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Civic Socialization in Public and Fundamentalist Schools


  • *The authors thank the Spencer Foundation for its support of this work.

Kenneth Godwin, Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223-0001


Objective. Critics of schools governed by fundamentalist religions are concerned that these schools will not socialize students to the attitudes and values appropriate for citizens of a pluralistic liberal democracy. Among these values are support for democratic norms, political tolerance, moral reasoning and autonomy, duty to community, and acceptance of nontraditional lifestyles. This article examines the empirical basis for the critics' concerns.

Methods. Using difference-of-means tests and multivariate regression, we compare students in the 10th and 12th grades attending regular public and fundamentalist Christian schools.

Results. The 10th-grade comparisons of the two sets of students confirm many of the expectations of critics of fundamentalist schools. By the 12th grade, however, the students in fundamentalist schools have surpassed students in regular public schools on many of the desired attitudes and values, but the fundamentalist school students remain less accepting of nontraditional lifestyles.

Conclusion. For the most part, fundamentalist Christian high schools do as well or better than regular public schools in socializing their students to the values appropriate to citizenship in liberal democracies.