Most young adults say schools do 'good job' teaching traditional values; older generations disagree

Students sitting in a classroom raise their hands.
Students sitting in a classroom raise their hands. | Getty Images

A strong majority of American adults believe it's important for schools to teach traditional values of Western civilization, but how well they think schools teach these values varies by age, according to a recent survey. 

The survey, released Wednesday by Rasmussen Reports, assessed a national sample of 960 adults from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, 2023, via telephone and online. The survey includes a 3 percentage-point margin of error at a 95% confidence level. 

According to the results, 78% of respondents say it's at least "somewhat important" for schools to teach "traditional values of Western civilization." Fifty-seven percent of all respondents believe it's "very important," an increase of about 15 percentage points from a similar survey conducted in May 2022. 

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Another 12% of respondents said that they don't think it's important to teach traditional Western values, with 5% saying that it's "not at all" important.

When asked how well schools teach these values, 36% said that public schools do a "good job" — up from 25% in May 2022 — while 42% don't think schools do an adequate job teaching this topic. Twenty-two percent of participants said that they weren't sure how schools are doing in teaching traditional Western values. 

"Majorities of every racial category — 78% of whites, 75% of blacks and 80% of other minorities — say it's at least somewhat important for schools to teach the traditional values of Western Civilization," the report reads. "More whites (40%) than blacks (20%) or other minorities (34%) believe public schools do a good job teaching Western values."

Americans 65 and older were significantly more likely to say that teaching traditional Western values is "very" important. But only 22% of adults 65 and older and 26% of those ages 40 to 64 think that schools do a good job teaching the subject. Among participants aged 40 and under, 53% said that public schools do a good job teaching traditional Western values. 

Both male and female participants appeared to agree on the issue of teaching traditional values of Western civilization, with 58% of men and 55% of women stating that teaching these values is very important. However, women were more likely to say they were unsure how well schools teach the topic. 

Married couples were significantly more likely than their unmarried peers to say that it's very important for schools to teach traditional values. In addition, couples with children at home were more likely to believe that public schools teach those values well.

Income level also appeared to play a factor, with 62% of American adults with annual incomes over $200,000 saying public schools are doing a good job of teaching the traditional values of Western Civilization. Less than a third of participants earning below $50,000 a year agree. 

Opinions also varied based on participants' industry of work, with 82% of private sector workers saying that it's at least somewhat important for schools to teach traditional Western values, a perspective shared by 59% of government workers. 

The survey comes amid a reported decline in public school enrollment as many states have experienced an increase in alternative forms of schooling. 

As The Christian Post reported, a study published last month by the Urban Institute found that public school enrollment decreased by more than 1.2 million students within the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the study.

Meanwhile, homeschool enrollment increased by 30% in the 2021-2022 school year, and private school enrollment increased by 4.3% between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2021. Even after many schools returned to in-person learning, the increase in homeschooling persisted, although the study noted that it varied by state. 

The smallest increase occurred in North Carolina, where homeschool enrollment grew by 8%. States with larger increases included New York (65%), Pennsylvania (53%) and Florida (43%). Regarding private school enrollment, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Washington saw enrollment increase by 14% between fall 2019 and fall 2021. 

While some of this enrollment appeared to be pandemic-related, according to the study, the growth was primarily in kindergarten and early elementary grade levels, consistent with the grade-level declines in public schools. 

"In particular, the large growth in 2021–22 private school enrollment in first grade is consistent with the hypothesis that some of the many families who avoided public kindergarten in 2020–21 instead chose private schools and remained with that choice," the study reads.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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