Teachers Matter

The Trouble with Leaving Political Education to the Coaches

by Stephen M. Caliendo


Examines the extent to which teachers have an impact on students' attitudes toward the political system.

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July 2000


Pages 152
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Current Events and Issues/Education
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Caliendo examines the results of a comprehensive study of how students learn about American Government. The working premise is that while many political attitudes formed during adolescent socialization are open to change throughout one's life, latent attitudes that are not salient and, thus, are not challenged with new information provided by media or other communications are more likely to persist into adulthood. He focuses on diffuse support for the United States Supreme Court and argues that how students are taught about the Court in high school is likely to have a particularly lasting effect due to the Court's relative invisibility.

Drawing from interviews with teachers, analysis of Government textbooks, and student surveys, the findings suggest that teachers make a difference in how students perceive parts of the political system (particularly the Supreme Court). This is particularly relevant for more abstract parts of the system since those types of attitudes are unlikely to be challenged through the mass media throughout one's life. Normative discussion of the role of schools in educating for democracy suggests that there is a problem of priority as well as approach. Putting social science on the back burner may have important ramifications, as students are not asked to think critically about the American political system and their role within it. Of particular interest to scholars, researchers, and policy makers involved with social science education and political socialization.

Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroductionPolitical Socialization and Political EducationAdult Support for the U.S. Supreme CourtIn Their Own Words: Teachers on TeachingAmerican Government TextbooksTeachers MatterEducating for Democracy: Lessons for LifeAppendixReferencesIndex

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