The Journal of Politics


On Status Quo Bias in Civic Education

Ian MacMullena1

a1 Washington University in St. Louis


Should civic education in a democracy cultivate children’s beliefs in the substantive merits of existing laws and political institutions? Such status quo educational bias can be both a barrier to political progress and a threat to the state’s legitimacy. Against these objections, I aim to show how and when adults’ fallible beliefs about the substantive merits of existing political arrangements constitute compelling reasons for status quo educational bias. And I argue that the values of stability, compliance, and patriotism underpin important reasons for status quo bias that appeal not to the substantive merits of existing institutions but merely to the fact that those institutions are the status quo.

(Online publication August 03 2011)


Ian MacMullen is assistant professor of political science, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130.