Does more widespread education lead to less religion? Not necessarily

The widespread notion that an increase in a person’s level of education inevitably leads to a decline in religious fervor is challenged HERE: Globally, we’ve seen a massive rise in education, without a uniform change in religious beliefs. In 1970, only about 40 percent of children worldwide enrolled in secondary education; four decades later, the rate had climbed to 73 percent. In developing nations, the increases have been substantial: In sub-Saharan Africa, enrollment rates have grown from 13 percent to 41 percent. In Pakistan, the average adult has had five years of schooling, up from a little over one year in 1960, and in Nigeria the same numbers are 7.5 years, up from 2.4. The average American adult has 13 years. If [the results of certain research] held worldwide, this massive rise in education would suggest a cratering in global religious practice. The available evidence tells a different story. According to the latest wave of World Values Surveys, 24 out of 42 countries have seen an increasing proportion of people who say religion is important in life. Four have seen the percentage unchanged, and 14 countries have seen it decline. In the countries where it’s declining, the starting points are radically different. The U.S. dropped from 56 percent in the 1990s to 40 percent now, whereas in Iraq, the proportion has dropped to 85 percent, down from 94 percent in the late ’90s. Overall, though, the world is becoming more godly, at least according to this measure of religious adherence....

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Are high school sports hurting American education?

Even as a lifelong sports fan and an incidental jock myself when I was in school, I have long since begun to wonder if the undue emphasis on athletics in our culture has detracted from the academic mission in institutions that are supposed to be educating American teens. Amanda Ripley has a PROVOCATIVE ARTICLE on this matter in The Atlantic: The United States routinely spends more tax dollars per high-school athlete than per high-school math student—unlike most countries worldwide. And we wonder why we lag in international education rankings? Every year, thousands of teenagers move to the United States from all over the world, for all kinds of reasons. They observe everything in their new country with fresh eyes, including basic features of American life that most of us never stop to consider. One element of our education system consistently surprises them: “Sports are a big deal here,” says Jenny, who moved to America from South Korea with her family in 2011. Shawnee High, her public school in southern New Jersey, fields teams in 18 sports over the course of the school year, including golf and bowling. Its campus has lush grass fields, six tennis courts, and an athletic Hall of Fame. “They have days when teams dress up in Hawaiian clothes or pajamas just because—‘We’re the soccer team!,’ ” Jenny says. By contrast, in South Korea, whose 15-year-olds rank fourth in the world (behind Shanghai, Singapore, and Hong Kong) on a test of critical thinking in math, Jenny’s classmates played pickup soccer on a dirt field at lunchtime. They brought badminton rackets from home and pretended there was a net. If they made it into the newspaper, it was usually for their academic accomplishments. Sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else. Yet this difference hardly ever comes up in domestic debates about America’s international mediocrity in education. (The U.S. ranks 31st on the same international math test.) The challenges we do talk about are real ones, from undertrained teachers to entrenched poverty. But what to make of this other glaring reality, and the signal it sends to children, parents, and teachers about the very purpose of school? When I surveyed about 200 former exchange students last year, in cooperation with an international exchange organization called AFS, nine out of 10 foreign students who had lived in the U.S. said that kids here cared more about sports than their peers back home did. A majority of Americans who’d studied abroad agreed. Even in eighth grade, American kids spend more than twice the time Korean kids spend playing sports, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Advanced Academics. In countries with more-holistic, less hard-driving education systems than Korea’s, like Finland and Germany, many kids play club sports in their local towns—outside of school. Most schools do not staff, manage, transport, insure, or glorify sports teams, because, well, why would they? When I was growing up in New Jersey, not far from where Jenny now lives, I played soccer from age 7 to 17. I was relieved to find a place where girls were not expected to sit quietly or look pretty, and I still love the game. Like most other Americans, I can rattle off the many benefits of high-school...

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A sampling of the drivel taught in some voucher schools

Let’s stipulate at the outset here that many, perhaps even most, of the private schools funded in part by taxpayers through vouchers are doing a good job of educating kids. But some of them aren’t. An INTERESTING ARTICLE by John Aravosis lists some of the nonsense that’s been taught in voucher schools. A few examples: –The Ku Klux Klan was a force for good. –The majority of slaves in the Old South were treated well. –Dinosaurs and humans lived side by side. –Fire-breathing dragons may actually have...

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How the best- and worst-educated states voted last week

  Incidentally, the data in the chart above were compiled by Fox News.

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Just what we need — textbooks that say slavery wasn’t so bad and the Klan had its good points

It says HERE that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (above) is promoting a scheme to teach children a scurrilously fictional account of American history and a wildly perverted version of science: Under a voucher system introduced by the state’s governor Bobby Jindal – a rising star of the Republican party – pupils attending 119 schools in the state, many of them run by the religious right, will be reading textbooks which tell that dinosaurs co-existed with humans,  slaves did not have it so bad and the Ku Klux Klan had some good points. Oh, and that Mark Twain was hopeless and Emily Dickinson, who spent much of her life shut up in her house in Amherst writing poetry, was presumptuous and disrespectful – both of them because they apparently had doubts about the beneficence of the Almighty. These are from textbooks issued over the past few years by Bob Jones University in South Carolina, a bastion of segregationism and racial discrimination for decades, until it found it might lose its charitable status. It is more than a slight irony that this has come from a governor with an ethnic Indian background, who was a Rhodes scholar not so long ago at New College, Oxford, academic home of Richard Dawkins – the prof’s head must be spinning that an alumnus is sanctioning science teaching that the Earth is only 6,000 years old in schools educating some of the most disadvantaged children in the US....

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