Critical Thinking on Political/Community Issues

Measures of critical thinking on political/community issues include examining how individuals interact with the materials they read or hear on issues, and the extent to which they interact with others on those issues.  Boyd et. al. (2011) indicate that much research suggests such a relationship, including:

  • Youth who followed the news have been found to be more active citizens, more regular voters (if eligible to vote), and were more likely to be actively involved in solving community problems
  • Older adolescents and young adults were found to have increased political awareness and participation in political activities if they solicited information from watching the news, listening to the radio, or got information from the Internet

Using news media and talking about the news are important. Among youth, it appears that learning information in the news leads to more communication with parents, which in turn leads to more civic activity (Boyd et al. 2011).

A parallel step for youth living in hostile urban environments is developing “critical consciousness,” “an awareness of how institutional, historical, and systemic forces limit and promote the life opportunities for particular groups” (Ginwright & Cammarota, 2002, p. 87). Understanding and analyzing power dynamics is a central part of the process. Youth progress through three stages of awareness to reach critical consciousness:

  • Self awareness “focuses on self-evaluation and self-exploration to achieve a positive sense of self and social and cultural identity” (p. 88).  
  • Social awareness refers to gaining an understanding “about how their immediate social world functions,” including thinking “critically about issues in their own communities” (p. 89).  It is both a knowledge base and “a set of cognitive skills that promote investigation, analysis, and problem solving” (p. 89).
  • Global awareness “encourages [youth] to practice critical reflection in order to empathize with the struggles of oppressed people throughout the world” (p. 90).

By Urban Institute


Sources Cited

Boyd, M.J., Zaff, J.F., Phelps, E., Weiner, M.B., Lerner, R. (2011). The relationship between adolescents’ news media use and civic engagement: The indirect effect of interpersonal communication with parents. The Journal of Adolescence, 34, 1167-1179.

Ginwright, S. & Cammarota, J. (2002). New terrain in youth development: The promise of a social justice approach. Social Justice, 29(4), 82-95.