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What do teenagers care about? Stanford training researchers uncover high considerations in letters to presidential candidates

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“When the youngsters submit their letter on-line, they tag it to point out what class it goes into,” mentioned Antero Garcia, an assistant professor of training at Stanford GSE and lead writer of the examine. “Nevertheless it’s an open area—the youngsters can write any tag they need.” A scholar who writes a letter about stopping cruelty to animals, for example, might tag it animal rights, animal abuse, animal testing or one thing else. “One would possibly simply say animals. Or animal lives matter. Or there might be a typo, so it says aminals.” 

The analysis crew had the unenviable activity of sorting via the hundreds of letters and streamlining the classes, then grouping the letters appropriately. Subsequent, they gathered statistical knowledge for the faculties and communities the place the coed letter-writers lived. 

“We don’t know any knowledge in regards to the particular person college students, like race or ethnicity or gender, however we all know the varsity web site the place each letter was written,” Garcia mentioned. “From there we might take a look at nationwide knowledge to determine socioeconomic standing and a few electoral data, together with whether or not the precinct went for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in 2016.”

Linking matters to high school demographics 

There was no single subject that overshadowed all others, the researchers discovered, although some have been extra prevalent that others. 

Immigration was excessive on the listing: Practically 10 % of scholars tagged their letter with a time period on this class (together with border patrol, deportation, and others). Gun violence was one other main subject.

“And this was earlier than the Parkland taking pictures, whenever you would think about that prime faculty college students started to get very concerned on this difficulty,” mentioned Levinson. “However in 2016, it was already one of many high considerations.” 

The researchers recognized a variety of connections between letter matters and faculty demographics. First, the matters of immigration, race, discrimination, police and violence have been prevalent amongst letter writers total however considerably extra more likely to be written about in letters from faculties that serve a majority of each college students of shade and lower-income college students (the place greater than half obtain free or reduced-cost lunch). 

The price of school was additionally a prevalent difficulty within the letters total, however children from extra prosperous faculties serving predominantly white college students have been extra more likely to write about it, the researchers discovered. 

“We will’t actually say why that’s the case, however one in all our theories is that these college students are being positioned extra strongly to attend school, so it’s extra on the forefront of their minds,” mentioned Levinson. “It’s doable that college students from faculties serving predominantly lower-income college students or college students of shade produce other points which might be extra on the forefront of their minds—it’s not that they’re not apprehensive about school prices or not occupied with going to school, however perhaps they’re extra apprehensive about different points which might be prevalent of their communities.”

Letters categorized beneath weapons (together with these tagged gun management and second modification) and ladies’s/gender points (together with feminism and gender wage hole) have been additionally extra prevalent amongst extra prosperous faculties with majority white college students.

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