Ridgefielder Todd Brewster, a West Point history instructor, said he was "frightened" to hear that, in a recent survey, 25 to 30 percent of American high school students felt the government should be allowed to control the press.
This was a large part of what motivated Brewster and three other Ridgefield residents to start a project.
That project, called the Connecticut Project for the Constitution, was created in order to encourage dialogue among students regarding constitutional issues and rights. Brewster and fellow Ridgefielders Dan Wellers, former IBM Exececutive, architect Peter Bachmann and Western Connecticut State University Constitutional Law Professor Harold Schramm launched the organization.
Brewster said he and Schramm had many discussions "bemoaning the decline of constitutional awareness in the country, the screaming match between the two sides," and seeing the "political dialogue decline in quality and decrease in size."
In their quest to change this, CPC has local high school students talking, thinking, discussing and making films about constitutional issues. These films, including one from a Ridgefield High School group, premiered at the Westport Youth Film Festival earlier this month and will be screened again at the Aldrich Museum on Thursday.
CPC chose three area schools—Ridgefield, Housatonic Valley Regional High School and Norwalk High School—to participate based upon their rural or suburban locations.
"The films demonstrate an issue that the students have found to intersect with ordinary life in our communities and will be used as a catalyst for constructive discussion with the audience," explained Gretchen Barbarovic, CPC project coordinator.
Norwalk students made a film about student rights in a search and seizure case that begged the question, "What can the police do in searching private domains within a school?"
Housatonic Valley had two teams who made films dealing with the issue of free speech based upon real incidents that happened in area high schools.
Ridgefield students chose the topic of whether or not President Barack Obama should be allowed to broadcast his speeches in classrooms.
"We tried to guide the students towards 21st-century constitutional questions that were relevant to their area," Brewster said, though the ultimate topic choices were left to student discretion.
Here is the film lineup for Thursday. The free event begins at 7 p.m. and will include a discussion on the films.
Ridgefield High School
"Free Speech: My Right and Yours"
Faculty: Patrick Higgins
Students: Matt Schiller, Dan Pallant, Eric Landman, Mary Kate Jennings, Stacey Oliver, Kyle Levesque
Norwalk High School
"The Gray Line"
Faculty: Kyle Seaburg
Students: Taylor Scicchitano, Will Marr, Will Hirsch, Cam Piasecki, Drew Pennell
Housatonic Valley Regional High School
Film #1: "No Speech Zone"
Faculty: John Duval
Students: Zach Ackerman, Elizabeth Cuoco, Tyler Gelbar, Emma Osborne, Kayla Robinson, Dylan Morehouse, Justin Taylor
Film #2: "The D Word"
Faculty: John Duval
Students: Madelaine Bambery, Stephen Bartomioli, Bill Bunce, Alyse Courture, Nick Dignacco, Trey Hatcher, Ryan King