Study: Committed Believers Survive School Better than Others

Students who are committed believers perform better in school than those who aren’t very religious.

Committed believers apparently have an advantage over nonreligious persons as far as school performance is concerned. Oddly, dogmatic atheists also do well, though it is hard to form conclusions from the data because there are so few of them. But average, secular students do not do as well.

This is ironic since public school is rather dismissive of religion. Basically, students that match school priorities don’t do as well as students that resist them.

The Federalist reports, “Stanford Study: The Most Religious Kids Do Best In School.”

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Adolescents who practice religion regularly perform better in school than those adolescents who do not, finds a recent study performed by Dr. Ilana M. Horwitz at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. Horwitz’s paper explores differences among the grade point averages (GPAs) of public school students based on their levels of religiosity.

Horwitz bucketed the students into five different levels of religious adherence, from most religious to least religious: Abiders, Adapters, Assenters, Avoiders, and Atheists. She found the most religious kids had the highest GPAs. Horwitz defines that group, the “Abiders,” as those who “display high levels across all measured dimensions of religiosity and ‘abide’ by religion in a classic, institutional sense,” while Avoiders, true to their nomenclature, “avoid religious involvement and broader issues of the relevance of religion for their life.” Unlike the Atheist group, they believe in G-d, but participate far less in religious ceremonies and prayer.

Horwitz’s paper focuses exclusively on the “Abider-Avoider” achievement gap, noting that Abiders outperform all the other religious groups, with the exception of Atheists, who performed comparable with Abiders, although the Atheist group size was very small, which affects its reliability. Atheists comprised 3 percent of Horwitz’s sample, and Horwitz makes no conjectures regarding their achievement metrics, saying they are a unique subset of students who most likely differ greatly from their other non-religious counterparts, given the “strong social stigma” attached to claiming G-d does not exist. […]

Horwitz discovered that “Abiders report the highest GPAs while Avoiders report the lowest GPAs, even after controlling for a host of background factors and behaviors.” Based on her own religious research, Horwitz believes religion nurtures two qualities rewarded heavily in school curriculums: “conscientiousness” and “cooperation.” Conservative Protestants comprised the largest religious type within the high-achieving Abiders group, which “run[s] counter to the hypothesis that Conservative Protestants fare worse in terms of academic achievement,” Horwitz wrote.

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About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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