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Study: Young People Have Civic Skills, But May Not Use Them

Posted July 6, 2001

— An international study of civic knowledge and skills looks at what 9th graders around the world know about government, citizenship and democracy. True to the study, North Carolina teens have acquired a lot of civic skills, but they may never use them.

Derek McCall, and brothers Travis and Tyler understand democracy in broad terms.

"We can vote and say what we think the laws should be and vote who's going to rule us or who's going to make the important decisions," says Travis.

Younger brother Tyler is very interested in government and how it works.

"It works so that we run the country well and we're making good profits off of stuff, but there's been some competition and you never know, the government might fall apart," says Tyler.

But something happens as young Americans learn about their freedoms and rights. The Civic Education Study released in April says that adults do not use their citizen skills. They do not vote. They do not participate in advocacy groups of any kind. They sit out.

Youngsters watched our last presidential election engaged with the process, but they disliked the politics.

"People who are running for president, they're just doing it for fame and popularity. They're not really going to do anything for the country. That's what people think," says student Sabah Rahman.

The study's authors believe there is a link between political activism when a student is young and civic participation later.

The researchers hope that a call to activism will encourage young people to discard old habits and put their hearts into the institutions that make us one nation.

The study also tells us that most teenagers learn about politics on television, which does not give issues enough depth and encourages their cynicism. They also say civic courses which encourage participation are critical for the next generation.


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