Where We Get Our Political Values Essay

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Most Americans acquire their political values early in life and those values remain fairly stable through adulthood. The most dominant influences on childhood political socialization are the family, schools, churches and the media. Of these, the family generally exerts the most significant and long-lasting influence on political attitudes, beliefs and behavior. The older a child grows, however, especially as they move into adulthood, the influences of the family become relatively less important. Even in adulthood, however, childhood experiences within a family unit can have a profound effect on political views and decisions. For example, there is a "high degree of correspondence" between the political party an individual prefers and the party that his or her parents preferred, especially if both parents preferred the same party.2 Children acquire a wide range of attitudes and beliefs early in life, such as respect for authority, a sense of duty to obey the law and to participate in the political process. These beliefs, if carried into adulthood, tend to produce citizens that are supportive and active in the political system. However, as children grow older, their idealized views of government and politicians become more realistic and cynical. At least in part to counter the cynicism and low participation rates among many adults, most elementary, high school and even college students in America are required to take courses in "civics," American history and American government. It is generally accepted by policy makers, educators and administrators that substantial efforts should be made to train children and adolescents to be effective, informed citizens even as the political system (and perhaps the media) gives them reason to be pessimistic about

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