Learning about Foreign Affairs from my student

The peace plan brokered between Russia and The Republic of Georgia with the help of France's Sarkozy still seems about as stable as York's email server as of late. Reports of Russian and Georgian soldiers sharing cigarettes with each other one minute and pointing AK-47's the next suggest this conflict may not end immediately. These events remind me of what the Christmas Truce of World War I demonstrate about the internal conflict troops face. I don't claim to know what it's like to be a soldier in a war zone, but from what I've gathered, most soldiers who experience fire don't relish the experience. As realistic as the violence in Call of Duty or Rambo may be, I don't think such entertainment media conveys the horror of warfare. Which is why, when given the choice, soldiers on opposite sides of the front are able to find common ground, which is more elusive at the negotiating table among diplomats and generals. When I read a couple weeks ago about the crisis in Georgia, I wasn't particularly surprised. Not because I'm in the habbit of staying on top of former Soviet conflicts. I do try to stay current in world affairs, but the only reason I knew about this potential crisis is because I read the essays my students write. Last spring, in my senior English class, Morgan Paull, who is preparing to head off to Harvard, interviewed a York alumnus, Irakli Chikovani '97 and wrote a compelling profile. After York, Chikovani (an AFS student from The Republic of Georgia) studied foreign relations and now works for his government as a representative for the United Nations. Morgan's piece, written last Spring, was remarkably prophetic:

Since arriving in New York, Chikovani has been working hard in the face of what could only be called daunting challenges for his country. Faced with two internal regions attempting to secede, and striving for EU and NATO membership, Chikovani and his associates have had their work cut out for them.

The difficulties of achieving these goals are sharpened by Russia's strong resistance to any attempts by former Soviet Union nations to join NATO or the EU, although prospects may have brightened for Chikovani and Georgia when President Bush declared in early April that he would stand beside his support for Georgia and Ukraine's NATO membership regardless of Russia's complaints.

How many high school teachers get to read material of such insight when grading essays?


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