later, “It’s really fun to look at it from both sides, even if you think you disagree with something. I think it really helped me … to substantiate my existing opinion. “

The premise of Sprintz’s assignment was that such work was necessary to understand what was going on. Geography, history, geopolitics – they all play a role in the current conflict.

And while the students researched, Sprint also tried to guide them to become good consumers of information. There is a caveat in the text of the class assignment: “When considering the reliability of information from websites, do not forget to consider the source. Dig a little into the springs and try to find out if they are biased in one direction or another. Be sure to read from several sources and find conflicting information.

But perhaps one of the most important lessons students can learn is the unpredictability of the world.

“It can happen anywhere and anytime. Unfortunately, this is just a world reality, ”Sprint said in a lesson on American history.

Ukraine is becoming a class lesson in Orange County

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