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HAMILTON, Ontario, October 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholic separate school graduates across Canada show virtually identical attitudes and beliefs as their public school peers while independent Catholic and Evangelical Protestant schools care more for their neighbor in both belief and practice, according to a new report from a conservative Christian think tank.

Hamilton-based Cardus is a charitable foundation that has authored several surveys of graduates from Catholic, Evangelical and secular schools in Canada as well as religious homeschools. It also distinguishes between Catholic separate school systems in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, which are fully funded by tax dollars, and the private or independent Catholic schools across Canada but especially in British Columbia and Manitoba, which receive only some public funding.

The distinction is worth making because the results reinforce the findings of Cardus’ previous work: “[Catholic] Separate school graduates are largely indistinguishable from public school graduates,” and private Evangelical and Catholic graduates show significant differences.

The report, titled “Educating to Love Your Neighbour: The Full Picture of Canadian Graduates,” zeroes in on whether graduates care about the public good, their fellow citizens in need and on whether they care enough to act.

Cardus researchers are not interested in exposing the separate schools’ shortcomings. The point of the study, as with earlier ones, is to refute the constant argument of public school teachers' unions and supportive academic studies that sectarian schools are divisive and isolating.

The Cardus study contradicts the findings of social scientists, who have reported that fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian schools “hindered the development of the broader social capital and civic values necessary for participating well in democratic institutions” and “foster conservative political ideologies antithetical to liberal tolerance.”

On the contrary, Cardus found that Evangelical and, to a lesser extent, independent Catholic graduates are more likely to feel responsible for others and more likely to engage in civically-minded activities (by volunteering, donating money and blood) than are public school graduates and “virtually indistinguishable” Catholic separate school graduates

In addition to this key finding, separate and public school grads are less likely than the three other groups to see science and religion in conflict and more likely to believe in evolution. Private school grads are less trusting in government (Christian homeschoolers are far less trusting) but more likely to have undergraduate degrees. In no measure do sectarian school graduates come up short when compared with public school peers.

Catholic private school grads are more likely to have big families and less likely to cohabitate before marriage. Evangelical graduates and homeschoolers are more likely to attend church regularly and to believe God is important in their lives. Both are “just as politically and civically engaged as their peers from public schools.”

“What the findings did show, however, was that private education does not, as some stereotypes might have it, create a secluded, privileged class who are largely uninterested in the common good,” the study concludes. “The evangelical Protestant sector is managing to cultivate graduates with a healthy sense of love for their neighbor.”

But what about Catholic separate schools? The results probably reflect the compulsory method of student recruitment, a holdover from European sectarian systems.

In Alberta and Ontario, the law requires Catholic parents to send their children to Catholic schools unless they opt out. This low level of commitment to Catholic outcomes produces Catholic schools with virtually identical goals and outcomes as public schools.

On the other hand, belief-centered private schools require not only a formal choice from parents to enroll their children but a significant financial investment.

Previous Cardus studies have found even more differences between separate and public schools. Catholic separate schoolers are, for example, far more trusting than all other categories of students in big government, unions, and the Supreme Court. They are even more likely to believe religion is a private matter and to believe in evolution than public school graduates.