For shock value, the headline in the (March 5) New York Times—"Catholics Adopt More Liberal Attitudes During Their Years in College, a Survey Finds"—ranked up there with the latest press release from the Flat Earth Society. The story noted that Catholic students, at both Catholic and nonsectarian colleges, tended to have more "liberal" views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex by the time they graduated. Conservative Catholics are eager to use such findings to make the case that Catholic colleges are failing to defend the faith. Yet as the Times article points out, the study had many methodological problems. For one, "students of all faiths, at all types of institutions, tend to become more liberal during their college years." Duh. Being less quick to judge others probably also has something to do with being exposed to new ideas and to people who hold contrary views. One might even be disappointed in a college education that did not provoke a student to question received assumptions and in a young person who never doubted what he had been taught. As parents like to say, few learn the real value of what they have inherited until they acquire it on their own.
Published in the 2003-04-11 issue: