Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Capitol Forum Brings Students' Opinions from Schoolhouse to State House

March 23, 2011

Rhode Island high school students will discuss global issues with US Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, US Rep. David Cicilline, Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, and other elected officials and civic leaders at the Rhode Island State House on Monday, March 28.

The Rhode Island event is part of the 13th annual Capitol Forum on America’s Future taking place in several states nationwide. The program was conceived by Brown University’s Choices for the 21st Century Education Program, an affiliate of the Watson Institute for International Studies based in the University’s Office of Continuing Studies.

As part of the Capitol Forum program, students study and discuss various positions on global issues — even advocating positions that are opposed to their own — to better understand policy options and their consequences.

Run on a statewide basis, the forum seeks to raise awareness of critical international issues and to help develop a foundation for long-term civic engagement. Students debate the US role in such foreign policy matters as democracy-building, the international economy, military intervention, disaster prevention and recovery, and the environment.

“On Capitol Forum Day, student representatives of each of the participating high schools come together to deliberate on important global issues with each other, political leaders, and policy experts,” said Christopher Walsh, co-coordinator of the Rhode Island Capitol Forum. “As the world grows more interdependent and the problems more complex, Capitol Forum has proven to be an exciting and important learning program for high school students in Rhode Island.”

Additional Rhode Island panelists include Brown University Doctoral Candidate Hussein Banai, US Naval War College Associated Professor Heidi Lane, and Plan USA President Tessie San Martin.

Some 55 students and 15 teachers from Rhode Island high schools will participate, representing East Greenwich, Lincoln, Middlebridge, Providence Academy of International Studies, Scituate, South Kingstown, Toll Gate, and Westerly.

The Choices Program is an educational outreach program of Brown University. Through its curricular resources, professional development programs, and special projects, Choices reaches high school students and teachers in more than one-third of American high schools.