Homeschooling and Intolerance

What is the deal with homeschooling? It is really a plan to produce a private army of patriarchs, as some have suggested? Due to the fractured nature of homeschooling, it is very difficult to say anything accurate about homeschoolers as a whole. Thanks to the indefatigable Milton Gaither, we see this week a study that attempts to figure out if homeschooling really does lead to greater intolerance.

For those who are not familiar with his work, Professor Milton Gaither is an historian at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. In addition to his historical work on homeschooling, he also reviews all the new research about homeschooling on his must-read blog.Gaither homeschool

This week, Gaither reviews a study by Albert Cheng. In short, Cheng compiled data gathered from students at Biola University who had been educated in part at home. Cheng wanted to know if these homeschooled students were more intolerant than their public- or private-school peers.

Read Gaither’s full review for the deets, but the short answer is no. All other things being equal, homeschooled students at Biola were a bit MORE tolerant than school-schooled students. As Gaither points out, though, all other things are not equal. The difference in tolerance between homeschooled and school-schooled students was less than the differences between students from different social backgrounds.

In other words, homeschooling tends to make students in this sample more tolerant of people from other backgrounds, but the difference is not as striking as the differences between students from rich and poor families, white and black ones, boys and girls, etc.

What’s the upshot? Gaither concludes with some intriguing implications that you need to read in full. Do public schools make evangelicals less tolerant? Do students choose relatively liberal evangelical colleges like Biola because they are already more tolerant of differences? Can we say with any confidence that homeschooling, as such, does not tend toward intolerance?

Leave a comment


  1. Matthew McConn

     /  February 12, 2015

    Interesting stuff.

  2. Agellius

     /  February 12, 2015

    “Can we say with any confidence that homeschooling, as such, does not tend toward intolerance?”

    It seems obvious that it would depend on what was being taught as opposed to where it is taught.

    • And yet there is a centuries-long tradition of assuming that public schooling for all will somehow promote the greatest possible tolerance among the greatest number…

      • Agellius

         /  February 12, 2015

        Yeah. Weird, huh? : )

        I mean, it makes sense to me in a creepy kind of way: If everyone receives the same government indoctrination throughout childhood, then presumably there will be less disagreement between them, and therefore less of a need for tolerance.

        Tolerance, strictly speaking, requires disagreement. If you “tolerate” e.g. homosexuality because you think there’s nothing wrong with it, that’s not really tolerance at all. Tolerance is when you think someone is wrong and yet you still treat them decently.

        It seems like the main trend among liberals today is to hammer into people’s heads that they have no right to judge anyone as being wrong, with the exception of those who judge people to be wrong — those people are wrong, wrong, wrong. Thus, you don’t tolerate those who are not wrong because there’s nothing to tolerate; and you certainly don’t tolerate those who judge others to be wrong, since you make every effort to stamp out their “intolerant” opinions. So, who exactly is there upon whom tolerance is being exercised?

  3. I’m not surprised at these results. Private and public schools are far more alike than most people think. The way they are structured and function as hierarchical institutions relative to a community and the way socialization happens in them is virtually identical in most cases. “Educational content” is simply far less formative than the structures and practices that establish a context for it.

    Were there any specific thoughts from these scholars as to why homeschooled kids seem to be more tolerant?

    Now someone needs to do a similar study with more colleges, including non-Christian and differently Christian colleges, and included non-religious homechoolers. My guess is that any homeschooler that gets into an accredited college is generally going to come up above average on measures of things like tolerance and critical capabilites. But if you take out homeschoolers who do not go to college or who go to unaccredited colleges you may find the opposite.


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