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ERIC Number: ED498896
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2004-May
Pages: 8
Abstractor: Author
The Relationship between Secondary Education and Civic Development: Results from Two Field Experiments with Inner City Minorities. CIRCLE Working Paper 14
Phillips, John Anthony
Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE)
By and large, scholars of electoral behavior and civil society consider education to be the key predictor of civic participation. Indeed, civic education is held to be a fundamental institution of all deliberative democracies. Yet after decades of empirical research, we still know little about the causal mechanisms through which education fosters political participation, and more generally, "good American citizens." Recently, scholars and educators have suggested that practical lessons about local politics and participation in extracurricular activities--collectively referred to as service learning--are the most promising educational tools for enhancing civic development (Niemi and Junn 1998, ch. 7; Galston 2001, 228-229; Carnegie and CIRCLE 2003, 6). I use two field experiments with inner city high school students to test whether these activities actually affect civic knowledge, attitudes and behavior. The primary advantage of an experimental approach is that it creates the conditions necessary for unbiased causal inference. Accordingly, my results speak to certain issues of cause and effect in civic education with greater certainty than previous research. This study is additionally novel in the measures it uses to gauge civic engagement. Many scholars have characterized minority students as possessing less political knowledge and participating less in civic organizations than their white counterparts (Hodgkinson and Weitzman 1997, Niemi and Junn 1998, Lake et al. 2002). These findings may partially reflect the inability of researchers to measure a broad spectrum of extra-electoral behavior in urban areas. To test this hypothesis, I incorporate more comprehensive and culturally sensitive indicators of civic involvement than those used by prior research. Contrary to the hopes of recent theorists, my findings show the effects of local service learning to be small and elusive. On the other hand, my refined measures of participation reveal some previously neglected, but potentially inspiring sources of civic engagement in the inner city. Only time and future experimentation will tell whether these popular activities represent a more successful means of mobilizing urban youth for political activism. [This working paper consists of the abstract and executive summary of the author's doctoral dissertation, presented to the faculty of the Graduate School of Yale University. It was produced by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE).]
Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). University of Maryland, School of Public Policy, 2101 Van Munching Hall, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-2790; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A