Top concern for students: nuclear proliferation

The proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons was the top concern of American high school students who participated recently in Brown University's Capitol Forum.

The daylong program gathers a selection of students in their state capitols to discuss US foreign policy. It culminates with a meeting between the students and state and federal elected officials.

Once the delegates go back to school, they share what they've learned, and their class takes a survey on America's role in the world and the students' concerns for the global community. This year, 2,225 students participated in the survey.

Weapons of mass destruction were the priority issue for 51 percent of the students. The global environment came in second (34 percent). A terrorist attack on the US was identified by 33 percent of the students as a concern.

Susan Graseck, director of Brown's Choices for the 21st Century Education Program, which oversees the Capitol Forum, says that this year "a lot of the issues are similar, but the way we talk about them is different.... You didn't have to persuade anyone that this matters." She notes that nuclear proliferation has always been near the top of students' lists.

The vast majority of students, 77 percent, agree that international cooperation is important. But about half (49 percent) agreed with the statement, "The US should impose trade sanctions on countries that threaten their neighbors with aggression or contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, even if such sanctions harm US trade relations."

The students showed strong interest in domestic issues as well. The statement, "Our resources should be focused on addressing problems at home, such as poverty, crime, and budget deficits," drew support from 76 percent. And 49 percent said the US should crack down on illegal immigration and reduce legal immigration, even if it fuels anti-American sentiments abroad.

A summary of the survey results can be found at

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