PERSPECTIVES – News and Comments
A Brief Review of “Does Homeschooling or Private Schooling Promote Political Intolerance? Evidence From a Christian University” by Cheng
Brian D. Ray
National Home Education Research Institute, Salem, Oregon, USA
Numerous scholars have averred that the practice of parent-led home-based education (a.k.a., homeschooling) will result or produce adults who have socially negative traits. Negative, by these academics’ worldviews, is usually defined according to the idea that a liberal democratic and clearly statist society is the best general public good. They basically claim that if children and teens are not with peers and in a school – preferably a State/public-controlled one – for five days per week and about nine months per year then they will not learn and practice values, beliefs, and behaviors that advance a liberal society (e.g., Reich, 2002; West, 2009). Reich, for example, implied in the following that homeschooling cannot properly prepare children to be good adults, good citizens:
….. [State-run/public] Schooling is one of the few remaining social institutions – or civic intermediaries – in which people from all walks of life have a common interest and in which children might come to learn such common values as decency, civility, and respect. (p. 58)
Based on some research findings, other scholars have held that homeschooling might lead to more students come adults to be freethinking and civically engaged while holding philosophical and political views different from statist liberal democracy (e.g., Ray, 2013). To date, however, not many studies have addressed the philosophical and political practices of adults who were home educated.
New research by Albert Cheng (2014) on political intolerance will likely surprise many people, especially negative critics of home-based education. Some have wondered, Will the homeschooled end up being more, or less, politically tolerant?
Cheng’s (2014) fascinating and provocative study provides one of the first solid portions of empirical evidence about whether the homeschooled become more or less politically intolerant than others. The researcher’s purpose was to compare college students from different school types – public school, private school, and homeschool – by analyzing political tolerance outcomes. That is, are students from any particular school background more or less politically tolerant than others? Political tolerance is “… defined as the willingness to extend basic civil liberties to political or social groups that hold views with which one disagrees” (p. 49).
The researcher used an instrument (e.g., a questionnaire) called the “content-controlled political tolerance scale.” In its first of two parts, the “… scale provides the respondent with a list of popular social and political groups, such as Republicans, gay-rights activists, or fundamentalist Christians. The respondent is asked to select the group with beliefs that he opposes the most … The second part of the political tolerance scale measures the respondent’s willingness to extend basic civil liberties to members of his least-liked group” (p. 55). Participants were asked to respond to items such as the following:
- “The government should be able to tap the phones of [the least-liked group].”
- “Books that are written by members of the [the least-liked group] should be banned from the public library.”
- “I would allow members of [the least-liked group] to live in my neighborhood.” (p. 60)
With this scale, Cheng studied students at a private university in the western United States. These students came from a variety of schooling and racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Scholar Cheng clearly and in well-written style explained his meticulous methods. It is one of the best-designed and well-reported studies ever in the field of research on homeschooling. Cheng’s multivariate analysis controlled for many independent variables (e.g., gender, year in college, major, racial/ethnic background, and years of homeschooling, private schooling, and public schooling). His findings are quite simple, as he brings two main contributions to the existing research on schooling type and political tolerance, and they are as follow:
First, the finding that increased exposure to private schooling does not decrease political tolerance comports with and adds to the empirical evidence that students who attend private schools are at least as tolerant as students who attend public schools … (p. 63)
Second, this study adds new insight into the political tolerance outcomes of homeschooled children—a topic that, to the best of my knowledge, has not been empirically investigated until now. Specifically, … those [college students] with more exposure to homeschooling relative to public schooling tend to be more politically tolerant. (p. 63-64)
These findings are clearly in opposition to the worries and claims of some that the home educated will somehow be damaged by homeschooling, and be worse off than those who attend State/public schools. The researcher is careful, however, to explain that this is a first study and the sample of participants is drawn from a very specific college background.
Cheng also cautioned the reader that cause-and-effect (e.g., between school type and political tolerance) cannot necessarily be established from this study. With this in mind, the researcher contemplated the following:
Two theories for why homeschooling may cause an increase in political tolerance were suggested earlier. First, students who are homeschooled may attain a greater degree of self-actualization because homeschooling is highly conducive to personalized instruction and enables students to be taught a consistent worldview. Second, the religious values taught in a homeschooling environment as well as in many religious private schools are consistent with political tolerance and other values necessary for a liberal democracy. (p. 64-65)
More research and more time might shed more insight into the political tolerance of adults who were home educated compared to those who attended institutional public and private schools. For now, based on scholar Cheng’s study, it appears that those who are worried about homeschooling have less about which to be concerned. Perhaps, in fact, this study’s findings should encourage them to promote home-based education.
Cheng, Albert. (2014). Does homeschooling or private schooling promote political Intolerance? Evidence from a Christian university. Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 8(1), 49-68.
Ray, Brian D. (2013). Homeschooling associated with beneficial learner and societal outcomes but educators do not promote it. Peabody Journal of Education, 88(3), 324-341; p. 333.
Reich, Rob. (2002). The civic perils of homeschooling. Educational Leadership, 59(7), 56-59.
West, Robin L. (2009, Summer/Fall). The harms of homeschooling. Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, 29(3/4), 7-12.
- The “Perspectives – News and Comments” section of this journal consists of articles that have not undergone peer review. ¯