There is an underlying notion inside the liberal education establishment that religious belief is backwards and contrary to enlightenment. Schools have long been viewed as gateways to a glorious secular and technological future, free of religious superstition.
After all, the purpose of education is to make children “career and college ready,” not to impart character or moral sentiments. Some educators go to the point of insinuating that the less religious influence upon the student, the better.
Such convictions would be more convincing if they were based on facts. It would be good to see serious empirical studies that prove these prejudices against the influence of religion are justified. All too often, the assumptions are simply stated without proofs. The public is asked to accept them at face value.
In his recent book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, sociologist Robert Putnam actually cites many such studies and the evidence is overwhelming. His conclusion is that religion has not only a good impact, but even a great effect upon the success of a child’s education.
“Compared to their unchurched peers,” Putnam writes, “youth who are involved in a religious organization take tougher courses, get higher grades and test scores, and are less likely to drop out of high school.”
Moreover, churchgoing youth have better relationships with their parents. They are more involved in sports and extracurricular activities. They are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs that inhibit learning. That is to say, the moral formation influenced by religion provides the framework for students to flourish.
Even more surprising is the finding that religion is not the domain of the unenlightened lower classes of society as is often insinuated. In fact, students from affluent families are now much more likely to be involved in religion than those in poorer families. Religion is a major part of the mix that allows many of them to attain later success in life.
If that were not enough, students enlightened by religion tend to seek higher education. Putnam cites studies that show that a child whose parents regularly attend church is 40 to 50 percent more likely to go on for a college education than a similar child of parents who do not attend church.
Based on such evidence that clearly shows a positive impact, schools should at least recognize that religious involvement in the home helps the educational development of children.
The sad fact is that while religion is good for education, education is not good for religion. The educational establishment treats religion as if it is a deadly disease, not a blessing, upon the child.
The least reference to Christianity is increasingly expunged from the schools more thoroughly than from a Soviet classroom. A secular quarantine is imposed upon the school by taking away references to Christmas and other Christian holidays deemed poisonous to the child. At the same time, immoral or anti-religious material or programs freely circulate and are promoted. It is despite, not because of, educational policy that churchgoing students do better.
While religion tends to help get students into college, college tends to get religion out of students. It is a sad fact that many students find an atmosphere on campus which corrupts their morals and erodes their faith. Openly hostile professors attack and ridicule Christian principles and beliefs. It has almost become a rite of passage that many American students lose their faith at the university.
The welfare of the student should be a major concern for educators. All positive influences upon the child should be encouraged, not banished – especially if the influence is proven effective. In this sense, how much better education would be if it were at least not hostile to God and religion, and how much better it would be if education policy were to be based on facts, rather than prejudices.