Civic-minded Barnard students featured in Kids Talk Democracy video
ADP national coordinator Cecilia Orphan and Henry Barnard students Aiden Beckett, left, Marin Warshay, Alden Blackman and Sarah Brosofsky view their Kids Talk Democracy video. (Photo: Shawn Andrews '10)
Alden Blackman, a third-grade student at Henry Barnard School wants his elders to understand the importance of hearing others: “Adults are fighting, they are not listening to other people, and I want adults to listen.”
Fifth grader Elizabeth Garrahy hopes in the future that “people get a better education which leads to getting a better job so people don’t have to be homeless and live on the streets.”
Blackman and Garrahy were among 23 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students from Henry Barnard who were interviewed as part of the American Democracy Project’s Kids Talk Democracy program.
ADP national project coordinator Cecilia Orphan spoke with the students at Barnard, a laboratory school on the RIC campus, on May 27. A video of their responses, produced and edited by Orphan, was shown at the ADP’s national meeting in Providence on June 17.
Orphan said she was “astonished” by how bright the children were. “They grasp complex concepts such as the importance of compromise, democracy and freedom, and were able to explain these ideas in ways that make sense to their daily lives,” she said.
Orphan added that she was inspired by the students’ awareness of global and national politics as well as events in their own communities.
“They are full of ideas about how we can have a better future and are very much in touch with the problems facing our society, she said.
Valerie Endress and Kay Israel, associate professors of communications and organizers of ADP at RIC, found that the Kids Talk Democracy program offered insights into what the young students were thinking and that civic engagement begins long before college age.
“The interviews were a test of the old saying ‘from the mouths of babes,’” said Israel. “The Barnard students proved not to be babes, but far more aware of our real world than many adults. Their goals and concerns were quite mature; their responses were enchanting and engaging. It gave us all a feeling of hope and purpose in what we're trying to accomplish.”
Endress said the video served as a reminder that civic engagement does not begin or end with the college years. “A healthy and robust democracy depends upon developing civic attitudes in early childhood, a fact well understood in the state of Rhode Island, and particularly at RIC’s own Henry Barnard School,” she said.
The American Democracy Project is a “multi-campus initiative focused on higher education’s role in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens for our democracy,” according to its web page.
The ADP hosts campus voter education and registration initiatives, curriculum revision and projects, speaker series, and other activities. It is an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), in partnership with The New York Times.