GRE Reading Comprehension
During adolescence, the development of political ideology becomes apparent in the individual; ideology here is defined as the presence of roughly consistent attitudes, more or less organized in reference to a more encompassing, though perhaps tacit, set of general principles. As such, political ideology is dim or absent at the beginning of adolescence. Its acquisition by the adolescent, in even the most modest sense, requires the acquisition of relatively sophisticated cognitive skills: the ability to manage abstractness to synthesize and generalize, to imagine the future. These are accompanied by a steady advance in the ability to understand principles.
The child's rapid acquisition of political knowledge also promotes the growth of political ideology during adolescence. By knowledge I mean more than the dreary "facts," such as the composition of county government that the child is exposed to in the conventional ninth-grade civics course. Nor do I mean only information on current political realities. These are facets of knowledge, but they are less critical than the adolescents absorption, often unwitting, of a feeling for those many unspoken assumptions about the political system that comprise the common ground of understanding—for example, what the state can "appropriately" demand of its citizens, and vice versa, or the "proper" relationship of government to subsidiary social institutions, such as the schools and churches.Thus, political knowledge is the awareness of social assumptions and relationships as well as of objective facts. Much of the naivete that characterizes the younger adolescent's grasp of politics stems not from an ignorance of "fact" but from an incomplete comprehension of the common conventions of the system, of what is and is not customarily done, and of how and why it is or is not done.
Yet I do not want to overemphasize the significance of increased political knowledge in forming adolescent ideology. Over the years I have become progressively disenchanted about the centrality of such knowledge and have come to believe that much current work in political socialization, by relying too heavily on its apparent acquisition, has been misled about the tempo of political understanding in adolescence Just as young children can count numbers in series without grasping the principle of ordination, young adolescents may have in their heads many random bits of political information without a secure understanding of those concepts that would give order and meaning to the information.
Like magpies, children's minds pick up bits and pieces of data. if you encourage them, they will drop these at your feet—Republicans and Democrats, the tripartite division of the federal system, perhaps even the capital of Massachusetts. But until the adolescent has grasped the integumental function that concepts and principles provide, the data remain fragmented, random, disordered.
The author's primary purpose in the passage is to
- A clarify the kinds of understanding an adolescent must have in order to develop a political ideology
- B dispute the theory that a political ideology can be acquired during adolescence
- C explain why adolescents are generally uninterested in political arguments
- D suggest various means of encouraging adolescents to develop personal political ideologies
- E explain why an adolescent's political ideology usually appears more sophisticated than it actually is
Correct Answer: A