Exploring Political Tolerance with Adolescents

Patricia G Avery, Karen Bird, Sandra Johnstone, Kristina Thalhammer, John L. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Most research on political socialization has suggested that the traditional formal civics curriculum has limited impact on students' civic attitudes (Ehman, 1980). Political tolerance—the willingness to acknowledge the civil liberties of those with whom one disagrees—is no exception. Although civics courses do emphasize abstract democratic norms, such as freedom of speech, they tend not to link them directly with everyday political situations in which these norms can be applied. We have developed and tested a curriculum that encourages students to explore the linkages among democratic values and legal principles, and their application to unpopular groups in our society. Our data suggest that increases in political tolerance are due to a greater awareness of individual rights; decreases in tolerance may be attributed to heightened concern for public safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-420
Number of pages35
JournalTheory and Research in Social Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

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