One cause of the declining interest in conventional politics is a decline in civic education programs in schools. Even where civics courses are offered, they are often focused so strongly on the conventional aspects of government and citizen engagement that students find little room to explore and give voice to more personalized values and concerns. The Seattle Student Voices project was launched in 2001 by the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement with sponsorship from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, The Annenberg Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
In that year we conducted extensive evaluations of the program goals. Similar to the results of program evaluations in other cities, these findings speak to the robust effectiveness of the curriculum in achieving its stated goals. As indicated in the analyses reported below, the most important features of the curriculum were the direct participation aspects, including classroom visits by candidates and campaign staff, click polls on issues posted on the project web site, and various in-class discussions and deliberations on local issues and the election.
Student Voices is now a free-standing program that continues to capture the momentum of change in modern citizenship and enables Seattle-area students to find their voices and realize their responsibilities in the public sphere. In this process, students are encouraged to define and develop their own distinctive political standpoints on issues affecting their communities and social networks.
Participants survey their community on salient issues and engage in debates on these issues within their classrooms. As they develop their public voices, students research their chosen issues and create policy proposals that address their concerns. The resulting ideas and findings are then presented to community leaders. Meetings with politicians, government officials, and community leaders help bridge the gaps between government and young citizens. Many of these student-led forums appear as television programs and webcasts produced with the Seattle Channel.
By connecting students to their political community through digital communication technologies and direct contact with leaders, Student Voices helps young citizens develop confident public voices and more positive attitudes toward government.
Student Voices In the News
Seattle Student Voices Heard in City Council – Posted 5/17/05
Student Voices program gives teens the ear of people in power – Seattle PI, 3/26/04
Northgate SV students grab City Hall’s ear – Student Voices News, 1/16/04
Knocking Down Barriers to Civic Engagement – Seattle Times, 8/01/01
High-schoolers Grill Candidates – Seattle Times, 10/25/01
Mayoral Candidates Speak to Teens in Kane – The UW Daily, 10/25/01
A Civics Lesson From Mayoral Candidates – Seattle P-I, 11/05/01
Programs Aimed to Propel Youths Toward the Polls – Seattle Times, 11/05/01
Some Youthful Advice for Seattle’s New Mayor – Seattle Times, 11/12/01
These Kids are Warming Up Their Political Muscles– Seattle PI, 01/28/02
Project Gives Students Political Voice – Ruby de Luna, KUOW, 10/02/01
The Mayoral Debate – The Conversation with Ross Reynolds, KUOW, 10/25/01
Interview with Lance Bennett, Project Director – Anita Moffett, KYPT 94.1
Interview with Lance Bennett – Don Riggs, KMPS 94.1
Mayoral Forum – TVW, 10/25/01 (Mayoral Forum in its entirety)
Teen Mayoral Debate – Northwest Cable News, 10/28/01. (News Story)
Program Takes Mayors to High Schools – King 5 News, 11/03/01 (NBC Affiliate)