In yesterday’s post, I used the phrase “track II diplomacy” when I was reporting an interview with Dr. Peter Agre, the new president of the AAAS. It turns out that Dr. Agre agrees with a group of American scientists who wish to talk with North Korean scientists, in a sort of “informal diplomacy,” discussion, and perhaps future collaboration.
In this form of communication, “non-officials” (educators, teachers, musicians, scientists) enter into discussion and talks, or simply a sharing of expertise. A good example track II diplomacy is the New York Philharmonic Orchestra playing in Seoul in February, 2008.
In 1983, I was part of a group of educators and psychologists that traveled “unofficially” to the Soviet Union as members of the AHP Soviet Exchange Project. It was my introduction to “track II diplomacy,” and the leader of this group, who became one of my inspirational teachers, was Fran Macy, at the time the Director of the Association for Humanistic Psychology. Fran Macy, who passed away on January 20, 2009, was a Russian scholar, and environmental activist working on energy and nuclear issues.
Without official invitation, Macy’s team sought ways to establish ties to prestigious institutes, universities, and schools in the Soviet Union. With each new encounter was the hope that this might lead to more lasting, satisfying, and in-depth relationships. The early visits set the stage for more organized and official relationships with Soviet colleagues and institutions. Strong ties were developed with colleagues in Moscow, Leningrad, and Tbilisi, and more recently in Tallinn, Vilnius, and Kiev. Two areas of collaboration with Soviets have emerged over the years: psychotherapy and humanistic education. AHP psychotherapists have worked with groups in six cities, demonstrating practice and discussing recent trends in humanistic psychology. The humanistic education focus has progressed through two offlcial agreements. In the most recent one, the AHP, Georgia State University, and the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences signed a three-year agreement in which American and Soviet scholars and teachers would work together through a series of exchanges, writing conferences, and field testing to develop teaching materials focusing on global thinking. From this emerged the Global Thinking Project, a direct result of this track II diplomacy project.
One of the key instruments used in our work in this track II diplomacy project was simply listening to our Soviet and Russian colleagues. We did not try and force our thinking and ways on our colleagues, but sought ways to collaborate, discuss, demonstrate for each other, areas of mutual interest. For those of us in the realm of education, we brought together science teachers, researchers, and students in a series of visits to each other, and in so doing built trust amongst ourselves, which led to many interesting events, and projects.
Track II diplomacy and science teaching were linked together by means of a form of collaboration that was manifested in the Global Thinking Project which helped students learn to think globally. (see the journal publication, or the online version of our research).
In today’s world, track II diplomacy is needed throughout the world’s hotspots (North Korea and the Middle East), but the elements of track II diplomacy can be a virtue for the science teacher. Helping students learn to communicate not only with each other, but students in different cultures can be exhilarating, and meaningful.Tags: AAAS, Fran Macy, Georgia State University, global thinking, Global Thinking Project, New York Philharmonic, Peter Agre, Soviet Exchange Project, The AHP, Track II Diplomacy