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in their television appearances may be a crucial factor in determining how
tate program influence, except to the extent that they enter into reciprocal relationships with interest. An alternative model might pair affect and interest as primary mediators-- from which the other variab les derive their
stimulus for change.
It should be pointed out that many of these linkages are quite weak, and that the program series probably had a fairly direct impact on each variable regardless of intervening changes on other variables. In addition,
variables we did not measure at both sessions are not included in the model.
Nevertheless, this analysis gives some indication of the complex pattern of
indirect flows of influence which may have resulted from classroom exposure.
The main effects results may also serve to partly dispel one of the
more persistent myths about television, that people will watch only what they
have become accustomed to watch.
Few, if any, of these youngsters were
initially avid viewers of public affairs programs; probably equally few were avid viewers after the study. Nevertheless, those who had been exposed to six hour-long programs, over a 6-week period, did choose to do some further
watching of this same series on their own.
Three-fifths of them stated that
they would like to see more of these shows in the classroom as well.
percent found the shows "interes ting," and one is uncertain whether to say
'only 12%' or 'fully 12%.' Surely, if this initial interest and viewing
behavior persisted over time, then both public television and the political
process might well profit from increased public participation.
Outside of the classroom, youngsters are lukewarm attenders to public
The largest bulk, perhaps one-half to three-fourths,
may at best do occasional watching of news and public affairs, and about the
same portion have nearly regular readership of the front page of a newspaper. No more than one-fourth are regular fans of such content. This level of attention increases somewhat from late elementary school years through senior high school. This exposure is related to increased political knowledge and campaign activity. To the extent these are socially desirable behaviors then exposure to the kinds of cognitive and effective information available in this TV series may serve to facilitate or accelerate the political socialization process. It may facilitate it by making available information in an attractive, easy-to-assimilate package. It may accelerate it by making it available to groups of young people much earlier than they would normally
either receive it or perhaps want to, if packaged in more traditional ways.
These results would seem to have some important implications for the formal learning process and its contribution to political socialization. Some theorists, e.g., Hess and Torney (1967), argue that the school is a principal political socializer. If the role of the school as an agent of
socialization is through its course materials, there is little evidence to
support that proposition. Several 1960's studies on the impact of formal in-school civics training yield bland results, at best, and a more recent study (Langton and Jennings, 1968) provided extensive documentation for the minimal effects conclusion.
In tandem with those findings is the evidence that the teaching of social studies, including civics, citizenship, etc., by conventional instruc
tional television processes is as effective in terms of learning information
as conventional classroom instruction (Chu and Schramm, 1967). We have used
the term conventional deliberately to describe both those modes, inasmuch as
the bulk of instructional television in such experiments consisted of tele
vising the classroom instructor doing what he normally does, but in front of
Even more recently, one school has experimented with using the newspaper as a replacement for, and not a supplement for, traditional classroom texts. The newspaper material was used for instruction in current affairs, mathematics, sociology, and a variety of other subjects. Early results indicate that the use of this mass medium was eminently successful, and with youngsters who were not effectively learning through traditional classroom methods (Lansing State Journal, 1973). Newspapers as a supplement to existing classroom materials have generally been shown to increase public affairs
knowledge (Diederich and Maskovsky, 1970).
If one melds these ideas with the possible availability of a televised
public affairs series, such as the Florida legislature series, then the fo
cal point of this discussion may become manifest.
The television material
would appear to be a useful supplement for civics instruction, capable of
expansion and interpretation by the classroom instructor.
would be expected to result in more thorough political socialization of
young people, particularly in terms of knowledge, interest, related communication behaviors, and perhaps in a yen for greater political activity.
Further, there is reason to speculate that the merging of textbook and
classroom information with current affairs information from television may have complementary effects. Langton and Jennings (1968) showed that civics classes, traditionally taught, impacted differently on advantaged and
ings of the present study.
Langton and Jennings showed that political knowledge from civics classes increased more so among the black students, as did political interest and efficacy. White students in those classes gained more in increased political
discussion behaviors and added use of newspapers, magazines and TV for public
The study reported here demonstrated that political knowledge did in
crease among the black students, but the increase was even greater among
their white counterparts. It was the black students whose interest, politi
cal talking and news reading about state affairs showed the sharpest upturn.
Why the difference? One plausible explanation may be in the relative orientation of more and less advantaged youngsters toward the television medium. The latter use television more, and specifically do so for purposes of social learning, e.g., to find out what life is like. This is not the same as the learning of specific factual information. The less advantaged child appears to be motivated more so to seek socially useful aspects of media content, so he has something to talk about and for interests to develop, and less so for cognitive learning aspects. This may reflect a differ
ence between what one expects to get from a classroom and what one expects
to get from television, however false the information-entertainment argu
ment may in reality be. But the anticipated differences may be maximal be
tween greater and lesser fans of the medium.
Obviously, only further research can test such notions. But, if these complementary functions do exist, it is most important to suggest here that
the combination of the two modes of learning about public affairs should
maximize political socialization among both sub-groups of youngsters and
minimize sub-group differences. Effectively combining the live teacher with
text with the nearly-live television coverage of government affairs should
facilitate political socialization behaviors among all students, this rea
soning would contend.
All this serves to support the argument that making
additional political areas open to television coverage, e.g., Congress, may make for a more generally informed, interested, and participatory public
posture, commencing earlier in life.
Not wishing to serve as critics, nevertheless, this televised series
was a first such attempt by this creative and production staff.
effort would likely be even more professionally and creatively done. Inter
est and favorability toward the series could be increased, and the antici
pated effects even more prevalent. One might speculate that these signifi
cant findings do not represent a maximal output, and that a renewed effort
could be even more contributory to the political socialization of young
people. Expanding the number of programs seen, incorporating classroom dis
cussion, reading newspapers as well, all seem viable procedures for increas
ing the observed effects.
In the experimental test of this series, none of
these relevant activities were permitted.
The effects for the series, as
tested, are relatively dramatic ones; however, they should be interpreted
as a baseline set of effects which could be extended for a more inclusive
effort at political socialization.