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COLUMN SIXTY-NINE, MARCH 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
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THE KIDS ARE GETTING MORE ENLIGHTENED
Poll Says College Freshmen Lean Left (Los Angeles Times)
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 22:09:47 -0800 (PST)
From: portsideMod <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Says College Freshmen Lean Left: "Attitudes: UCLA survey finds highest
percentage of politically liberal students "since early '70s."
REBECCA TROUNSON "Times Education Writer
college freshmen today describe themselves as politically liberal than at
"any time since the Vietnam War, a nationwide survey by UCLA researchers
resurgence of liberalism among U.S. freshmen also is reflected in their
"shifting attitudes on a range of hot-button political and social
issues," according to survey results released today.
a real change, a broad-based trend toward greater liberalism on almost every
issue we look at," said Alexander W. Astin, a UCLA education professor who
started the survey, the nation's largest, in 1966.
researchers measured "liberalism" by asking students to describe their
"political views and to take positions on certain benchmark issues."
instance, a record proportion--57.9%--believe that gay couples should have the
legal right to marry. The highest portion in two decades--32.2%-- say the death
penalty should be abolished. And more than a third--the highest rate since
1980--say marijuana should be legalized, although 75% also say employers should
be allowed to require drug testing of workers and applicants.
about half of the class of 2005, in line with their recent predecessors, view
themselves as "middle of the road" politically. And 20.7% consider
themselves conservative or "far right," while 29.9%--the highest
latter figure has risen steadily since 1996, said Linda Sax, an education
professor and director of the 36th annual survey. But it pales compared with the
"peak year in 1971, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War fervor, when
40.9% of those polled called themselves liberal.
American Freshman Survey, based this year on responses from 281,064 students at
421 four-year colleges and universities, is the nation's oldest and most
comprehensive assessment of student attitudes. It is a joint project of UCLA's
Higher Education Research Institute and the American Council on Education, based
usually fill out questionnaires during orientation or the first Week of classes,
so their answers often reflect more on their high school experiences than on
those in college.
all of this year's forms were completed before Sept. 11, so any changes Center and the Pentagon would be reflected in next year's results, survey
Center and the Pentagon would be reflected in next year's results, survey
the more striking findings of this year's poll was a reversal in a long slide
toward political apathy on college campuses, probably attributable to the
dramatic 2000 presidential contest," Sax said.
growing, though still small, percentage of students now say they frequently
discuss politics and that it is important to them to keep up to date with
political affairs. And a record 47.5%--three times greater than when the
question was first asked in 1966--said they participated in organized
demonstrations in the previous year.
to common perception, Astin said, "there are more demonstrations
now--albeit smaller protests--than during the era best known for student
feel freer [to protest], and there's an environment that's acceptable,"
freshman Ricardo Gutierrez, who took part in a recent campus rally to support
lower tuition for illegal immigrants, explained that students "need to
important to show people what we think," said Gutierrez, 18, who is from
all agreed. UCLA freshman Nate Skrzypczak said he paid close attention during
the presidential race, then quickly returned to what he called his usual
don't see that [politics] really directly affects anyone," said the
18-year-old from San Diego. "It just doesn't have that big an impact on my
or not they are politically involved, many college freshmen are anything but
disengaged when it comes to community service. This year's class eported record
levels of volunteerism, with 82.6% saying they had done some volunteer work in
the last year.
many high schools require community service for graduation, and it can boost the
prospects for a college applicant, Astin said the desire to help appears to go
well beyond that.
continuing evidence that today's students are relatively materialistic--73.6%
said they want to be very well off financially—they also seem to want to find
an outlet for what Astin called their "higher selves."
much more inclined to express their concerns about other people," he
"said, in contrast to previous generations of students.
helps get your mind off yourself," said Christie Tedmon, a UCLA
owe it to the community to help out a little," she said.
Hamo, 18, spent many hours in high school tutoring disadvantaged children in a
Glendale program started by his older brother. "It really opens your
eyes," the UCLA freshman said. "It makes you realize how much you can
trends emerged in this year's survey:
this year's freshmen, 70% said they had socialized with someone of another
racial or ethnic group in the last year--the highest rate since the survey
students than before--19.5%--said they believed racial discrimination was
record 15.8% of freshmen said they have no religious preference, up slightly
from last year and more than double the figure in 1966.
students than ever appear to be academically disengaged. A record 41.1% said
they were frequently bored in class, and only 34.9% reported spending at least
six hours a week hitting the books as high school seniors. In 1987, when the
question was first asked, 47% said they studied at least six hours each week.
year's students continue to show signs of stress, worrying about completing all
the tasks confronting them. A gender gap persists, with more than twice as many
young women--36.6%--as young men--17.4%--reporting feeling "frequently
overwhelmed by all I have to do."
students never really get a chance to calm down," Sax said, especially in
the final, frenzied years of high school. "They're multi-tasking on
everything at once, trying to build these strong resumes before they even get
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