ERIC Number: ED153898
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1977-Oct
Reference Count: 0
Students Comprehension of Democracy and Its Application to Conflict Situations.
Sigel, Roberta S.
This paper analyzes a study designed to determine if students understand the concept of democracy and can apply democratic principles. It also compares the study with related investigations conducted in Europe and calls for improved teaching to make the concept of democracy comprehensible. In 1974, 1,000 high school seniors in Pennsylvania participated in a study conducted by the Survey Research Institute of Temple University. The study is based on the rational-activist model of democracy which asserts that government responds to the majority but protects the minority and that citizens keep informed, participate in party politics, and resort to political activism when necessary. Results show students not only have great difficulty in articulating what they understood about democracy, but also have a simplistic, narrow, and ethnocentric view of democracy. Personal freedoms and representative government are recognized, but collective goals, the necessity of party conflict, and the interrelationship of the principles of democracy are not understood. Students with a better understanding of democracy participate more in political activism. However, there is no significant correlation between a student's grasp of the concept of democracy and his ability to apply democratic principles when presented with hypothetical conflict situations. Two related studies conducted in Austria and in 11 democratic nations of Western Europe show similar results. It is concluded that democracy as a concept is comprehensible when it is effectively taught. (Author/LAA)
Descriptors: Academic Ability, Activism, Citizen Participation, Civics, Comparative Education, Comprehension, Concept Formation, Concept Teaching, Conflict Resolution, Course Evaluation, Decision Making, Democracy, Democratic Values, Dissent, Educational Assessment, Educational Research, Evaluative Thinking, High School Seniors, Intellectual Development, Political Attitudes, Political Science, Political Socialization, Politics, Problem Solving, Productive Thinking, Secondary Education, Student Attitudes, Student Characteristics, Student Evaluation, Student Participation, Teacher Effectiveness, Teaching Methods, Teaching Models, United States Government (Course)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at International Conference on Political Socialization (Tutzingen, Germany, October 1977)