Growing numbers of American high school students have declared themselves ignorant. But they're not asking their teachers for help. They're ``storming'' the networks and demanding national time. Their goal: to persuade national TV to air an educational forum on the nuclear arms issue - one specifically aimed at a high school audience.
By gathering 500,000 signatures of high school students across the country by April 15, these students hope not only to raise peer awareness of the project, but also to demonstrate to the media that such a program would be worthwhile and necessary.
If they succeed, this ``National Forum'' would be aired some time next month. It would include a panel of four speakers, one of whom they hope will be Ronald Reagan, and a panel of four or five high schoolers to provide questions.
The National Forum idea is the product of a number of ``coincidences,'' says Dale Deletis, the Forum's faculty coordinator. A speech at Milton Academy here last year by well-known nuclear opponent Helen Caldicott left the student body unusually ``churned up,'' says Peter Kellner, the student responsible for initiating the petition drive.
``We hit upon the idea of a televised educational symposium,'' says Nancy Joyce, another student organizer, ``because it seemed the best way to accomplish our goal.''
``The world is so video-oriented today,'' says Mr. Kellner, ``that TV would be the best medium for getting young people aware of and involved in an issue that they're passionate about.'' But the students and teachers acknowledge that getting a network interested in producing such a show is only the start.
``We want it to be the beginning of a continuing search for answers,'' says Deletis.
``A bit of exposure in high school wouldn't do anything, but it should spark a desire to learn more about this issue, and their future role in it,'' says Michael Klare, professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass. Media coverage of nuclear arms issues is not reaching high school students, says Dan Mulholland, a professor at Tufts University who spoke at Milton's nuclear awareness week.
And much of the information given is confusing, says Professor Klare. A great deal of it, he says, ``stems from ideological debate and political struggles, the purpose of which is to confuse and cloud the issue, not to enlighten people.'' A Milton student expressed her own frustration: ``Most of us need a PhD to understand many of the books on nuclear arms ... we need someone to tell us the basics.''
The project has been endorsed by several political leaders, including former Presidents Carter and Ford.