Lessons in Passing on the Faith from a Study of Conservative Christian Parents

In a recent study, the sociologist Jesse Smith found that parents who identify as “religiously conservative” are more likely to pass on their religious beliefs to their children than those who identify as “moderate” or “liberal.” While these categories don’t have exact equivalents among Jews, some of the findings are relevant, and go beyond the self-evident conclusion that those who take religion more seriously are more likely to raise children who do so as well:

[W]hat do religious conservative parents do differently? My study reveals a straightforward answer: they are more active in their children’s religious socialization. . . . To pass on religion, parents need to make it a part of daily family interactions.

This may sound obvious, but it runs counter to many parents’ instincts regarding the religious upbringing of their children. Christian Smith and his colleagues have shown the ways that parents worry about coming on too strong when teaching their children about religion. Parents want to make sure they give their kids room to explore religious questions for themselves, and don’t want to do anything to alienate their kids or provoke teenage rebellion. These are legitimate concerns, and if children feel like religion has been “rammed down their throats,” this may serve to push them away.

But my study suggests that, on average, the barrier to passing on the faith is not too much religious socialization, but too little. Taking too light a touch with religious parenting comes at a cost. If kids do not receive a clear and consistent message from their parents that religion is important, they are likely to simply conclude that it is not important. . . .

While the challenges of passing on the faith remain considerable, religious conservative parents are managing that challenge somewhat better than others, and their secret is simple: when it comes to religious parenting, be hands on.

Read more at Institute for Family Studies

More about: American Religion, Education, Family

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus