Researchers seem to have found a way to inhibit transmission of the so-called selfish gene in teenagers. Or perhaps they’ve simply found a way to prevent that gene from expressing itself once those teens hit adulthood. With due apologies to Richard Dawkins, research from Cardus Religious Schooling Initiative (CRSI) at Notre Dame University is giving us good reason to believe that there is a very positive religious school effect on students, which lasts well into adulthood.
CRSI researchers tapped into a large database of information (the Panel Study of Income Dynamics for the research-inclined) and found that religiously based U.S. high schools are proving to be especially good at turning out graduates who become civic-minded adults. Sociologists Dr. David Sikkink and Dr. Jonathan Schwarz have published those results in their report, The Lasting Impact of High School on Giving and Volunteering in the U.S.
What Sikkink and Schwarz found is that in a culture that labels young people in particular as selfish and self-absorbed, there are many who don’t fit into that mould. For example, the data reveal that Catholic school graduates are over 50 per cent more likely than public school graduates to volunteer for organizations that fight poverty. Catholic high schools seem to reflect the approach of Catholic social teaching, which emphasizes the importance of relieving poverty, and providing health care and education, among other priorities.
The same data show graduates of Evangelical Protestant and other non-Catholic religious schools are about 40 per cent more likely to volunteer in general as adults than their public school counterparts are, with a heavy emphasis on volunteering through their congregations. Their direct interest in poverty-relief is lower than it is for Catholic graduates. However, the report notes an important caveat about volunteering (and financial contributions) routed to churches.