I comment regularly on the impacts of the government controlling 90% of America’s youth. I am a product of Catholic schooling. But this leads me to a puzzle that I really cannot resolve, and I implore my readers for their thoughts. Here goes:
I get apoplectic that the government monopolization of K12 education virtually ensures that the entire population will come to think of the government as a kind and wise uncle, and have government be their default institution for making collective choices. Indeed, I argue that despite the polls suggesting that all of us dislike Congress, we actually all like our “own” congressman, it’s just other folks’ congresspeople that are corrupt. In other words, most people have a really starry eyed and charitable image of “government” in the abstract.
But consider this: I do not see the same thing happen with students who attended Catholic school for their primary and secondary education. If anything, students upon graduating from Catholic schools are less enthusiastic about church doctrine and religiosity and the use of the church and volunteerism to solve the world’s problems. This is startling especially since the students themselves are selected into the Catholic schools by their parents – so presumably they would be predisposed to such a view. Bryan Caplan’s story about nature versus nurture seems to be especially relevant here.
So, why is it that students graduating from government schools seem to come out with a greater admiration and appreciation for government than when they came in than do Catholic school students for the institution that has them captive for 12 years of their lives? Certainly public school graduates are not appreciably more skeptical of government upon graduating than Catholic school students are of Catholicism when graduating. One possibility is that, contrary to what I believe, that government is actually good and honest and charitable and that 12 years of school enable kids to see this for themselves. Meanwhile Catholics are evil, mean and awful and 12 years of schools enable Catholic kids to see this for themselves. So counting out that story, what else might explain what Dan Klein calls, “the People’s Romance?” I’d note that the “Romance” to which Klein refers is equally shared, in my view, by the Catholic school graduates.