Watch the presidential debates and get a heavy dose about what’s wrong with politic discourse in America. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama tried to out-shout each other, ignoring moderators’ directives and plunging onward with accusatory tones, gross distortions, dismissive eye-rolls and a few snotty asides.

Terrific theater.

Lousy discourse.

And, according to education researchers and psychologists, an awful lesson for impressionable ears.

Fortunately, those same researchers say a young person’s civic involvement is most heavily influenced by parental behavior, not politicians or media sources.

Interestingly, that kind of parental involvement showed results regardless of the family’s ethnicity, income, education or employment. While pundits often ascribe political differences based on those factors, this in-depth research affirms the opposite. Constructive political conversation in the home elevates civic involvement no matter who you are or where you’re from.

Encouraging open exchange of political thoughts leads to better critical thinking.

“Family communication patterns that involve parents encouraging children to express political opinions are usually better oriented toward public affairs.”

When parents lecture and emphasize deference to only their opinions, researchers find kids less critical of political claims and more likely to passively accept others’ opinions.

Households where kids hear multiple viewpoints and are asked their opinion, produce curious kids who form their own opinions, and most importantly, act on them.

— Quad-City Times, Davenport, Iowa, Oct. 21

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