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College, religion, and Santorum

posted by Wei Zhu

In his latest critique of President Barack Obama’s administration, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, speaking to a crowd at the Americans for Prosperity Presidential forum in Michigan, stated that:

President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob. There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor to try to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.

His comments have received criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, including Republican Governor of Virginia Robert F. McDonnell and President Obama himself. The following day, Santorum expanded on his comments in an interview on ABC’s This Week, where he talked about the deleterious influence of colleges on conservatism and faith:

You talk to most kids who go to college who are conservatives, and you are singled out, you are ridiculed, you are – I can tell you personally, I know that, you know, we – I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views. This is sort of a regular routine (ph). You know the statistic that at least I was familiar with from a few years ago — I don’t know if it still holds true but I suspect it may even be worse – that 62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.

Fact-checking Santorum’s comments, Soledad O’Brien of CNN cited a SSRC essay, “How Corrosive Is College to Religious Faith and Practice?,” by Mark D. Regnerus and Jeremy E. Uecker.

The essay was part of a wider SSRC forum on The Religious Engagements of American Undergraduates, supported with funding from the Teagle Foundation. The paper was later expanded and published in Social Forces, under the title “Losing My Religion: The Social Sources of Religious Decline in Early Adulthood.” For more on Santorum’s comments on religion and the public sphere, check out our latest off the cuff discussion.

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