On President Obama's recent visit to Ireland, he offered a surprising explanation of the enduring tensions there: "If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs—if we can't see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation." Given his use of the word "we," it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is also how the president views religious "schools and buildings" in the United States.Of many Democrats' opposition to allowing parents to use school vouchers to place their kids in religious schools:
Perhaps the president and other Democrats oppose vouchers because they fear—as the president's remarks in Ireland suggest—that religious schooling undermines social cohesion. The belief that religious schools erode civic goals has a long history. In the mid-19th century, religious schools, Catholic schools in particular, were accused of reinforcing separate identities rather than shared American values. Much has changed in education since then, but a suspicion lingers in some quarters that church-operated schools breed intolerance.The results:
I conducted two of those 21 studies, and others were produced by researchers at institutions including Harvard, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. The studies varied in whether they looked at national or local samples of students and whether they examined secular, religious or all types of private schools. Of those studies, only one—focusing on the relatively small sector of non-Catholic religious schools—found that public-school students are more tolerant. Eleven studies, examining both secular and religious private schools, found that private-school students are significantly more likely to be tolerant, and nine found no difference.Of course that shouldn't be a surprise. Ironically, those who think the religious are more likely to be intolerant are often themselves the actual intolerant ones.