A new meta-analysis—a study reviewing 21 studies—shows that independent schools and school choice raise skills, knowledge and values along seven dimensions of civic learning necessary for a functioning representative democracy. The categories for the analysis were: political tolerance, voluntarism, political knowledge, political participation, social capital, civic skills, and patriotism.
The article, by Professor Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas, is thorough, careful, and dense in parts. Nevertheless, the bottom line is crystal clear:
The statistical record suggests that private schooling and school choice often enhance the realization of the civic values that are central to a well-functioning democracy.
Although education reformers put a lot of emphasis on Reading, Math, and Science, it’s worth mentioning civic education is similarly crucial. A moment’s thought reminds us that preserving the American way of life means guarding our freedom by demanding and defending a government that respects people’s rights equally while acting in the public interest.
Since this was a meta-analysis, it’s important to recall that we have known for a long time that school choice does not undermine enlightened patriotic values any more than being able to choose among churches undermines our right to worship.
Still, sometimes it’s necessary to repeat old lessons—just to remind ourselves of vital, enduring truths.