Children and Politics

Children and Politics

Children and Politics

Children and Politics

Excerpt

My main concern in this book will be with the political development of children between the ages of nine and thirteen, in the last five years of elementary school. What is the nature of political awareness and involvement during these years? What do children learn about politics? Is the sequence of political learning in childhood significant? Of what relevance is political development during this period for the individual's later political participation and, more generally, for the political system?

The years between nine and thirteen are an undramatic but crucial period of both social-psychological and political development. These, in psychoanalytic parlance, are "latency" years. Although growth continues, there is little during the latency period which compares with the rapid changes, both physiological and psychological, at puberty, or during the first few years of life.

Nevertheless, during the last five years of elementary school, children move from near -- but not complete -- ignorance of adult politics to awareness of most of the conspicuous features of the adult political arena. And the fourth and eighth graders live in quite different psychosocial worlds.

The nine-year-old is a small child, quite dependent upon parents and other adults. His world is one of toys, games, and fantasy. When we ask fourth graders "What do you like to do when there is no school?" many of them simply say "I like to play." When we ask them what they would like if they could have anything they want, they speak of "a trip to outer space... a horse . . .

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