First, this is not a psychological study. It’s from the Pew Research Center.But that’s OK, it’s still interesting.
The survey was looking at things that children are taught. The factor that they looked at was ideological differences.
This is something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I come from a large group of highly conservative people. Most of them are very intelligent, but most are highly religious and the others are fundamentalists in the Fox News vein.
So what does the Pew Center tell us. Over 3,000 US adults were asked what was the most important thing to teach children: religious faith, tolerance, or obedience. They then compared the results to the respondents ideological leanings: liberal or conservative. The ideology was determined by 10 questions covering a range of political values.
Not surprising, if you’ve been paying attention, The more conservative the respondent, the more important religious faith is. The consistently conservative group rated religious faith most important 59% of the time and 81% gave it a net importance (not most important, but important). On the other side, the consistently liberal group rated religious faith most important only 11% of the time.
Tolerance was a mixed bag. While no group rated it most important more than 22% of the time (consistent liberals), the liberals rated it important 88% of the time. Conservatives rated it important only 41% of the time.
Obedience was another one that few people rated most important, but conservatives listed it as important 67% of the time while liberals only rated it important 35% of the time.
But these results are not really surprising. The conservatives of the US are highly intolerant of many things. They seem to be very much about the self and the in-group, other groups need not apply.
What things did liberals tend to rate as most important to teach children? The responses where quite variable. It seems like, unlike the conservatives which are highly religious, the liberals tend to value lots of different things. Already mentioned was tolerance. Also empathy for others, curiosity, and creativity. What’s interesting is that the highest rated of those, empathy for others, was most important to the consistently liberal 34% of the time. But even the lowest of those (creativity at 17%) far outstripped the consistently conservative group. Including tolerance, the highest was empathy for others at 6%. The other three were all 3% or less.
The other very interesting thing is just how pretty the data is. In every single one (except obedience) of the previously mentioned teachings, there is a solid trend from consistently liberal to mostly liberal to mixed to mostly conservative to consistently conservative.
Six other values were also considered: Being responsible, hard work, being well-mannered, helping others, independence, persistence. Take a minute to guess the trend, which group rated these higher or lower.
Responsibility and hard work got higher ratings from conservatives. Helping others had a much greater liberal bias. The other three were a mixed bag and not a pretty trend at all.
When asked what the three most important things to teach children, responsibility was the overwhelming winner, appearing on 55% of the lists. No other quality reach 50%.
There was some interesting trends from gender responses as well. Women tended to chose empathy, helping, and similar traits much more often than men. While men tended to emphasize persistence and creativity.
Age was considered as well. Older respondents tended to follow a more conservative line with religious faith, obedience, responsibility. The younger respondents tended to favor creativity and hard work (oddly).
The final factor was by education level (HS or less, some college, or college grad). The HS or less group favored obedience and helping others, while the college grads tended to favor tolerance, empathy, and persistence.
In general (and I haven’t looked at these statistically), the ideology seems to be the most cut and dried. The other factors (age, gender, and education) seemed to be a mixed bag. Some things followed my expectations based on ideology, but others didn’t.
It really seems that the driving factor here is political ideology and that, in general, comes from parents. Until I got old enough to really think about things on my own, I followed my parents ideology. Now, I have one of my own choosing.
The Pew Survey specifically mentions that.
As the public grows more politically polarized, differences between conservatives and liberals extend their long reach even to opinions about which qualities are important to teach children…
I have my own ideas about teaching my child. Given this survey, I would rake personal responsibility, creativity, and tolerance highest. Of course, I would say that critical thinking is the most important thing, but it’s not on the list.
What are your thoughts? Which of these (and others from the survey) are most important to teach children and why?