Young Americans are ill-prepared to keep democracy alive in the next decade and beyond, largely because schools and parents have failed to instill values in them, a new study contends.
A survey of students and teachers released last week by the lobbying group People for the American Way shows that, while youths today appreciate the democratic freedoms of America, they fail to understand their responsibility to participate in self-government.
According to the survey--which included responses from 1,106 youths ages 15 to 25 and 405 social-studies teachers--young people are more concerned with their own well-being than with their communities.
Asked to grade the importance of life goals, the students gave their highest rankings to “career success” (72 percent), “having a close-knit family life” (68 percent), and “enjoying life and having a good time” (56 percent).
Sixty percent of the students surveyed said they knew “just some” or “very little” about the governmental process. Another 57 percent said they had some or little interest in following the news. Seventy percent said they thought politics was too complicated to follow.
Thirty-seven percent of the teachers surveyed thought today’s students had less potential for good citizenship than did students 10 years ago, and 75 percent agreed that students are less involved than earlier generations in politics and their communities.
However, 74 percent of the teachers and 51 percent of students said they support the idea of schools making some sort of community service a requirement for graduation.
At a press conference last week, Arthur Kropp, president of People for the American Way, called on schools, parents, and politicians to step up efforts to encourage civic involvement among the young.
A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 1989 edition of Education Week as National News Roundup