1998-1999 indexDistributed June 9, 1999
Voices of democracy
High school students cite weapons, environment as top world concerns
After studying international relations in a civic education program developed at Brown, high school students say their top international concerns are the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and damage to the global environment.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- High school students who explored America's role in international relations say their top concerns are the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and damage to the global environment.
Students from 39 high schools in Connecticut and Nebraska were polled as part of their participation in the Capitol Forum on America's Future, an education program developed by Brown University's Choices for the 21st Century Education Project.
The survey results are based on 884 returned ballots completed by students, from freshmen to seniors, in social studies classrooms in April, most within two weeks of the start of the NATO bombing of Serbia. Students were asked to choose their three top concerns from a list of 12. Their top four concerns:
Students expressed a strong belief that the United States should work cooperatively with the international community (81 percent) and that the United States should lead international military missions to stop gross human rights violations (55 percent).
The respondents recommended trade sanctions against countries that threaten their neighbors with aggression or contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons (58 percent). Most (61 percent) supported strict international standards to address global warming and other environmental threats.
As part of the program, 156 student representatives and their teachers met at their state capitols in Hartford and Lincoln on March 26 to debate these issues. Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska fielded questions during a videoconference. The students returned to their schools to lead more than 1,000 classmates in discussion.
"The primary purpose of this program is education. It's to get kids engaged and thinking on these issues,'' said Susan Graseck, director of the Choices for the 21st Century Education Project.
"One teacher calls it `a laboratory for democracy,' " said Graseck, who notes that the Capitol Forum is one way to help reverse low voter turnout among young people.
This is the second year of participation in the Capitol Forum by Connecticut and the first for Nebraska. Next year, Illinois and Rhode Island will be added. Sponsors include the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, the Nebraska Humanities Council, the Illinois Humanities Council, the World Affairs Council of Rhode Island, and the secretaries of state in each state.
The Capitol Forum on America's Future is a program of the Choices for the 21st Century Education at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. Choices is an educational program that seeks to engage students and adults in consideration of international issues and strengthen the quality of civic life in the United States. Choices curricular materials are used in more than 4,500 schools nationwide.
For the complete ballot results or more information, visit the Choices web page or call Graseck at (401) 863-3155.######