A May 2018 report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “Self-Discipline and Catholic Education: Experience from Two National Cohorts” summarizes the results of a years-long study of the effects of Catholic schools, the largest provider of private education in the U.S., on children’s character.
Specifically, the study looked at how Catholic schools helped shape students’ ability to exercise self-discipline and self-control. This is an important trait that is universally agreed upon in education circles to be far superior to externally-applied discipline, such as detention, suspension, or expulsion.
The study revealed three key findings:
- Students in Catholic schools are less likely to act out or be disruptive than those in other private or public schools.
- Students in Catholic schools exhibit more self-control than those in other private schools or public schools.
- Regardless of demographics, students in Catholic schools exhibit more self-discipline than students in other private schools.
As the researchers observed, “Children in Catholic school exhibited fewer ‘externalizing behaviors’—that is, they demonstrated more self-discipline—than matched peers in other private schools. According to their teachers, Catholic school children argued, fought, got angry, acted impulsively, and disturbed ongoing activities less frequently.” The researchers named this phenomenon “the Catholic school effect.”
These finding are particularly important as Catholic schools in the U.S. and here in Knoxville are becoming increasingly diverse. The researchers found no systematic differences in behaviors for children at Catholic schools across different demographics, including children from low-income communities and children of color.
To learn more about “the Catholic school effect” and to read the study in its entirety, click here.