Amish Schools

April 20, 2008

by Tammy Drennan

In the 1940s, the Amish did what the rest of us need to start putting more effort into: They largely withdrew from the public school system and created their own alternatives for education.

Public schools had begun to violate their principles on several fronts. Compulsory attendance ages were rising and subjects inimical to Amish ways were being advanced. And while religion is not actively taught in Amish schools (it is considered the responsibility of the home and church), it is important to them that their religious beliefs be reflected in how their children are taught:

“…in arithmetic, by accuracy and no cheating; in language, by learning to say what we mean; in history, by humanity; in health, by teaching cleanliness and thriftiness; in geography, by broadening one’s understanding of the world; in music, by singing praises to God; on the school grounds, by teaching honesty, respect, sincerity, humility, and the Golden Rule.” – The Amish School by Sara E. Fisher and Rachel K. Stahl

The Amish had enough sense to see that the public schools were not about to reverse course and bow to their standards. The logical reaction was to take matters into their own hands – which is, after all, the Amish way.

One advantage the Amish had is that they had not grown up in a culture of entitlement. They believe in self-reliance and do not regard it as a last recourse to be resented. They dug in, built school houses, found teachers, bought materials, established school boards and policies, and got on with the education and rearing of their children – on their terms, not the state’s terms.

Imagine if the rest of us were to embrace such an ethic. Imagine the beautiful culture and opportunities we could create for our children. Imagine how our children would feel seeing us taking control – acting like fully capable, in-charge parents.

How do you suppose our children feel when we shove them onto school buses or out our car doors in front of the local public school each morning; when they hear us ranting with friends and officials about what the state owes us in caring for them; when they come home from school suffering and lacking and we shove them out the door again the next morning?

We can do better by our children. They’re worth it. Ask the Amish.