With many schools’ decisions to offer an online version this fall, parents will once again need to create a home environment conducive to learning. But what do children need to learn from home? While many people will say Wi-Fi or a digital device, researchers from Indiana University say the answer is much simpler: a desk and a quiet place to study. David Rutkowski and Dirk Hastedt, whose work focuses on education policy and how students perform on standardized tests, used the international assessment Trends in Mathematics and Science Study to look at whether students have desks at home, a quiet place to study and a computer or tablet, and whether those things are linked to how well the students do in school. They found that access to a desk varied greatly in different countries with more than 40 percent of students in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and South Africa lacking a desk at home, nearly three times more than the average percentage of students in the world. In the U.S., 16 percent did not have desk. Additionally, internationally 11 percent of students lacked a computer and 25 percent did not have their own room. When analyzing student performance, researchers found internationally, students without a desk are three times more likely to be at the bottom academically than at the top. The researchers say while other factors are at play, the findings may show that the absence of a desk is an indicator of poverty, which has been shown to be highly correlated with academic performance. Rutkowski and Hastedt say they believe that home resources such as desks and a quiet place to study should be a part of any conversation about what children need at home to succeed academically.
In other news, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol, Christian nationalism has intersected with major events happening across the country in the past year. IUPUI sociologist Andrew Whitehead studies Christian nationalism, the idea held by many Americans that the United States should be distinctively Christian in its national identity, public policy and sacred symbols. His most recent research shows that over half of Americans associate with Christian nationalism in some way – with about 20 percent of Americans strongly embracing Christian nationalism and believing Christianity should be privileged among other groups, and 32 percent of Americans embracing the idea of a Christian nation but not as wholeheartedly, remaining somewhat skeptical that Christianity alone should be privileged. While the term “Christian nationalism” may have entered many Americans’ vocabularies in recent years, Whitehead said it is not a new concept. Whitehead says the idea of a Christian nation, or using Christianity to make an American identity, existed even before the start of the United States. In fact, the first colonists used the idea to make a new identity. It has also popped up in history during times of major upheaval, such as the Revolutionary War, during the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, and most recently when rioters overtook the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the results of the presential election. It has also popped up in the COVID-19 pandemic. Whitehead says white nationalism is closely associated with lack of protective behaviors such as refusing to wear masks, attending large events, refusing a COVID-19 vaccination, and denying scientific authorities. Whitehead said it is important for leaders to know what Christian nationalism is, why it matters and the threat it holds to American democracy. It is also important to gain a better understanding of how religion shapes and is shaped by contemporary American culture.