Learning About World Religions in Modesto, California
After cultural and religious controversy in Modesto, California, community leaders attempted to increase tolerance and respect by requiring an unique world religions course for high school students. The first large-n empirical study of the effect of teaching about religion in public schools indicates that students taking the course showed statistically significant increases in passive tolerance, their willingness to refrain from discriminatory behavior, and active respect, the willingness to take action to counter discrimination. This research documents the circumstances that gave rise to the course and evaluates the course's effects using qualitative and quantitative evidence. It also connects the course to a larger research tradition in political science on the effects of civic education programs that promote liberal, democratic values.