For 17 years I was a careers counsellor in a high school here on the Sunshine Coast. I had a ringside seat on senior student achievement, watching over a thousand students graduate from high school. Three of those graduates were my own children. We were a Christian family and they went to a Christian school. We had around 150 Christian denominations or groups represented on campus. Around a third of the students had their own active faith of some description. Another third has some form of background Christian culture, but it wasn’t their own. The final third came from families for which
Christianity meant nothing. It was a good school, with “good morals” for their kids.So with that background it came as no surprise that Stanford Graduate School of Education has come up with a study re-affirming what I already knew from observation: That religious high school students do better academically than those with no religion. Their take was that the results were achieved because “because they are rewarded for being obedient and respectful and for having self-control”.
I disagree with their conclusion. Yes Christianity does involve some disciplines, but then so do sport and club commitments, which is huge among teenagers. My personal observations were that students committed to their faith wanted to do their best to please their Lord, Jesus Christ. They were using their lives as an act of worship, just as I was as a teacher. What they did in all spheres of life was a reflection of their faith, and this flowed over into dating, choosing friends, limits on substance abuse, and attitudes toward teachers and parents.
And here’s another factor that influences their educational achievement. The strongly evangelical parents of these children divorce at a rate some 35% lower than the average. Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced. And we all know that growing up in an intact family has, on average, huge ramifications for educational attainment.