Kevin den Dulk on Religion, Education, and Civic Engagement
Date: June 25th, 2012

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With all the talk about declining levels of civic engagement in the United States, is there any evidence that religious education might play a role in promoting community involvement among youth and young adults?  Prof. Kevin den Dulk, the Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar-in-Residence at Calvin College and the forthcoming director of the Henry Institute, discusses his latest research project that examines what factors are important in determining whether or not young adults become involved in their community.  He finds, much to his suprise, that a private school education at a Protestant institution is much more likely to facilitate and sustain civic engagement in early adulthood years compared to other forms of education, including homeschooling, Catholic schools, private secular institutions, and public education.  Speaking of education, our podcast begins with Kevin schooling Tony about the origins of Calivin College, which Tony discovers is not named after the 30th president of the United States.  We then get down to business by examining the assertion that civic participation has declined in the U.S., with Tony taking a skeptical view of such claims and Kevin turning the tables and becoming the interviewer, leaving the host to be the one defending his claims.  We discuss some of the potential biases in research that shows secular declines in some variable, be it civic participation or mainline church attendance.  We also discuss some of the reasons why people become involved in their local community and note that it is often because they are passionately drawn (often out of anger) to solve some social problem they see happening.  The conversation then veers towards Kevin’s research project with his fellow scholar Jonathan Hall.  We chat about how this project came about and the nature of the data used.  Kevin lays out the theoretical framework of the study showing how he and Jonathan tested the role of “opportunity structures” and “motivations” (both intrinsic and extrinsic).  We then discuss the surprising finding that whereas young adults who attended Catholic schools were similar in nature to their public school counterparts when it came to civic engagement, students from Protestant private schools were much more likely to be civically engaged, even after adjusting for numerous other possible factors.  Homeschoolers and individuals who attended private secular schools were much less likely to engage in civic participation.  We then speculate as to why this was the case and open the door to a wide research agenda that could further explore this outcome.  Kevin then finishes off with an optimistic view of civic engagement in the United States.   Recorded: June 18, 2012.


 Kevin den Dulk’s biography at Calvin College.

The Disappearing God Gap? Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election, by Corwin Smidt, Kevin den Dulk, Bryan Froehle, James Penning, Stephen Monsma, and Douglas Koopman.

Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture and Strategic Choices, by Booth Fowler, Allen Hertzke, Laura Olson, and Kevin den Dulk.

Pews, Prayers, and Participation: Religion and Civic Responsibility in America, by Corwin Smidt, Kevin den Dulk,  James Penning, Stephen Monsma, and Douglas Koopman.


Robert Woodberry on Missionaries and Democracy.

Sung Joon Jang on the Boy Scouts of America.

Jon Shields on Democratic Virtues and the Christian Right.

Corwin Smidt on Religion, Elections, and the God Gap.

6 Responses to “Kevin den Dulk on Religion, Education, and Civic Engagement”

  1. Jon says:

    Hi, is this show on stitcher? I couldn’t find it.

  2. […] duty and carry it with them into adulthood.They found that Protestant high school graduates are more likely to volunteer as adults (83 percent) than any of their peers—including graduates of Catholic (55 percent), […]

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