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"Smarter than we're given credit for": Youth perspectives on politics, social issues and personal freedoms

Aveling, N. (2001) "Smarter than we're given credit for": Youth perspectives on politics, social issues and personal freedoms. In: AARE 2001 International Education Research Conference. Crossing Borders: New Frontiers for Educational Research, 2 - 6 December 2001, Fremantle, Western Australia

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This paper draws on interviews with a diverse group of young people. Interview questions explored how they perceived themselves as active citizens, what they perceived the issues which confront Australian society to be, what they felt could be done to improve society and what they wanted for themselves in the future. The data suggests that, far from being 'too young' to hold politicised views or to express informed opinions, these young people were very aware of social reality and in the majority of cases, deeply committed to creating a fairer society. While they may very well be cynical about party politics and many may be ignorant about the names of our past Prime Ministers, these young people nevertheless had strong opinions about what might constitute an equitable society. The emerging interest in citizenship education, however, takes as given that young people are generally uninformed and politically naive. Given young people's general disinterest in politics and disdain for politicians, but their commitment to a more egalitarian society, approaches to citizenship education must address these concerns in a practical way and distinguish between interest in the political system and interest in political issues if it is to live up to its promise.

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