“Does Homeschooling or Private Schooling Promote Political Intolerance? Evidence From a Christian University

Author(s): Albert Cheng

Source: Cheng, Albert. 2014. “Does Homeschooling or Private Schooling Promote Political Intolerance? Evidence From a Christian University.” Journal of School Choice 8: 49-68.

Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15582159.2014.875411

Do homeschooling or private schooling promote intolerance of people who are different? Do public schools do a better job of producing politically tolerant individuals? New empirical evidence suggests that homeschooling is related to increased political tolerance, while attendance in private schools is associated with no difference in political tolerance compared to attendance in public schools.

About the Study
Students at a private Christian university (n=304) were surveyed about their attitudes toward political tolerance using the content-controlled political tolerance scale (Sullivan and colleagues 1982), a widely used instrument that has both high reliability and validity. The instrument asks the respondent to identify a group with beliefs that he or she strongly opposes and then measures the respondent’s willingness to extend civil liberties to this group. The researcher also gathered information regarding respondents’ demographic and ideological background as well as years spent in different sectors within the educational system—public, private, and homeschool. Regression techniques are used to estimate a relationship between amount of schooling in a sector and political tolerance.

The researcher’s findings were somewhat surprising. For each additional year a student was homeschooled, there existed a statistically significant increase in political tolerance. This suggests that homeschooling is positively related to political tolerance compared with attendance in public schools. Increased attendance in private schools, however, did not result in statistical differences in levels of political tolerance, a finding that supports previous research on private schooling and suggests that private schools are just as successful in promoting tolerance of different beliefs and worldviews as public schools.

One limitation of this survey is that respondents were sampled from one university of particular origins. This is also one of the study’s strengths, however, as the university chosen—an evangelical Christian university—is a population that critics of Christian schools suggest would be more intolerant of those with other political ideas and worldviews. Demonstrating variation in the student body and their previous schooling serves to provide additional information regarding Christian colleges and students in these schools.

An additional limitation is that private schools are lumped together in one category for analysis and likely include students who attended religious and nonreligious schools. Combining these sectors may obscure important differences between types of religious schools (e.g., evangelical Protestant schools and Catholic schools) and nonreligious schools and the ways in which these school contexts impact student development. Another important aspect that this study is not able to determine is whether the motivations behind the homeschooling practice—religious, political, or other—have an effect on political tolerance. However, with such limited empirical study available on homeschooling outcomes, this research provides a valuable starting point for further investigation.

Keywords: private schooling, home schooling, political attitudes, tolerance

Sector: Catholic,  Charter,  Evangelical Protestant,  Homeschool,  Jewish,  Muslim,  Other Protestant,  Private,  Public

Outcomes: Civil and Political

Date Posted: 2015-02-11