Distributed June 6, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Janet Kerlin

High school students are worried about environment, weapons

High school students who participated in a civic education program developed at Brown say their top international concerns are damage to the global environment and the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — High school students who explored America’s role in international relations say their top concerns are damage to the global environment and the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Students from 64 high school social studies classes in Connecticut, Illinois, Nebraska and Rhode Island 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 1,542 returned ballots completed by freshmen through seniors in social studies classrooms between March 17 and April 10, 2000.

Students were asked to choose their three top concerns from a list of 12. Their top four concerns:

  • Damage to the global environment will become irreparable (54 percent);

  • Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons will proliferate (49 percent);

  • The United States will drain its resources trying to solve other countries’ problems

  • Increasing immigration will exacerbate strains in our society (31 percent).

Students expressed a strong belief that many serious problems can be addressed only through international cooperation (73 percent) and that the United States should not do business with countries that grossly abuse the human rights of their citizens (57 percent).

When asked what the United States should do, the respondents recommended that our country help negotiate strict international standards to address global warming and pollution, even if compliance increases the cost of cars, gasoline and other products (60 percent).

Students also said the United States should accept fewer immigrants and crack down on illegal immigration, even if this deprives the American workforce of the talent and ambitions of newcomers and fuels anti-American sentiment abroad (52 percent).

Students expressed these views at the end of their participation in the Capitol Forum on America’s Future, a program that engages high school students in discussion of our nation’s role in a changing international environment.

As part of the program, 300 student representatives and their teachers met at their state capitols in March and April to deliberate these issues with their peers and present their concerns to state and congressional officials.

This is the third year of the Capitol Forum. Next year, the program will expand to include Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin and other states.

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. Curricular materials developed by Choices are used in more than 4,500 schools nationwide.

Complete ballot results are available on the Web at www.choices.edu/capitolforum.html. For information, call Susan Graseck, director, at (401) 863-3155.