November 5, 2012

A recent study has reported that Catholic school graduates view the role of faith in the public square similarly to graduates of public schools.

Cardus, a Christian think tank that focuses on bringing faith into public life, conducted the study, called A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats. It covers grads from schools in all provinces except Quebec, which the report covers separately.

The study compares graduates now aged 24 to 39 from government-run public schools with grads in the same age group from various kinds of schools: Protestant private schools, non-religious private schools, religious home schools, Catholic separate schools (government-funded), and Catholic independent schools (private with some government subsidies).

Graduates were compared on a wide range of topics in addition to religion. However the study gives little information about their actual responses; it just reports how other grads compared to grads from public schools.

In total, 1,868 graduates were surveyed. In addition, the results were controlled for family socioeconomic and religious background.

"What struck me the most was that Catholic schools were the same as public schools in many respects," said Ray Pennings, the study's project leader and the director of research at Cardus.

The study showed grads from both kinds of Catholic schools were less involved in volunteering their time with their congregations than grads from Protestant schools, religious home schools and public schools.

But they scored the same as public-school grads on their views on the importance of religion in public life.

"You would have expected to find some spiritual differences, but they weren't there (for Catholic grads)," Pennings said, "which is distinct from the Protestant schools, where we were getting measurable differences."


Pennings added graduates from Protestant schools said their faith made an impact on their cultural engagement. They gave more time to their church than Catholics, but were less political.

Catholic-independent-school grads volunteered more than Catholic-separate-school and public-school grads outside their congregation, but were less politically engaged.

"I am surprised by the results," said Doug Lauson, superintendent of the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA). He said he would have expected religious training provided by schools would have an effect on how students lived their faith after graduation.

But Lauson noted the sample size for Catholic-independent-school grads was low. Only 23 were sampled from all of B.C.


However, he added, secularization in society is a factor not only for Catholic schools but for Protestant ones as well. CISVA is looking at ways to address this issue with students.

"Young people are in a bit of a difficult situation, because in school they learn one set of values, and then they go to the shopping mall and they're surrounded by a different set of values," he said.

"Our graduates should be aware of the world out there and should be prepared to defend their faith in a world that is very secular, and where the practice of your faith is allowed but frowned upon."


With regard to employment, the study showed grads from both types of Catholic schools were similar to public-school grads. All three groups obtained managerial occupations (managerial professionals, lawyers, scientists, architects, and university teachers) at the same rate.

With regard to how workplaces are run, the three groups held the same views on ethics and efficiency.

The complete Cardus survey is at