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Keywords:

  • political orientations;
  • civic education;
  • political socialization;
  • democracy;
  • market economy

A new program in civic education was introduced in Poland in 1994 to foster support for democracy and a market economy among youth. This program was based on the active teaching/learning model of education, with frequent student participation in “democratic games” and ”market simulations.“ This paper focuses on a sample of students, ages 14 and 15, who participated in this program and contrasts them with students subjected to the traditional civics program. The main analysis of cross-sectional data (gathered in 1996) reveals two countervailing effects: Relative to students in the control group, students in the treatment group were less likely to take extreme anti-democratic or extreme anti-market positions, and they were less likely to take extreme pro-democratic or extreme pro-market positions. Additional analysis of panel data (1994–1996) supports the conclusion that active participation in civic education results in students' political attitudes regressing toward the mean, that is, in their rejection of extreme stances. These findings not only contradict the no-effect hypothesis but also demonstrate a peculiar, partially intended and partially unintended, impact of civic education in schools on political learning.