Grades and godliness

In an article whose title is bound to make Rev. BigDumbChimp annoyed, LiveScience notes a study that correlates religious attendance with educational outcomes:

Students in grades 7 to 12 who went to church weekly also had lower dropout rates and felt more a part of their schools.


Students who attend religious services weekly average a GPA .144 higher than those who never attend services, said Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa.

Now as a science guy, I’ve got to wonder if the increase in grades also applies to sciences where the prevailing doctrine taught in many churches directly opposes the coursework.

But the overall result doesn’t surprise me at all.  Growing up in a relatively small part of South Carolina, I found that church and church related organizations were essentially the only structured social activities available outside of school.  This appeared to surprise the head researcher:

“Surprisingly, the importance of religion to teens had very little impact on their educational outcomes,” Glanville said. “That suggests that the act of attending church — the structure and the social aspects associated with it — could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion.”

As someone who went to church pretty regularly as a kid, this is completely unsurprising to me.  Kids are at church to socialize – or these days, to blow each other away.  The religious talk probably matters a lot less to kids than pastors and youth directors would like to believe.  But without the socialization, kids may do poorer in the school setting.

I wonder how the kids of UUs do in school compared to kids of Southern Baptists.  That might tell us whether it’s the act of attending church or something in the doctrines that helps educational outcomes.

You can read the abstract of Glanville’s study here – or get the whole study if your school subscribes to the journal online.  My school doesn’t, and it’s not worth the 30-mile drive to and from the university for a non-chemistry article. 🙂

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2 Responses to “Grades and godliness”

  1. While yes it would annoy me, I think you and the researcher are correct about structure and having social interaction.

    I would also like to see a study on those who don’t go to church but are believers with those who don’t go to church as a conscious decision because of lack of belief and grades.

    I think that would be hard to get from small towns. But I’m sure many will take this study as an endorsement of religion vs. social activities.

  2. Rick says:

    But I’m sure many will take this study as an endorsement of religion vs. social activities.

    I’m shocked so far that I’ve not heard more about this particular study from some of my religious colleagues here at the college. Guess they don’t read LiveScience…