This is a short (3-4pg) assignment that you may use as a part of the youth, social movements, and activism course.
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Assignment: Youth Political Participation Interview Study
Overview: In class we have discussed, or will be discussing, how youth learn to be politically involved, perceptions of youth political involvement (particularly adults’ perceptions), and how youth may “avoid” being perceived as political. We have also discussed the realities around the diverse ways that youth are politically active. For this assignment, you will conduct one-on-one interviews (they should be at least 20-30 minutes, but you are encouraged to talk longer if it is going well) with THREE people you know or perhaps do not know so well regarding such themes. These can be friends, parents, family members, neighbors, strangers, etc. During your interview, like any sociologist, you want open and honest answers, and so you should make sure that they are comfortable sharing their beliefs, experiences, and perspectives. You should ask them the following questions. The goal is to get in-depth answers, and so you are encouraged to ask follow up questions (i.e. tell me more about that). It is okay if you do not get to all of the questions.
- What were you taught about politics and activism growing up from your family, friends, and teachers? Did you have conversations about political issues at home or with friends?
- Do you see yourself as politically active? What do you do that you would consider political? What would you consider activism?
- Why do you engage in these forms of politics and activism? [If they do not participate in any activism or politics, as them why they choose not to participate]?
- What do you think of politics in general? What do you think of people who are politically active? What would you think if someone referred to you as politically active or an activist?
- Who do you talk about politics with? What do you talk about, and how often?
- What sorts of issues do you think are worth getting active in response to?
After you have completed your interviews, you will write a research report on what you have found. Your report will be organized. It will have an introduction, conclusion, and a central conceptual focus (i.e. you should be able to summarize what you learned from your interviewees in one or two sentences). The body of the paper should be divided into several sections. The middle three sections should each receive equal weight in your write-up:
- An Introductory section that introduces the issue, broad research question, and the central conceptual focus of your paper.
- A Description and summary of your interviews. Describe who the THREE people you interviewed were, who they are to you, and when you interviewed them. Summarize their responses. What did you learn from them that you never thought about, or realized? What were the common themes and patterns of experiences that you saw across all of the interviews?
- An analysis and interpretation of these observations using one (no more than two) of the concepts developed in the text and class. Integrate your interview materials with lecture and text pertaining to political socialization, political participation, and political avoidance. Overall, you should demonstrate an awareness of some of the varied ways that engage with or avoid political participation. Make sure that you are not just defining the class concepts, but applying them. In other words, your paper should explain the concept, identify a couple of examples from you interviews, and then explains why they are examples of the concept.
- A reflective discussion about your own political socialization and participation. Have you ever thought about your political beliefs and actions? How did you learn “proper” political behavior, and do you express your political beliefs in culturally acceptable ways? Can you recall moments of ambiguity or tension, or peer pressure or policing, in your own development? Would you say that you generally conform your political beliefs to your friends and families’ beliefs or do you see yourself as challenging their political expectations? How and why?
- A conclusion paragraph that summarizes the main findings from your interviews and how they connect with the class concepts you selected.