Distributed February 21, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Janet Kerlin

Students will go to state capitols for lively debates on U.S. policy

High school students from Illinois, Nebraska, Connecticut and Rhode Island will visit their state capitols this spring to debate environment, immigration, trade and other U.S. foreign policy issues. 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 Illinois, Nebraska, Connecticut 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 is a civic education program that confronts young people with controversial issues and hard choices about 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.

Students involved in the project will participate 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 report their concerns directly to state and congressional officials.

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

  • Illinois on March 17. Contact Angelee Johns, lead teacher, (708) 456-0300.

  • Nebraska on March 20. Contact Lisa Johnston, Nebraska Humanities Council, (402) 474-2131.

  • Connecticut on March 31. Contact Mary Dean, League of Women Voters, (203) 288-7996.

  • Rhode Island on April 10. Contact Renee Worthington, World Affairs Council of Rhode Island, (401) 751-5942.

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 bothered to vote in the 1998 mid-term election, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State.

“This program is all about giving young people a reason to be engaged in public policy and the tools to enter the conversation,” said Susan Graseck, director of the Choices for the 21st Century Education Project. “And it works. As one student put it after last year’s forum, ‘I’m much more likely to stay involved because I feel as if I have a voice.’”

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; Nebraska Secretary of State Scott Moore and the Nebraska Humanities Council; and Rhode Island Secretary of State James Langevin and the World Affairs Council of 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].