The Political Involvement of Adolescents

The Political Involvement of Adolescents

The Political Involvement of Adolescents

The Political Involvement of Adolescents

Excerpt

Adolescence is the period during which a young person learns who he is, and what he really feels. It is the time during which he differentiates himself from his culture, though on the culture's terms.
Edgar Friedenberg, The Vanishing Adolescent

Scope of the Study

This is a book about the political involvement of one thousand Pennsylvania high school seniors attending public schools in twenty-five communities--in big cities and small towns, affluent suburbs and poor rural areas of that state. It is a record of what they told us in personal interviews in the spring of 1974.

The study represents the political portrait of a generation on the threshold of adult citizenship, a generation reaching adulthood at one of the low points in our political history. Most of them were born during the Eisenhower presidency and spent their preschool years in the glow of that relatively peaceful, uneventful interlude. That was the last political tranquility they would know. Their first years in school were marked by the assassination of a popular young president--an event which profoundly shocked very young children and seems to have formed their earliest political recollection. During their junior high school years they lived through two more political assassinations (Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.) and some of the most devastating racial conflicts in United States history. By the time they reached their teens, Richard Nixon had been elected president.

Their entrance into high school and full adolescent status coincided with the rapid acceleration of the war in Vietnam and with growing doubts about its morality and political wisdom. During their sophomore year a constitutional amendment granted eighteen-year- olds the vote, giving them a major tool of adult citizenship. That was also the year of My Lai and Attica. By the time they were juniors, President Nixon had won a landslide reelection victory. The first hints of major political crime and corruption soon appeared on the . . .

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