CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Educating Undergraduates for Democracy and Efficacy and the 2006 Penn Democracy Project

Max J. Dubin, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Henry Teune

Date of this Version: 22 April 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.



Most political socialization research has focused on children, because this formative time provides the foundation for an individual’s political self. However, both life experiences and changing societal roles of an individual as he/she ages suggests that political values can change throughout life. In particular, the lifecycle has certain moments that are particularly apt to political growth. One of these moments is college. Universities are currently rediscovering an important goal of their institution - preparing citizens for positive participation in society. Further, students are at an important “role changing moment,” as they move from childhood to adulthood.

The college moment is the focus of the Penn Democracy Project. This study has surveyed Penn undergraduates over four years to understand what effect the undergraduate experience has on students. The study has found that college brings profound personal change and challenges, and on the whole, causes students to be less civically minded. Even students who had strong political influences as children are not immune to the pressures of this period.

This paper does not attempt to argue whether universities should have a responsibility to focus on the political socialization of its students. Every study of childhood development acknowledged the role of the classroom in political socialization, and current movements argue that universities should devote more attention to this as well. The paper only argues that universities do have a significant impact on students, and as an important institution in a democracy, can improve how it affects students. Overall, the study suggests that college is a transitional stage for students, and has a negative affect on student values. However, there are many opportunities to change that, and steer students in a positive direction, graduating civically minded scholars. In particular, schools can focus on empowering students – showing them that they can make a difference in the problems they see in society. The college experience for many can be discouraging, but a focus on building efficacy and showing students that they have the ability to impact their classroom, campus, or community can encourage democratic development.

Suggested Citation

Dubin, Max J., "Educating Undergraduates for Democracy and Efficacy and the 2006 Penn Democracy Project" 22 April 2007. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 25 April 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.




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