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Title: Political learning and political education : the development of political orientations among secondary school children in Scotland : with special reference to the teaching of Modern Studies
Author: Mercer, G.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3394 6554
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 1971
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This thesis is concerned with the development of political orientations among adolescents attending secondary schools throughout Scotland. More especially we have investigated the influence that formal education in the curriculum, through Modern Studies, will bring to this process. A framework for political learning is established, the basis of which stems from the cognitive development attained by the adolescent, although full allowance is made for the intervention of other interindividual differences and social forces. We examine the growth which occurs in the acquisition of political orientations as well as their subsequent re-evaluation during adolescence. The objective is to see whether these movements occur in a predictable manner in one directiong but with a period of particularly intensive and rapid learning in middle adolescence as the child changes the basis of his thinking towards a more abstract level of conceptualisation. Not all political orientations are affected by the respondent's changing cognitive capacity and these others are closely studied for any variation in their pattern of growth. As the latter are thought to be more strongly influenced by social forces there is less likelihood that they will be characterised by qualitative development. Our general conclusion is that political learning proceeds apace with age to an extent for which we had not been prepared by previous research. The changes which occur are generally consistent and even. The notion of qualitative development in political learning is rejected; in practice the whole spectrum of political orientations is found to grow in a monotonic fashion. The movement in political orientations does not display any distinctive variation between those which may be linked directly to cognitive development and the remainder. Even in the young person's evaluation of the political world there is a predictable trend towards higher levels of attachment to the political norms associated with a democracy. When we employ sophisticated multivariate techniques to examine the relative influence in political learning of inter-individual and intra-individual differences we discover that, while the impact which these forces bring can be considerable, they do not negate the basic relationship between age and political development. Political growth can be advanced with an appropriate background of advantages but there is little evidence that these additional predictors transform this into a qualitative movement. The influence which Modern Studies brings to political learning is found to be small, insofar as it does little to promote the development of learning in directions in which it was not already moving. Where formal political education attempts to avert a normal pattern of growth it meets with negligible success. Modern Studies cannot therefore be regarded as anything other than a marginal agent in political socialisation. For this reason political education in the school must take more note of the political learning which takes place outside of the classroom.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral