Advanced Placement classes discuss issues

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Government and Politics Students Ask the Question:  Which will have the greatest impact on political efficacy of teens, political socialization or political ideology?

The Cannon County High School Advanced Placement US Government and Politics Class taught by Mr. William F. Curtis recently experienced a unit involving Political Beliefs, Public Opinion, and Voting.  This unit, a result of the Literacy Design Collaborative project, involved teaching the Common Core State Standards for English & Language Arts in Social Studies Classes.  Professional Development was provided by the Southern Regional Education Board/High Schools That Work personnel. 

The following essential question guided the APUSGOPO Students:  Which will have the greatest impact on political efficacy of teens, political socialization or political ideology?  After reading "APUSGOPO Crash Course - Political Beliefs & Public Opinion," "American Youth Disengaging from Politics," and "Edwards Chapter 6: Public Opinion and Political Action" write a newspaper or blog article that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the text.  L2 - Be sure to acknowledge competing views. L3 - Give examples from past or current events or issues to illustrate and clarify your position.

Cannon Courier readers are invited to read the following responses regarding political efficacy of teens.  It is interesting to note in the recent Mock Presidential Election held at Cannon County High School how that students' results were very similar to the actual results in Cannon County!

Shalynn Clark, 11th Grade

AP US Govt.

What is the greatest impact on teens' political efficacy, political socialization or political ideology?  After reading "APUSGOPO Crash Course - Political Beliefs and Public Opinion" and "Edwards Chapter 6:  Public Opinion and Political Action", I decided to write a newspaper article.  In this article you will learn what political socialization and ideology are and the difference between them.  You will also learn what efficacy means.  You will also hear my personal opinion on which one I feel has the greatest impact and competing views. 

What is political efficacy and why is it important at all?  As "APUSGOPO Crash Course" states, political efficacy is the belief that one's political participation really matters.  People develop efficacy mainly through socialization or ideology, but what in the world does that mean?  "Edwards Government in America" states political socialization is a process through which a young person acquires political orientations as they grow up based on input from parents, teachers, the media, and friends.  Also stated in the same book, political ideology is a coherent set of values and beliefs about public policy.

As I learned more and more about socialization and ideology, I formed the opinion that socialization has the greater impact on teens.  The reason I feel this way is because I, myself, was raised in a home that expressed their political beliefs around me and, by hearing this, I was able to develop my own opinion about politics.  If it was not for hearing my parents' opinions, I would not have been able to develop my own opinions regarding politics.  Some people believe ideology has the greater impact.  They are also correct in some ways.

We, as people, do develop efficacy through what we believe in as individual people, such as our values and beliefs on certain issues.  On the other hand, where and how did we develop these values and beliefs?  We developed them through what we were taught and learned while growing up.  The other reason I feel it is socialization over ideology is due to the fact we grow up watching and mocking what our parents do.  If your parents tell you it is important to vote, which is expressing your efficacy, you are going to believe it is the best thing to do. 

For example, if you are raised in a home that is against gay marriage, this may impact the way you vote or who you vote for due to their stand regarding the issue of gay marriage.  Another big issue in politics that many people disagree on is abortion.  You do not have to agree with your family or the media to be using socialization. 

You still have used their opinions about the issue to form your own opinion regarding whether the issue is right or wrong.  In the 2012 Elections, the percentage from the mock election held at Cannon County High School mirrored the percentage of the county. This shows that most of the children attending Cannon County High School have very similar political views as their parents or adults in their lives. Need more proof? Another example comes from a video on YouTube called "Political Socialization Explained," this video talks about how parents effect their children's political beliefs. In this video, they state that in a university study, 95.75% of children agree with their parents politically.

As you have seen in this article, my opinion is that socialization has the greatest impact.  You may still believe ideology has the greatest impact; however, I hope my views regarding socialization has influenced you to take another look at both options.  For anyone who did not understand the question of which had the greater impact on teens' political efficacy, I hope through this article you have a better understanding of political efficacy and able to develop your own opinion and view about efficacy and teens.

Brandon Harper, 11th Grade

William Curtis, AP U.S. Government & Politics



Political efficacy: the belief that one's political participation really can make a difference. With such a large population in America, it has become difficult for anyone to believe that his or her vote really matters. When someone casts a ballot, that person's vote simply becomes one out of 500 million others. If one vote proves to have such a small percentage of importance, why vote at all? The answer is simple: one percent is much better than zero percent. A single vote's significance may seem small, but it is still one more vote than there was before. The question is, however, whether or not teenagers experience this "efficacy." If they do, what causes them to do so? There are two major factors that can be the deciding factors when it comes to a teenager having this state of mind: political ideology and political socialization. Political ideology simply means to base one's political values on what  he or she believes. Political socialization is the process of passing political values from previous generations to the current generation. Which of these has the most influence on teens, though? In the end, it will be ideology that becomes the deciding factor.

A person can always be described as being either a liberal, a conservative, or even a moderate. Liberals and conservatives can often be described as polar opposites. Liberals usually believe in more government and more taxes, while conservatives are against both. Conservatives are often pro-life, while liberals are predominantly pro-choice. Moderates tend to be more in the "middle." Moderates can be "conservative democrats" or even "liberal republicans." Each of these ideologies has an influence on who a voter is going to support. People that were pro-life probably voted for Mitt Romney, while people who believe in abortion rights and gay rights were likely fans of Barrack Obama. It is a matter of what voters believe, and this applies for teenagers as well as anyone. Political socialization suggests that teenagers are always going to adopt their parents' political values. While this does tend to be true for children at a young age, teenagers are usually able to decide for themselves what they believe in. As teens get older, they get a more affluent sense of what is right and what is wrong. This political "conscience" allows them to vote based on their personal beliefs.

APUSGOPO: Crash Course states that even though politicians and activists find political ideology to be an important factor in elections, only about one-fifth of United States citizens vote based on ideological principles. Many teenagers have found that it is much easier to political values from their parents and allow those values to be the deciding factor in their vote, which is why the number of supporters of political ideology has gone down. Political efficacy itself seems to be decreasing with each passing day, as well. This may be because of how so many people do not even trust the government. These people believe that the government is full of self-righteous, egotistical solicitors that only care about how heavy their wallets are, which is not far from the truth. As long as this mistrust continues to grow, the number of people that believe in efficacy will diminish even further. If a change does not occur quickly, it will not be long before nobody cares about voting. There is hope, though, and it stems from this nation's backbone: its youth. In the coming years, there will be more and more teenagers that will finally drop the idea that they have to believe what their parents believed. As this happens, political ideology will rise from the ashes, and the coming generation will be full of adults who have decided where they stand on political matters. When this happens, efficacy will be revived.

Emily Lane, 12th Grade

U.S. Government AP, Mr. Curtis

November 11, 2012

In my U.S. Government AP class, we have recently been talking about which will have the greatest impact on political efficacy of teens, political socialization or political ideology. I will be explaining my opinion in this article. I will also be explaining what political socialization, political ideology and political efficacy is.

"APUSGOV Crash Course- Political Beliefs & Public Opinion" states that political socialization is the process by which political values are formed and passed from one generation to the next. This basically means that our youth gets its political opinion from family and other outside factors such as the media and schools. Political ideology is a cohesive set of beliefs about politics, public policy and the role of government according to "APUSGOV Crash Course- Political Beliefs & Public Opinion". This means that an American comes up their own ideas and beliefs when it comes to politics. Lastly, political efficacy is the belief that your political participation matters.

At my high school we have recently held a mock election. Most of my fellow teens voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. When the actual election was held it was an identical vote. Teens and parents voted almost the exact same way. Keeping this in mind, I believe that political socialization will have the greatest impact on political efficacy of teens. I can see why some might disagree with me but being a teenager myself, I know that shaping and forming ideas, especially about a topic so controversial such as politics, is a challenge all in its self. It's easier for a teenager to look up to their parents for help on this since our parents are, theoretically, more knowledgeable.

There is no right or wrong way to go about this.  Political ideology and political socialization are beliefs that Americans get to choose to embrace. That is one of the greatest things about our nation; we have the choice to choose. I choose to embrace and believe that political socialization will have the greatest impact on political efficacy of teenagers


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