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Australian School Students and Social Movement Support

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In this article I argue that already in secondary school, students have social and political views which predispose them to be supportive towards particular social movements. These predispositions are part of the normal political development from youth to adulthood and are influenced by a wide range of factors, including demographic, home background, school, and attitudinal variables. To examine student predispositions to support social movements, I analyse a sample of 1,311 senior secondary school students in the ACT and South Australia who were asked whether they would join demonstrations in support of seven different social movements. The seven movements are the peace movement, the environment movement, the pro and anti-abortion movements, anti-apartheid movements, the gay rights movement, and the Aboriginal rights movement.

Considerable variation was found in student preparedness to support these social movements, with the peace and environment movements receiving most support and the two abortion movements and gay rights receiving the least. Female students and students with previous political activity were more likely to give support to all social movements. On the other hand, commitment to religion was particularly important in differentiating between support for the pro-abortion and anti-abortion movements. The article concludes by linking youth support for social movements with wider issues related to adult political behaviour and active citizenship.
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Keywords: Australia; activism; gender; secondary students; social movements; student activism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Australian National University

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • Education and Society provides a forum, where teachers and scholars throughout the world, are able to evaluate current issues and problems in education and society from a balanced and comparative social, cultural and economic perspective.

    Education and Society, a fully refereed journal, is used by teachers, academics, research scholars, educational administrators and graduate students.
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