Teaching values

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 students’ 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.

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  1. SuperSub says:

    Much of the concept of “civic values” derives from basic concepts like responsibility and respect. Public schools have a long history of failing to teach these characteristics to students, and without them, public school students won’t become active in their communities because they don’t feel responsible to the community nor do they respect others.
    Charter schools maintain higher levels of discipline and expectations that teaches, little by little, concepts like responsibility and respect to their students.

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    There are several things I wonder about in that study. First, the author chooses a 90% level of statistical significance– that’s questionable.

    Second, he reports that various studies show statistically significant effects, but there is no discussion of the size of the effects. It could be that there are measurable effects, but they are so small as to be inconsequential. (It would be like discovering a teaching method that increased IQ, with a significance of 99.9995%– but only increased it by one-tenth of a point. Yes, there is an effect, but it’s so small it’s uninteresting.)

    The author divides the studies into two groups: ones that attempt to correct for selection bias (the tendency for parents who select private school to be different than parents who don’t) and ones that don’t correct for selection bias. Why does he even bother to report the answers for the second group of studies?

  3. wayne martin says:

    This issue of civics and history failures of US students has been around for a while. It might be interesting to have someone correlate the NAEP scores with the proven failures of US public school and college students in these areas:

    H t t p : / / w w w ,washingtonpost.com
    Sunday, March 14, 2004

    Most students struggle with U.S. history

    Problems with subject transcend generations, education experts say
    By / Washington Post

    WASHINGTON — When the U.S. Department of Education reported that in 2001 nearly six out of 10 high school seniors lacked even a basic knowledge of the nation’s history, Bruce Cole was indignant and concerned.

    “A nation that does not know why it exists, or what it stands for, cannot be expected to long endure,” said Cole, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    From the Fordham Institute:

    Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?
    by James Leming, Lucien Ellington, Kathleen Porter-Magee

    H t t p : / / w w w .edexcellence.net/institute/publication/publication.cfm?id=317