Religion and Higher Education (Warning: Restaurant Post)

This is a summary of Darren E. Sherkat’s 2007 article titled “Religion and Higher Education: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Sherkat is professor and chair of the sociology department at Southern Illinois University.

This article attempts to explain the reasons why scholars and administrators are noticing more religious college students than ever before. It also deals with what Sherkat believes to be the positive and negative affects of both sectarianism and Biblical fundamentalism on college students.

I would really recommend reading the article yourself for the specifics. I don’t want to put the entire article online. I would just like to bring some main points to your attention. “The Bad” and “The Ugly” sections are the most provocative.

(Disclaimer: This is not a study but an interpretation and analysis of multiple studies.)


Why more religion on campuses?

1. Higher fertility rates of sectarian groups and Catholics along with an increasing number of Americans attending college in general has led to more religious students on campuses.

2. The proportion of African Americans and women attending college have increased.

3. More degrees are now earned by older “non-traditional students.” These students are older and married. This demographic tends to be more religiously active.


The Good

1. Religious involvement can lower participation in activities that undermine college performance as well as promote conformity. (He notes that involvement in other non-religious organizations can have similar positive effects.)

2. Religious organizations offer social support for “isolation, depression, and anxiety” which are strong contributors to poor academic performance.


Definitely read the actual text for these next two sections.

The Bad

1. “Sectarian affiliation and Biblical fundamentalism (belief in the inherency of the Bible) have an especially negative impact on the educational attainment of women.”

2. Those who do attend college go to religious universities “which have fewer options for majors, lower prestige, and are more costly.”

3. Sectarian and Biblical fundamentalist promotion of narrow social networks and “restrictions on information sources” are “associated with smaller vocabularies.”


The Ugly

1. Sectarian and Biblical fundamentalists are notorious for having little practice socializing with those of differing opinions as well as “understanding or tolerating ideas which confront their beliefs” when they arrive at college.

2. Fundamentalist exclusive use of a sacred text  “as the only source” as well as the use of religious explanations for “for all manner of phenomena” can lead to poorer academic performance.

3. Sectarian and Biblical fundamentalists who are not used to college life and are not overseen by family or religious influences often have a difficult time adjusting, and thus, are more likely to participate in risky experimentation.

You can access the full article here. Read it!

QOL: religion/irreligion

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