Distributed February 22, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Janet Kerlin

Teen-agers take seats at state capitols in ‘laboratory for democracy’

High school students from Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina and Rhode Island will debate environment, immigration, trade and other U.S. foreign policy issues at their state capitols. The students are studying and debating these issues in classrooms as part of the Capitol Forum on America’s Future sponsored by Brown University.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — High school students from Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina and Rhode Island will debate international issues including conflict, trade and the environment when they visit their respective state capitols as part of the Capitol Forum on America’s Future.

The Capitol Forum educates young people about the controversial issues and hard choices in America’s future. It is coordinated nationally by the Choices for the 21st Century Education Project, a program of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

To prepare for their day at their respective state capitols, students are participating in classroom discussions on important issues facing the public and policy-makers, and will vote on their top concerns. During the forums in the capitols, students will have the opportunity to voice their concerns to state and congressional officials.

Last year, students said their top concern was irreparable damage to the global environment and said that the United States should help negotiate strict international standards to address global warming and other environmental threats, even if compliance forces Americans to pay more for cars, gasoline, and other products.

Students will participate in the Capitol Forum at their respective statehouses on these dates:

  • Illinois on March 9
    Contact Carole Cosimano, Illinois Humanities Council, (312) 422-5585.
  • Nebraska on March 12
    Contact Lisa Franklin, Nebraska Humanities Council, (402) 474-2131.
  • Massachusetts on March 23.
    Contact Rachelle Engler, Massachusetts Department of Education, (781) 338-3205.
  • North Carolina on March 23.
    Contact James Clark, Humanities Extension, N.C. State University, (919) 515-3451.
  • Connecticut on March 30.
    Contact Catharine Sturgess, League of Women Voters of Connecticut, (203) 288-7996.
  • Rhode Island on April 2.
    Contact Renee Worthington, Global Rhode Island, (401) 884-3342.

The Capitol Forum educates students about politics and their stake in the political process. Supporters hope the Capitol Forum will help to reverse declining voter turnout and apathy. Nationwide, fewer than one in five people age 18 to 24 voted in the 1998 mid-term election, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State.

“Young people need to find their voice in public policy. That’s what the Capitol Forum is all about,” said Susan Graseck, director of the Choices for the 21st Century Education Project. “And it really works. As one student put it after last year’s forum, ‘Before, I didn’t think I would even vote, but now I look at things in a totally different way.’ One teacher calls this a ‘laboratory for democracy.’”

The program is presented to high schools in cooperation with Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and the Connecticut League of Women Voters; Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and the Illinois Humanities Council; Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin and the Massachusetts Department of Education, Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale and the Nebraska Humanities Council; North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and the Humanities Extension at North Carolina State University, and Rhode Island Secretary of State Edward Inman and Global Rhode Island.

For additional information about the Choices for the 21st Century Project at Brown University, call Graseck at (401) 863-3155 or visit the Choices web page [www.choices.edu].