Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New Study Looks at Spirituality on Campus

Integrative Spirituality posted an article about a new study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA that looked at spirituality on campus.
Over 40,000 professors from 421 colleges and universities and 112,232 first-year students from 235 colleges and universities were surveyed about how their religious and spiritual beliefs affect their everyday activities.

Seventy-nine percent of freshmen surveyed said they believed in God, and 69 percent said they pray. Eighty-one percent considered themselves spiritual.

The study found a link between students' political views and their religious involvement, stating that "among students who show high levels of religious engagement, conservatives outnumber liberals by better than three to o­ne."

The study found that students who reported higher levels of religious engagement were more likely to oppose the death penalty and to support military spending.

The faculty also believe that spirituality plays an important role in their lives and is an aspect of their jobs:
"We found that faculty indeed claim to be spiritual," Helen Astin said. Faculty were asked how responsible they were for helping students find meaning in their lives and how their personal spiritual views affected their personal and professional traits. "

Faculty do see a place in the spiritual dimension of their lives in their work and workplace," Lindholm said.

Sounds as if there aren't too many Buddhists on campus or in the faculty. In most of the studies I've seen, self-reported Buddhists in America come in at around 1 percent, at best.

The really interesting thing for this study to do would be to interview the same 112,ooo+ students after completing their degrees to see if their views have changed.

Conservatives often rant about the "liberal universities" corrupting our youth (as though sending kids to war isn't going to corrupt them--or emotionally scar them for life). It would be nice to see a study that looks at that possibility. Or conversely, to look at whether or not education can expand a person's viewpoint sufficiently to make him/her more progressive and less conservative.

Integral theory often claims that intellectual expansion is necessary but not sufficient for personal growth--it would be interesting to see how the college years support that idea (or not).

Here is the perfect study: administer Beck's Global Values test to incoming freshmen at a variety of schools around the nation--small community colleges, state universities, religious schools, Ivy League schools, and liberal arts schools--and collect background info such as economic class, religious background, environment (city or rural), family life, and so on. Then look at those students again at graduation, at age thirty-five, and at age fifty to see how or if their Spiral status has changed over time.

Now that would be cool--and it would provide support (or lack thereof) for the Spiral Dynamics model.


Steve said...

An interesting study, William.

I'd be curious to know if there's a significant correlation between TYPE of "religious engagement" and political persuasion. The link between fundamentalist Christianity and political conservatism seems obvious enough, even though people like Jim Wallis maintain that it would be otherwise if fundamentalist and evangelical Christians actually lived up to biblical ideals. But what about less fundamentalistic Christians and people who embrace other religious beliefs or spiritual practices? For instance, is a Zen Buddhist more likely to be politically liberal or progressive than conservative?

It would also be interesting to know how much different kinds of education affect growth along the relevant developmental lines. For example, is an education grounded in the humanities or social sciences more likely to stimulate such development than, say, a curriculum focused on physical science and technology?

I love your idea about studying the development of people's "Spiral status" over time. Are you reading this, Integral Institute?

william harryman said...

Hi nagarjuna,

There does seem to be a very general correlation between Christianity and conservative thinking/worldviews, but it certainly isn't a given. You referenced Jim Wallis, who is a case in point. I think a stronger case can be made for socially conservative people being, in general, Christians.

I do think that the SDi people need to do some empirical studies to confirm their theories. Beck seems content to say that it works in the field, so that's all that matters. I have heard a lot of doubt even within the integral community (especially Matthew Dallman), so some well-designed studies are in order.

The study I propose might be the least costly way to look at the most data. And as you pont out, it would be interesting to see how different education tracks impact Spiral development.


PS...Thanks for the nice post you did about my blog--glad you like it and find it useful.