This post reviews Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010).
This book has been on my pile for a while and I finally got the chance over the holidays to crack it. Putnam is widely known as the author of the landmark 2001 book Bowling Alone, which is largely responsible for making the phrase “social capital” as popular as it has become. This new book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, is every bit as interesting and based on better data. It ably synthesizes a vast array of surveys and other sources to provide a reliable and fascinating look at trends in American religion from the 1950s to today.
There’s nothing explicit in it about homeschooling, but chapter five, entitled “Switching, Matching, and Mixing” provides evidence to help elucidate one of the most important questions homeschooling research can ask, and one of the hardest to answer. The great majority of homeschoolers choose the practice at least in part to stack the deck in favor of their children turning out like themselves, especially in terms of religious belief and moral standards. Does it work?