Be Careful While Reading Research Results
- Friday, March 01, 2013
Pennings and his colleagues have developed a valuable research concept. They are trying to understand to what degree the outcomes of Christian education match the motivations of adults who design and conduct the Christian education. It should be clearly pointed out, however, that this study has not “. . . allowed for the establishment of quality benchmarks . . .” (p. 36) regarding the thinking, religious beliefs, and actual behaviors of adults who were home educated. They might have “quality benchmarks” regarding those who attended state (public), Roman Catholic, and Christian schools but not for those who were homeschooled by Christian parents.
One might wonder: Do reports like this matter in the world in which we live? For better or worse, yes. Research is supposed to get at truth and accurate representations of reality. God says the following: “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.”3 One can get wiser by reading and heeding true things but not from integrating skewed or too-limited representations of reality into his thinking.
Unfortunately, research like this often shows up in widely read publications. For example, the magazine Christianity Today reported on the findings of Pennings et al. and presented the culturally perceived “positive” and “negative” findings about the “religiously homeschooled” as if the data were reliable and properly comparable to data from other adults.
The authors of this study should have been very careful to explain the notable limitations of their study regarding the home educated. Their caveats should have been clear enough that others reporting on their study would find it difficult to misrepresent reality about any of the statistics in the study.
Caveat emptor—“Let the buyer beware”—when it comes to reading and using research reports. Remember, the buyer or digester of researchers’ “findings” and “conclusions” must remember the “. . . warning that . . . the goods he or she is buying are ‘as is,’ or subject to all defects.”4
Author’s Note: Please feel free to send your questions about research related to home-based education and raising children to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Pennings, Ray; Seel, John; Van Pelt, Deani A. Neven; Sikkink, David; & Wiens, Kathryn L. (2011). Cardus Education Survey: Do the Motivations for Private Religious Catholic and Protestant Schooling in North America Align with Graduate Outcomes? Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: Cardus. www.cardus.ca, www.wnd.com/files/2011/07/110826cardus.pdf
2. Ray, Brian D. (2004). Home Educated and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute, www.nheri.org.
3. Proverbs 24:3-6, ESV.
4. Retrieved December 12, 2011, from legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Buyer+beware.
Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., is president of the National Home Education Research Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization. Dr. Ray often serves as an expert witness in courts, testifies to legislatures, and is interviewed by the media. Brian is married to Betsy and they have eight children and four grandchildren.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.
Publication date: March 4, 2013
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