Acton Institute Powerblog

Homeschooled Students are More Politically Tolerant Than Their Peers

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got-toleranceCritics of homeschooling have long maintained that it fails to inculcate students with the civic virtues necessary to maintain our republican form of democracy. But a new study finds that when it comes to willingness to extend basic civil liberties to people who hold views with which one disagrees, homeschooled students are more tolerant than their peers:

Scholar Albert Cheng’s just-published fascinating and provocative study provides one of the first solid portions of empirical evidence about whether the homeschooled become more or less politically intolerant than others.[3] The researcher’s purpose was to compare college students from different school types – public school, private school, and homeschool – by analyzing political tolerance outcomes. That is, are students from any particular school background more or less politically tolerant than others? Political tolerance is “… defined as the willingness to extend basic civil liberties to political or social groups that hold views with which one disagrees” (p. 49).

Cheng used an instrument (e.g., a questionnaire) called the “content-controlled political tolerance scale.” In its first of two parts, the “… scale provides the respondent with a list of popular social and political groups, such as Republicans, gay-rights activists, or fundamentalist Christians. The respondent is asked to select the group with beliefs that he opposes the most … The second part of the political tolerance scale measures the respondent’s willingness to extend basic civil liberties to members of his least-liked group” (p. 55). Participants were asked to respond to items such as the following:
1. “The government should be able to tap the phones of [the least-liked group].”
2. “Books that are written by members of the [the least-liked group] should be banned from the public library.”
3. “I would allow members of [the least-liked group] to live in my neighborhood.” (p. 60)

With this scale, he studied students at a private university in the western United States. These students came from a variety of schooling and racial/ethnic backgrounds.

The study found that “those [college students] with more exposure to homeschooling relative to public schooling tend to be more politically tolerant.”

(Via: Cranach)

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Dazieblue

    Not surprised.

  • FutureLegacy

    I was once asked by a journalist for a major daily newspaper, “How do you assure that your (homeschooled) students are exposed to a heterogeneous group of people, whether it be religious, racial, or economic backgrounds?”

    My response: “The question is presuming there is some written mandate requiring all children be exposed to people of various backgrounds. The public schools do not even do this. In fact, they are structured to segregate by age, which is not the real world. The question is also presuming homeschoolers should be focused on differences rather than what we have in common with another member of the human race. Skin color, financial status, ethnicity, heritage, religious background, social standing, education level have no bearing on our interaction with other people.”

    “While a family’s residence may be the primary location for teaching, libraries, neighborhood parks, churches, museums, music studios, farms, ranches, gyms, offices, nursing homes, hospitals, coffee shops, restaurants and countless other venues where people “do life” are routine settings for instruction. This variety allows children and families of all backgrounds to interact in real life settings to gain a healthy perspective and understanding of culture and history.”

  • a homeschool dad

    Where’s the rest of the article? How about giving actual results? Am I missing something.

    • R Moon

      Click on the words in red above. That will take you to the linked article and that article has the study information.

  • Linda Rochon

    More info on the study, please!