Tag Archives: Education

Sociologist Rodney Stark discusses whether religion is good for society

Let's take a look at the data
Let’s take a look at the data

Mysterious Chris S. posted this interview with Baylor University sociologist / historian Rodney Stark.

About Rodney Stark:

Rodney Stark grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, and began his career as a newspaper reporter. Following a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. He left Berkeley to become Professor of Sociology and of Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. In 2004 he joined the faculty of Baylor University. He has published 30 books and more than 140 scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as prejudice, crime, suicide, and city life in ancient Rome. However, the greater part of his work has been on religion. He is past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. He also has won a number of national and international awards for distinguished scholarship. Many of his books and articles have been translated and published in foreign languages, including Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish.

Education:

  • B.A. University of Denver, 1959, Journalism.
  • M.A. University of California, Berkeley, 1965, Sociology.
  • Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1971, Sociology.

I don’t count sociologists as non-STEM, since they have to know statistics, which is math. Anyway, onto the interview.

Excerpt:

Q: After examining hundreds of relevant studies, what’s the biggest misconception you’ve found about the typical religious believer?

Rodney Stark: Even some leading evangelical scholars take it for granted that religious Americans are lacking in appreciation for “high culture,” for music, art, literature, and the like. Nothing could be further from the truth. The more often Americans attend religious services, the more likely they are to read newspapers, poetry, novels, and to admire writers. The same applies to liking classical music, to attending symphony concerts, operas, and stage plays, and to dislike rock ‘n roll.

Q: Some recent books, like Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, suggest that “religion poisons everything.” But your book indicates that religious belief offers society many tangible benefits. What are some of these benefits?

Rodney Stark: Religious Americans are more law abiding, have superior mental and physical health, are far more generous vis-à-vis charities, have much better family life, are more successful, and religious couples even have more satisfactory sex lives!

Q: In the book’s Conclusion you look at religion’s effect on many areas of society—crime, schooling, health, employment, welfare—and you determine that, by a conservative estimate, religion saves America over $2.6 trillion each year. What are some of the biggest contributors to this savings?

Rodney Stark: The biggest by far has to do with the criminal justice system. If all Americans committed crimes at the same level as those who do not attend religious services, the costs of the criminal justice system would about double to, perhaps, $2 trillion annually. Second is health costs. The more often people attend religious services, the healthier they are. However, the net savings involved is reduced somewhat by the fact that religious Americans live, on average, seven years longer than those who never attend religious services.

Previously, I noted how people who attend church or synagogue have much better marriage stability than atheists.

Let’s just review that with some research done by W. Bradford Wilcox:

Married couples who attend church together tend to be happier than couples who rarely or never attend services, according to sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia.

Using three nationally representative surveys – the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), and the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) – Wilcox found that married church-going Americans across denominational and racial classifications were more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than their non-religious counterparts.

Couples who attended church regularly were also less likely to divorce than couples who seldom attended church services, Wilcox found.

“Attending church only seems to help couples when they attend together,” Wilcox told Cybercast News Service. “But when they do, they are significantly happier in their marriages, and they are much less likely to divorce, compared to couples who do not attend church. I would say that church attendance is a beneficial component of marriage when it is done together.”

Wilcox explained that regular church attendance offers certain positive benefits to a married couple: “Churches supply moral norms like sexual fidelity and forgiveness, family-friendly social networks that lend support to couples facing the ordinary joys and challenges of married life, and a faith that helps couples make sense of the difficulties in their lives-from unemployment to illness-that can harm their marriages.”

“So, in a word, the couple that prays together stays together,” said Wilcox.

[…]”Men and women who hold a religious faith and put that faith into practice by attending church on a regular basis do look different in the marital realm,” Wilcox said.

“At least in the marriage arena, faith alone doesn’t work. You’ve got to combine faith and works to enjoy a happy and stable marriage. You need the consistent message, the accountability, and the support a church community can provide to really benefit from religious faith,” he added.

This Wall Street Journal article from a while back, entitled “Look Who’s Irrational Now” argues that atheists are less skeptical than believers.

Excerpt:

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith — it’s what the empirical data tell us.

“What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama’s former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin’s former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.

[…]Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn’t. Two years ago two professors published another study in Skeptical Inquirer showing that, while less than one-quarter of college freshmen surveyed expressed a general belief in such superstitions as ghosts, psychic healing, haunted houses, demonic possession, clairvoyance and witches, the figure jumped to 31% of college seniors and 34% of graduate students.

And naturally, studies show that religious people are both more generous than their secular counterparts.

Can blacks and Hispanics blame their troubles on racism by whites?

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
The success of children is due to their parents’ choices, not from outside racism

If the underperformance of blacks and Hispanics in America were caused by racism by whites, then it follows that Asian-Americans would be underperforming as well. But Asian-Americans are outperforming whites. Let’s look at three reasons why, and see if blacks and Hispanics can learn how to succeed by looking at the Asian example.

Here is the summary of this post:

  1. Asian Americans marry before they have children
  2. Asian Americans save more of what they earn
  3. Asian Americans monitor their children’s educational progress

Now let’s take a look at each of these in order.

Asians marry before they have children, so the kids have two parents
Asians marry before they have children, so the kids have two parents

1. Asian Americans marry before they have children

This article is from Family Studies.

It says:

Eight in ten Asian-American kids live with married birth parents, compared with about seven in ten European-American kids, five in ten Hispanic-American kids, and only about three in ten African-American kids. Half of black children live with their mothers only, compared to three in ten Hispanic children, less than two in ten white children and less than one in ten Asian children.

Naturally, children who have two parents to look after them do better, because one parent alone cannot work and do household chores and monitor the children as easily as two parents can. The decision about whether to have sex before marriage is entirely under the control of the grown-ups. It cannot be blamed on racism, poverty and other non-moral pre-occupations of the secular left. Marriage is a moral issue, and Asian-Americans do the moral thing, and marry before they have children.

Asian household wealth set to surpass whites
Asian household wealth set to surpass whites

2. Asian Americans save more of what they earn

This article from CNN Money explains:

Asians have had higher median incomes than their white counterparts, according to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The typical Asian family has brought home more money for most of the past two decades.

[…][Asians] will surpass whites in net worth in the next decade or two, Fed researchers said.

[…]In 1989, the median Asian family had about half the net worth of its white peer. By 2013, they had more than two-thirds.

The gap between whites and blacks and Hispanics, meanwhile, remained little changed over that time period.

Asians have similar financial habits to whites, in terms of investing and borrowing. Both groups are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to invest in stocks and privately-owned businesses and to have more liquid assets, which serves as a buffer against financial shocks. And, on average, the former have about half as much debt as the later.

As a result, Asians and whites have more financial stability than blacks and Hispanics, which also allows the former to build more wealth.

Everyone has to earn and save money, but in some cultures, it becomes normal to not save part of what you earn. That needs to stop. But it has nothing to do with discrimination due to skin color. In Asian culture, there is no glorification of consumer spending on sparkles, bling and other ostentatious wealth. Asians don’t want to appear to be wealthy, they want to actually be wealthy – by saving money.

Composite SAT scores by race and income levels
Composite SAT scores by race and income levels: Asians outperform at every income level

3. Asian Americans monitor their children’s educational progress

This article from Investors Business Daily explains how Asian parents don’t just make demands on their kids to learn, they actively monitor their progress and talk to their kids’ teachers:

Asian-American parents tend to oversee their children’s homework, hold them accountable for grades and demand hard work as the ticket to a better life. And it pays off: Their children are soaring academically.

[…]As a group, Americans need to take a page from the Asian parents’ playbook. American teens rank a dismal 28th in math and science knowledge, compared with teens in other countries, even poor countries.

Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are at the top. We’ve slumped. For the first time in 25 years, U.S. scores on the main test for elementary and middle school education (NAEP) fell. And SAT scores for college-bound students dropped significantly.

[…]Many [Asian students]from poor or immigrant families, but they outscore all other students by large margins on both tests, and their lead keeps widening.

In New York City, where Asian-Americans make up 13% of overall students, they win more than 50% of the coveted places each year at the city’s eight selective public high schools, such as Bronx Science and Stuyvesant.

What’s at work here? It’s not a difference in IQ. It’s parenting. That’s confirmed by sociologists from City University of New York and the University of Michigan. Their study showed that parental oversight enabled Asian-American students to far outperform the others.

No wonder many successful charter schools require parents to sign a contract that they will supervise their children’s homework and inculcate a work ethic.

You can see an updated image with the latest scores here.

It’s not enough to just outsource the education of your children to a bunch of non-STEM education-degree-holding teachers. Teachers can be good, and some work very hard. But the Democrat teacher unions prevent the firing of teachers who underperform. This is especially true in non-right-to-work states (Democrat states). So, you cannot depend on teachers to educate your children, and Asian parents don’t. That’s why their kids learn. Performance of children in school is not affected by discrimination against skin color, it’s affected by the level of involvement of parents.

Conclusion

We have learned that the success of Asian-Americans in America is all earned. And this proves that there is no such thing as “racism” that holds back non-whites. If blacks and Hispanics imitated the behaviors of Asians (not whites, but Asians), then they would achieve just as well as Asians do. It’s not a race problem, it’s a behavior problem. It’s not a “racism” problem, it’s a behavior problem. It’s an us problem, it’s not a them problem.

Christina Hoff Sommers: helping boys succeed in school

Christina Hoff Sommers
Christina Hoff Sommers

An article from the leftist Time magazine by feminist Christina Hoff Sommers.

Excerpt:

Being a boy can be a serious liability in today’s classroom. As a group, boys are noisy, rowdy and hard to manage. Many are messy, disorganized and won’t sit still. Young male rambunctiousness, according to a recent study, leads teachers to underestimate their intellectual and academic abilities. “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”

These “defective girls” are not faring well academically. Compared with girls, boys earn lower grades, win fewer honors and are less likely to go to college. One education expert has quipped that if current trends continue, the last male will graduate from college in 2068. In today’s knowledge-based economy, success in the classroom has never been more crucial to a young person’s life prospects. Women are adapting; men are not.

Some may say, “Too bad for the boys.” The ability to regulate one’s impulses, sit still and pay attention are building blocks of success in school and in life. As one critic told me, the classroom is no more rigged against boys than workplaces are rigged against lazy or unfocused workers. That is absurd: unproductive workers are adults — not 5- and 6-year-old children who depend on us to learn how to become adults. If boys are restive and unfocused, we must look for ways to help them do better.

She introduces three ideas to fix the problem, and here’s the third one:

In his delightful Boy Writers: Reclaiming their Voices, celebrated author and writing instructor Ralph Fletcher advises teachers to consider their assignments from the point of view of boys. Too many writing teachers, he says, take the “confessional poet” as the classroom ideal. Personal narratives full of emotion and self-disclosure are prized; stories describing video games, skateboard competitions or a monster devouring a city are not.

Peg Tyre’s The Trouble With Boys illustrates the point. She tells the story of a third-grader in Southern Californianamed Justin who loved Star Wars, pirates, wars and weapons. An alarmed teacher summoned his parents to school to discuss a picture the 8-year-old had drawn of a sword fight — which included several decapitated heads. The teacher expressed “concern” about Justin’s “values.” The father, astonished by the teacher’s repugnance for a typical boy drawing, wondered if his son could ever win the approval of someone who had so little sympathy for the child’s imagination.

Teachers have to come to terms with the young male spirit. As Fletcher urges, if we want boys to flourish, we are going to have to encourage their distinctive reading, writing, drawing and even joke-telling propensities. Along with personal “reflection journals,” Fletcher suggests teachers permit fantasy, horror, spoofs, humor, war, conflict and, yes, even lurid sword fights.

If boys are constantly subject to disapproval for their interests and enthusiasms, they are likely to become disengaged and lag further behind. Our schools need to work with, not against, the kinetic imaginations of boys to move them toward becoming educated young men.

There’s a short video to go with the article:

Dr. Sommers participated in a recent debate where she argued in favor of allowing all-male schools against a radical feminist. That page has audio and a transcript as well.

My thoughts

I do think that women need to realize that boys have to be encouraged to do the different things that boys do, if we want boys to be engaged. The good things that boys do in society are not free – they need to be encouraged and not dismissed. Playing a wargame or an adventurous boardgame with a boy is good. Firing real guns with a boy is good. Playing adventurous role-playing games with a boy is good. Going to a war museum or on a camping trip with a boy is good. Watching patriotic war movies or adventurous movies with a boy is good. Reading military history and military biographies is good. Reading classical adventure novels with a boy is good. Listening to adventurous music with a boy is good. Even watching the news with a boy is good.

Nothing is free. We have to create the boys we want, and encourage them to be aggressive, active and righteous.

Tad Hopp accumulates six figures of college debt, wants taxpayer bailout

Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com
Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com

Here’s an interesting editorial from a “Christian” left blog. (H/T Acton Institute via Lindsay)

The author, Tad Hopp is graduating a PCUSA seminary – an extremely liberal, left-wing denomination.

He writes:

I graduated college in 2007.

[…] I majored in English, not exactly what most people consider a ‘marketable’ or ‘practical’ degree…

[…]I went to a somewhat expensive private school…

[…]I did what many students in their last year of high school do: I went to the school where I felt I was being called…

[…]I do not regret my four years at my undergraduate institution one bit.

[….]When I graduated college, I owed nearly $50,000 in student loan debt and was unemployed for almost six months before I finally found a low-paying office job.

[…]“Can’t find a job? Well, you should have majored in something more ‘practical’, like economics or business or medicine.” Yeah, that would be great…if those were the subjects where my skills and passions lie. They’re not.

[…]I felt called to go to seminary.

[…]I will graduate seminary with close to six figures worth of student loan debt.

Let’s take stock of what he’s said so far:

  • he studied English, a language that he already spoke, which has one of the lowest employment rates
  • he was warned by people who knew something about earning and saving money not to study English
  • he went to a school he couldn’t afford to go to, and he graduated with $50,000 in debt
  • he went to seminary, another subject that doesn’t pay, and added another $50,000 or so of debt
  • he says that he doesn’t have to study subjects that lead to a career because he isn’t “passionate” about them
  • he “followed his heart” by going to the school that he had mystical, emotional, intuitions about = “calling”

My advice to Tad at this point would be for him to take the Bible seriously when it says this:

2 Thessalonians 3:10:

10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

And 1 Timothy 5:8:

8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Now, for a Bible-believing Christian, these are inerrant and cannot be denied. But we have to go outside the Bible and learn how the world really works in order to figure out how to achieve those stated goals. Why should anyone hire us? What is working really about?

But even before looking at economics, Tad needs to push away all his friends who tell him to “follow his heart” and stick close by his friends who understand economics, who have jobs already, who have savings already, and so on. Don’t look for advice from dreamers, you look to advice from doers – people who can read the times, run the numbers and who have demonstrated the ability to create plans that work to achieve results that please God. When it comes to planning about the future, look at the past accomplishments. Weaving a happy narrative sounds nice, but judge future predictions based on past performance.

I would recommend that Tad read an economist like Thomas Sowell, especially on work, prices, etc., and realize that work means providing value to others. It then follows that he is obligated by the Bible to NOT “follow his heart”, but to instead do something that offers value to his fellow man. Prices are a way of determining what is most valued by your fellow man. And we know what careers have the highest starting salaries and mid-career salaries:

Starting and Mid-Career salaries by profession (click for larger image)
Starting and Mid-Career salaries by profession (click for larger image)

(Source)

Keep in mind that you also have to check to see what the unemployment rate for these fields is, but I think they are all very much in demand, hence the salaries.

I don’t mind if a woman studies English and seminary, but Tad is a man – he has the Biblical obligation to be the primary provider, as we saw in the verses above.

More Tad:

Is the PCUSA doing anything to address this crisis?

[…]What has our government done to address this issue?

[…]I, like so many in my generation, voted for Obama…

[…]It seems to me that we’ve bought into the lie that student loan debt is brought on by the individual person…

[…]You know what I think might stimulate the economy? Automatically cancelling every single outstanding student loan!

[…]If we can spend $640 billion dollars on defense spending, why can’t we find the money to better support public education?

It’s important to understand that an English degree and a seminary degree do not prepare a person to make statements on economics and government. Tad has never studied these things, has no experience in them. He cannot state what the impact of his suggestions would be to all groups, i.e. – he cannot answer “and then what happens?” for every impacted group. Thinking economically is a valuable skill, but as Tad’s personal life shows, it’s not an area he is really knowledgeable about. But he wants to shift money from defense spending (which he knows nothing about) so that he can have a personal bailout. I personally doubt that taxpayers would be better served by paying for his English degree and liberal seminary degree than they would be if a peace-loving democracy could project power abroad to deter aggression from countries like North Korea, Iran, Russia, China and Syria.

Here is the solution to Tad’s problems:

  • we need to put Tad to work in a minimum wage job and confiscate his entire salary, until his loans are paid off.
  • we need to put Tad on a watch list such that he is never allowed to borrow money from anyone ever again.
  • once Tad’s loans are paid off, he should be taxed on his future earnings at the top tax rate for the rest of his life. The money we tax from him can fund education – that’s what he said he wanted.
  • Tad and his household should all be barred from collecting any money for unemployment, welfare or other social programs.

That’s the only bailout Tad should get. It would actually be in his best interest that he encounter real life as quickly as possible, because the longer he waits, the harder it’s going to be for him to recover to independence. He needs to stop his crazy retreat from adult responsibilities, and start working and saving now. I would say that at this point, marriage and parenting is out of the question for him (in another post, he comes out as gay, so that also complicates things). And he can thank the politics of the secular left for marriage and family being less affordable now, thanks to laws like Obamacare, which raised the cost of health care by thousands of dollars. I found it interesting that he actually did work at some point but he mocked the job as a “dead-end job” – as if it was beneath him.

I know some of you will be thinking, “but God called him things and so of course God is going to bail him out with $100,000 for his student loans”. But the thing is, God doesn’t usually work like that. First, I don’t accept that he is a Christian at all. Second, just because you have feelings that your plan will work, that isn’t a calling. The truth is that you certainly can assess the feasibility of things that you feel “called” to do, and if the plan looks crazy, then don’t do it. If you find yourself at odds with wise, practical people when explaining your calling to them, then you’re probably doing it wrong.

Homeschooling family from Alabama gets 7 of their 10 kids into college by age 12

They call them the Brainy Bunch
They call them the Brainy Bunch

Here’s a wonderful story to cheer everyone up from the Christian Post.

They write:

An impressive seven of 10 homeschooled children from a Christian family in Montgomery, Alabama, which now boasts a doctor and New York City architect among them, all started college by the time they were 12; and now their parents have written a book about how they managed to pull off such staggering academic success.

The parents of the 10 children, Mona Lisa and Kip Harding, are described as high school sweethearts on a website dedicated to The Brainy Bunch Book.

“After four kids, they decided to turn to homeschooling, and their success paved the way for their children to start college by the age of 12, and go on to great careers in medicine, engineering, architecture and more,” explaines the website.

Hannah, 26, is the oldest Harding child. She earned her bachelor of science in mathematics from Auburn University Montgomery and a master’s degree in mathematics by the time she was 19. She is now working on a PhD in material science.

Rosanna, 24, is now an architect in New York City and became the youngest member in the American Institute of Architects at age 23. Serena, 22, earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Huntingdon College at 17, and became one of America’s youngest female doctors at 22. She is now a resident at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda.

Their brother Heath, 17, has an master’s in computer science. He earned a BA in English at 15, and he is currently working at building his tutoring and online computer business. Keith, who is 15, is pursuing a bachelor’s in music at Faulkner University. Seth, just 13, is a history major at Huntingdon College, while Katrinnah, 10, is a student at Faulkner University.

Their other siblings, Mariannah, 8; Lorennah, 5, and Thunder, 3, are still being homeschooled.

In an interview with KSL Kip and Mona Lisa noted that their children aren’t geniuses. They simply found a way to accelerate their learning by making it fun. One-on-one sessions with the mother who is working on her bachelor’s degree at home also helped immensely.

“One teacher has 30 students on average,” said Kip. “We can do better than that. Kids get left behind in a classroom. … This is where homeschooling really takes off because those kids are getting extra attention. And who’s more loving than a mom and dad teaching them things?”

And for parents considering homeschooling, Mona Lisa had some sage advice.

“I personally would like to tell the moms that if moms read, they can teach their child to read,” she said.

“Then their kids have the ability to teach themselves. I basically teach them to love reading and the basics of math, and from there, they can have a lot of their own answers. … The model at home is more a tutoring model.”

Despite their success, however, Kip acknowledged the importance of teachers in a traditional classroom setting.

“Teaching is a hard job and teachers still have a place,” said Kip. “But government money comes with strings attached. … We’re just relying on God and he keeps coming through and it’s working out well. Truly, we’re just average.”

Sigh! I would really like to have executed a plan like this, but before you can, you have to find a woman who thinks that marriage and children are more important than binge-drinking, hooking-up, and flying around the world to be photographed with malnourished children, etc. I think Christian men do have a plan for making their marriages into a project that gets results like this, but you can’t do it unless you find a woman who is willing to do the work that’s required. Finding one who wants to have kids and manage their progress so that they will have an influence in the world is much harder than it ought to be.

What’s your plan to make a difference, Christian man?