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article imageOp-Ed: Santorum got it wrong about college kids losing religion

By Bill Schmalfeldt     Feb 26, 2012 in Politics
One of the benefits of living in an evidence-free reality and having followers who believe you when you lie when the truth is easily available to anyone curious enough to look it up, is you can lie whatever lie you want to lie, and get away with it.
Such is the case for Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (R) who said once again on Sunday's "This Week" program on ABC:
“62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.”
There's only one little problem with that. It isn't true. In fact, multiple studies -- including the one Santorum refers to in his comments -- show that the exact opposite is true.
As Talking Points Memo reported Sunday:
A study published 2007 in the journal Social Forces — which PBS reports that Santorum’s claim is based on, although his spokesman didn’t respond to TPM’s request for confirmation — finds that Americans who don’t go to college experience a steeper decline in their religiosity than those who do.
“Contrary to our own and others’ expectations, however, young adults who never enrolled in college are presently the least religious young Americans,” the journal concluded, noting that “64 percent of those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institution have curbed their attendance habits. Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.” (Emphasis added)
So, while the substance of what Santorum said is true, more or less, its use to demean college attendance as a place where kids lose their religion is a red herring since more kids who do not attend college lose their religion (as a percentage) than those who do attend college. If President Obama were serious about trying to indoctrinate our kids away from their religious traditions, he certainly has found a well-spoken ally in Rick Santorum.
But let's be fair. Perhaps Santorum was referring to a 2006 Harvard study in which 62 percent of college Republicans said “religion is losing its influence on American life.”
But even that kicks his central point about college being a detriment to a person's belief system right in the teeth.
It found that “a quarter of students (25%) say they have become more spiritual since entering college, as opposed to only seven percent (7%) who say they have become less spiritual.”
TPM presents further evidence that Santorum got his "facts" bass-ackwards.
According to a 2011 study in the The Review of Religious Research, the impacts of education on religiosity are complicated, but on balance it concluded that “education positively affects religious participation, devotional activities, and emphasizing the importance of religion in daily life.” (Again, emphasis added.)
But as stated earlier, when one lives in one's own alternate reality with followers that believe whatever you tell them to believe, one can make any number of wacky, untrue, out of context, unsupported statements and it won't make a bit of difference.
Santorum doesn't want kids to go to college because he wants the next generation to be dull, stupid, easily-led by conservative dogma and subject to his brand of American Taliban style Christofascism. And, like the Google definition of Santorum, once you get THAT stuff on you, it's hard to wash off.
Messy, messy, messy!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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