I See Stupid People: The Christian Academy Edition

There has been lots of discussion on the internets about a Department of Education study that compared fourth and eigth grade reading and mathematics skills in the U.S. (The full report in pdf format is here). While many have been concentrating on good news for the public schools–that there’s no overall difference between public and private schools once social factors are considered–what intrigued me was the poor performance of the conservative Christian schools (note: Catholic and Lutheran schools were not counted as conservative Christian). After adjusting for social factors, conservative Christian schools did substantially worse than public schools in reading and math.

In fact, the effect size (which is the difference in reading scores due to school type divided by the standard deviation) for conservative Christian schools is 0.24. So what’s going on with conservative Christian schools?
Is it:

  1. Poor teacher quality. Maybe most teachers don’t want to teach at these schools.
  2. The legacy of Jim Crow for whites. These schools flourished after desegregation. This might not be the best foundation for learning.
  3. The effects of dogmatism. Intellectual curiosity and slavish obedience do not go hand in hand.
  4. Parental and other environmental effects that are particular to the population that attends these schools. Certain social variables won’t be picked up in these kinds of analyses.
  5. Conservative Christianity is a form of child abuse. (Bad Mad Biologist! Bad!)

I’m sure some of you have opinions too…

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10 Responses to I See Stupid People: The Christian Academy Edition

  1. Being that they reject science in favor of wildly bastardized versions of the truth this doesn’t surprise me.
    I think that the focus on studying scripture takes away from time spent on useful.. I mean other pursuits.

  2. coturnix says:

    All five factors.

  3. I haven’t read the study, but maybe someone who has could answer this: Did it corrected for per-pupil expenditures? Joanne Jacobs raises this question and notes that these schools are often “run on a shoestring”.
    My sense is that there’s a large variation in the quality of Christian-run schools. A lot of it seems tied to resources. The smaller ones are generally resource poor and are often chosen for ideological/theological reasons. In contrast, the schools associated with large churches seem to ahve pretty high standards. I know proof by anecdote is a sucker’s game, but a pretty good number of my friends in Atlanta sent their children to one of several schools associated with “mega churches”. The schools had student bodies of > 3200 students, and were pretty well funded.
    Their student’s were held to high standards and were taught by very competent, enthusiastic teachers.
    But, of course, your mileage may differ. I don’t have more than a dozen or so data points.

  4. wheatdogg says:

    My guess as an educator is the materials they use. They typically push phonics for young readers, and their reading books are pretty old fashioned. (Some are still using McGuffey readers!) Ditto the math, which I gather is largely rote learning. Add to that mix the teachers, who likely have never taken pedagogy courses and are not up to date/are avoiding being up to date with current teaching practices.
    Some Xian schools, especially in larger cities like here in Louisville are actually pretty good. The rural ones, and the ones that are tightly associated with churches are usually pretty sketchy.

  5. Emanuel Goldstein says:

    Yep, Christians are stupid, as is frequently pointed out at sites like Thoughts From Kansas and other baselessly arrogant know it all sites.
    The only things stupider are atheists who site statistics to support their ends…statistics don’t lie of course, but statisticians do.
    As for child abuse, the Fundamentalist Atheist Richard Dawkins definitely has called labeling a child as a Christian or a Jew child abuse, and Daniel Dennet calls teaching creationism child abuse.
    And you know what should be done with child abusers!
    Lock them up and throw away the key…and thats just what he is suggesting.
    But let me tell you about ABUSE!
    Being raised by an atheist uncle who held “freethought” meetings in his basement every Saturday nite and then got drunk and did thinks unmentionable would certainly quality.
    Sending people to work camps, “re-education centers” (a deliciously atheist phrase) would certainly qualify.
    Mad Biologist: For the record, I am not a atheist. However, I find the conservative ‘Christian’ ideology repugnant on many, many levels. This is not the Christianity of Martin Luther King or Neibhur.

  6. subterranean kryptonite says:

    Homeless, Trolly?

  7. Homeless, Trolly?

    I guess being banned from RSR is causing it to need a new home to show its ignorance.

  8. Stogoe says:

    I know I’m not supposed to feed Legion, but as I skimmed his post, I saw ‘re-education centers’ in there and was reminded of the Simpsons episode with the time-travel toastser. In an alternate future, everyone was sent to Re-Neducation Centers. It made me smile.

  9. hypatia103 says:

    FWIW, a moderate emphasis on ‘knowing the scriptures’ in one of the reasons why Scotland had extremely high literacy rates at the turn of the last century. On the other hand, it’s not clear that this particular population values education in quite the same way.

  10. Odd that they ommitted Catholic and Lutheran schools from the list of conservative Christian schools. From a theological standpoint, the Catholics and Lutherans historically defined conservatism. And though they have changed of late, neither has changed on one point.
    Lutherans especially, but Catholics too, value reason. The Lutherans are taught that biblical interpretation is ultimately the responsibility of the believer. To do that, you need to be able to read and think.
    One thinks of the political right as conservative, and the left as liberal. While, for example, the Lutherans have not moved much to the left or right, those who call themselves the right have moved into such unthinking fascism that Lutherans are now flaming liberals. They’re still conservative. So what is the right?
    From my perspective, one can be conservative theologically, and liberal politcally, or other combinations. There is more than one dimension to attitude.

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