Religion, Home Schooling, and Civic Education: Implications for American Democracy
Robert Kunzman

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Indiana University

Primary Discipline

This project explores the philosophies and practices of conservative Christian homeschoolers, with a particular focus on the civic implications of this growing educational phenomenon. A threefold approach will be used: (1) investigation of the growing variety of civic education options for these homeschoolers (e.g., on-line chatrooms, textbooks, political campaigning); (2) extended qualitative inquiry into the actual educational experiences of students in their homes and communities; and (3) philosophical analysis of the implications of these findings for the broader civic sphere of American society. Federal studies indicate that homeschooling increased 29% between 1999 and 2003—ten times the rate increase of public school enrollment. A significant majority of these homeschoolers appear to hold a conservative Christian orientation, one that is increasingly focused on preparing children to wield political and cultural influence. The implications of this are deeply significant for our broader democratic fabric, particularly in light of America’s deep disagreements over how private beliefs should inform and shape the public realm. In addition to describing the broader philosophies and practices of conservative Christian homeschoolers, this study will raise important questions about civic education in the homeschooling context: To what extent is autonomous, critical thinking encouraged? Do these homeschoolers have the opportunity to interact with those who espouse opposing social, moral, and political perspectives? What relative emphasis is placed on citizenship as open-minded deliberation as opposed to strategic, unwavering advocacy? To the extent that American democracy depends on finding common ground, we need to better understand this growing phenomenon, and what it means for our lives together.
About Robert Kunzman

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