Monday, 30 November 2015


Here's an introduction to Mondokio:

Meet our International Relations Committee


Become a Mondokio:

To speak freely, or not to speak freely?

In America, we live in a country where freedom of speech is a tenet upon which our country was founded. The right to think and express ourselves is in many ways what Americas have used to distinguish themselves from other nations.

How important is it to think and express ourselves freely? Is it an absolute right, or are there situations in which an authority should be able to limit your ability to express yourself?

Spain is wrestling with this debate after the national government implemented the Citizen’s Security Law this summer. The law places tight restrictions on protests near Spanish government buildings, increases the police’s ability to break up peaceful protests, and even places limits on what can be placed on social media – all punishable by heavy fines. Critics call this a “gag law,” meant to punish legitimate criticism of the government. In April, a group called No Somos Delito (We Are Not a Crime) staged a unique protest in Madrid. Thousands of people ‘marched’ in front of Parliament, but not in person – they were all part of a hologram. More than 2,000 people participated in this first-of-its-kind virtual demonstration by simply sending a picture of their face to be included in the hologram. This one-of-a-kind protest has brought international attention to a very serious debate about the limits of free speech that resonates not just in Spain, but in societies all over the globe.

In the United States this topic certainly hits home. The news is filled with stories about limiting freedoms of speech for the sake of national security, or curbing protests, rallies, or music that a majority of people find objectionable or hateful. (Can you think of some examples?)

But this topic might directly affect you personally – as a high school student – more than you think. Can you really think and communicate whatever you want, however you want? If you were to exercise this freedom, how would your peers react? How would your teachers react?

When we click on the picture below, we are going to see some different perspectives on this topic from news sources all over the world. Just like students our classroom, these news sources might have different opinions on the same topic.

Select a side and begin to create an argument -- Are you arguing for freedom of speech or for restrictions on freedom of speech? (Keep in mind you might not necessarily be arguing for something you personally believe in!)


1) Find evidence from these news sources to support your argument. In most cases, one sentence will suffice.

2) In addition to this evidence, come up with your own example to support your argument.

3) Now, using these two pieces of evidence, use your communication skills to persuade us that you are right. Find your voice and SPEAK OUT!


Syrian Refugees: Is Europe Responsible for Providing Asylum?

What would it take for you to leave your home with nothing but the clothes on your back? Can you imagine a situation so unfortunate that you would choose to leave not just your city, but also your country? This is the choice that more than 17 million people – refugees – have to face all around the world today. In the United States this issue is somewhat familiar. Many people from Central America and Mexico cross into the country without documentation, seeking refuge from violence and poverty at home. While this is a big deal to many Americans, the most important refugee situation today is on the other side of the world, in the Middle East. Because of a brutal civil war that started in 2011, it is estimated that there are now more than 4 million refugees from the country of Syria alone. Around 95% of Syrian refugees have been taken in by neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. But this mass migration has strained Middle Eastern societies and life is not good for refugees in these nations. Furthermore, a number of wealthy countries in the region – the so-called Gulf states - have not taken in a single refugee, so many refugees have set their sights even further from home, on Europe. The European Union (EU) – a group of 28 wealthy countries – is an attractive destination because it has a strong economy and people can easily travel between countries. Many refugees try to enter a southern EU country like Greece or Italy, and then move north to Germany in the hope of finding a job. Tragically, many refugees do not even reach the shores of Europe, falling victim to smugglers – criminals who charge huge fees to transport people. Thousands of refugees have died in the past year in the Mediterranean Sea, packed into unsafe and overcrowded boats by smugglers who care little for the safety of their passengers. As this deadly migration makes headlines around the world, pressure is building for Europe to take action – first, to rescue people in the Mediterranean, and second, to offer to take in more refugees, so they will be less likely to risk their lives to get to Europe illegally. Many Europeans argue, however, that it is not Europe’s responsibility to take in these refugees, and that some of Syria’s neighbors should do more. People in stable, wealthy countries around the world face a question of how to respond to people seeking asylum. Today, Europe faces this question most urgently. Is it Europe’s responsibility to welcome refugees into its society? Or should Europe be skeptical about taking in large groups of people with different cultures and customs?

Negotiating With The Taliban

What is the value of a life? Can one life actually be as valuable as multiple others? Take this into account and imagine you are a world leader. What would you trade to save one of your citizens who is in danger? U.S. President Barack Obama faced this question this past May, in the case of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was captured by militants aligned with the Taliban while serving in Afghanistan, in June of 2009. The circumstances of his capture are a subject of heated debate, but most agree that he either walked away from his base or was ambushed and taken while on duty at night. Shortly after his capture, the Taliban released a video featuring Bergdahl, and the Pentagon officially classified him as “missing/captured.” During his five years as the U.S.’s only prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Bergdahl was sometimes tortured, and once held in a cage for weeks after he attempted to escape. Throughout his captivity, the Taliban released a number of videos showing a bearded and physically deteriorating Bergdahl. The U.S. mounted a number of significant, yet failed, rescue attempts, and Bergdahl was the subject of ransom demands for both money and the release of detained Taliban fighters. His captivity finally ended when on May 31, 2014, a deal was struck and Bergdahl was released in a prisoner swap, which sent five detainees from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the custody of a mediator nation, Qatar. There the five Taliban-affiliated men will be in the custody of, and monitored by, Qatari officials for at least one year, while Bergdahl eventually returned to San Antonio, Texas after two weeks of medical treatment in Germany. The prisoner-swap agreement crafted by the Obama Administration to secure Bergdahl’s release has remained a hot topic of debate throughout the summer, with legal investigations ongoing. So what would you do in President Obama’s situation? Would you negotiate with the Afghan Taliban to bring an American home?

German Eavesdropping on U.S. Leaders

Most friendships are built on mutual respect and trust. This usually means being open and honest, but also respecting each other’s right to privacy and to keep certain matters to themselves. Is there any situation that would make it right to snoop on a close friend’s private life? This scenario is playing out on a global scale between some of the most prominent world leaders, as revelations of spying between friendly nations have come to light. Attention has been specially focused on the continuing drama between the United States and one of its most important allies: Germany. The tension began a few months after American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents just before fleeing the country in the summer of 2013. That October it came to light within those documents that the U.S. monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal mobile phone. Although the White House officially denied spying on Chancellor Merkel, the incident sparked anger and suspicion not only in Germany, but among other European allies worried about surveillance as well. Distrust can now flow both ways, however, after an investigation claimed this week that Germany conducted surveillance of its own. The largest revelation alleged that Germany conducts systematic espionage on Turkey, a mutual ally of both Germany and the U.S., but it also pinpointed incidents of eavesdropping on former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and current Secretary of State John Kerry. The incidents involving Clinton and Kerry are apparently unintentional and isolated events, but that does not stop the U.S. from accusing Germany of hypocrisy. All told, what was once a guarded secret is now all out in the open: the U.S. and Germany spy on allies, including each other. But is this beneficial, providing both nations with important intelligence for their own national security, as some argue, or is spying counterproductive, critically undermining mutual trust and cooperation? It is no secret that rival nations aggressively spy on one another, but what happens when we find out that two allies do so as well? Is it justifiable for two friendly nations to spy on one another, or should allies trust each other and let leaders maintain their privacy?

Attack on teen consumes Pakistan

Have you ever been attacked for standing up for your right to go to school? In the U.S. – at least after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s – this idea has become virtually extinct. But there are other parts of the world which are going through a similar struggle right now. One such place is a region of Pakistan called the Swat Valley. Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl from Pakistan, was shot twice on her way home from school by the Taliban -- a militant movement that is widely classified as a terrorist group. She survived and is now recovering. Ms. Yousufzai has been standing up for education and women's rights since she was 11. She even wrote for the BBC about her life under the Taliban regime and their attempts to take over in Pakistan. She was also awarded the Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize. After the attack, a Taliban spokesperson claimed, "This [her outspokenness] was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter." In other words, should she return to school, she will remain a target. Here is how we will begin to discuss this particular topic: The willingness to take the life of someone who has convictions that differ from your own is to abandon faith in the communication process. The act is particularly despicable given the target was a 14-year-old child. But we can’t let this cloud our ability to first understand the attacker's perspective. It is only when the motivation behind this act is properly understood that it can be universally condemned. So what were the Taliban's motivations? The Taliban believe that children should only receive an “Islamic education,” rather than instruction in math, science and other subjects. They believe girls should only be educated up to the age of 8, in order to "secure environments where the chasteness and dignity of women may once again be sacrosanct". However, another spokesperson for the Taliban stated that, "If anyone belives we had chosen Malala as a topic of education as a goal, they are mistaken. She was chosen because she plays a pioneering role in the spread of secularism, and the so-called enlightened moderation.” The attack, and its justifications, have been universally condemned in the world press. Consider the perspectives from all over the world. What do you believe is the strongest argument for condemnation? that could create a worldwide consensus leading to unified action against the Taliban?