Schools of choice — private, charter or magnet — teach civic values as well or better than assigned public schools, concludes an analysis of 21 studies reported in the new Education Next. The studies looked at “the effects of school choice on . . . political tolerance, voluntarism, political knowledge, political participation, social capital, civic skills, and patriotism.” Only in fostering patriotism — for which there was a single study — did non-choice schools have an advantage. Some, but not all, of the choice advantage was linked to Catholic education.
Patrick Wolf speculates that “the apparent school choice advantage in promoting civic values is a generally higher level of order and discipline in schools of choice.”
A well-ordered and nonthreatening education environment likely contributes to studentsâ€™ feelings of security and confidence. Such feelings might be a necessary precondition for young people to develop a willingness to tolerate potentially disruptive political ideas and political groups and to venture out into the community to promote social causes . . .
. . . Effective instruction itself likely promotes civic values, as better-educated citizens tend to be more knowledgeable about politics, more tolerant, and more active in their communities.
Civics classes don’t have much effect on promoting civic values, Wolf writes.