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Learning Democratic Practices: Political Parties, Media and American Political Development

Learning Democratic Practices: Political Parties, Media and American Political Development (Hardback)

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How does "democracy" work in the United States? How are candidates selected to appear on the ballot? How are issues framed for presentation to the electorate? What processes, conversations, institutions, and laws interact to determine how democracy "works"? How do new politicians learn to deal with all of this?There is a large and growing literature about these issues, some of which is reviewed in Chapter Two. This book examines selected facts of these issues through the lens of learning theory. It turns out that viewing political parties as "communities of practice" is a very useful organizing principle. Within this point of view, and research presented in this book is examined how "partisans" (people who got involved beyond voting and letter-writing) learn how to function within these communities of practice. While this is formally interesting from a learning theory point of view, it turns out that the by-products of this inquiry say a lot about what is happening to "democracy" in the United States and how it got that way. The core of the book is a set of interviews with partisans.

This book examines the factors that operate in political parties as communities of practice to maintain or discourage partisanship. The theories of adult learning involved in this research are from the field of learning from experience. Political socialization is the process by which the individual develops a politicalidentity. In a large research study in Europe, the political socialization processfor adults to learn active citizenship there was studied. This study is a partialreplica of this European study, by John Holford and Ruud van der Veen, et al.[Lifelong Learning, Governance and Active Citizenship in Europe (2003). FinalReport of the ETGACE Research Project: Education and Training for Governance and Active Citizenship in Europe: Analysis of Adult Learning and Design of Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Educational Intervention Strategies.Guildford: University of Surrey Department of Educational Studies.] In thework presented here, the activist in a political party is referred to as a "partisan".For purposes of this research, "partisans" are those who have joined a politicalparty by taking part in membership activities, or as candidates.

Janet W. Youngblood, MA, MBA, Ed D is a member of the adjunct faculty of Teachers College/Columbia University, New York City, in the Department of Organization and Leadership. She also teaches a course in American Political Development at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Department of Political Science. She is interested in democratic practices as learning opportunities for the exercise of political power. She studies the ways in which political institutions both facilitate and prevent citizens from translating social capital into political efficacy.

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