For the start of the school term a few weeks ago, Rebecca Miller shared with us 5 things children learn in Amish schools (not found in books).

Today she compares Amish schools with their public counterparts, and shares 15 ways they are different.

western-pa-amish-schoolhouse

It’s worth noting here that quite a few Amish parents do choose to send their children to public schools.

Some Amish parents prefer public schooling to Amish parochial schooling, for reasons including exposure to non-Amish children and teacher background.

But the majority do send their children to privately-run schools taught by Amish teachers. Here are 15 reasons why, from an Amish perspective.



15 Contrasts Between Amish Schools and Public Schools

Amish schools are run much like public schools were up until the 1950s. It’s the public education system that has changed, not the Amish schools. So what are some of these changes that have taken place in public schools?

Here’s a list of 15 contrasts adapted from a Teachers’ Meeting booklet. I don’t know who came up with this list originally, so I’m taking the liberty to revise it and add a few thoughts of my own.

Though since I’ve had no involvement in the public school system other than as an observer, I can only speak for our Amish parochial schools.

1.

AMISH SCHOOLS – are operated by the parents without an administrative bureaucracy.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – are operated by professionals with an administrative bureaucracy.

In an Amish school the parents hire and pay the teacher, pay for the books and supplies, and keep up the grounds. They along with the teacher make all the decisions.

2.

AMISH SCHOOLS – train youngsters to stay within the community.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – train youngsters to get ahead in life.

Amish children develop strong connections with their classmates and teachers, because of the close-knit setting and broader connection to the community at large, that are far reaching and give a sense of security and belonging within their community at a young age.

3.

AMISH SCHOOLS – pick teachers because of their Christian examples.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – pick teachers because of their ability and training.

It is recommended to choose a teacher who is a good example in faith and lifestyle. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. The children learn much by their teacher’s example.

4.

AMISH SCHOOLS – have teachers who are generalists in all subjects.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – have teachers who are specialists in subjects.

An Amish teacher needs to teach all subjects for all grades from one through eight, therefore a lot of study is needed.

5.

AMISH SCHOOLS – value cooperation and humility.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – value competition and pride in achievement.

Our schools couldn’t run without these two vital ingredients. Teachers and pupils (as well as their parents) must be able to work together in humility to have a good school.

6.

AMISH SCHOOLS – favor group identity.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – favor individual expression.

To the Amish “Our People” and “Our Way of Doing Things” are still important. You can have your own personality, but you don’t try to be different–just to be different. In public school there is much more opportunity for children to show individual expression in dress and behavior.

7.

AMISH SCHOOLS – are run on a human scale.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – are run on an organizational scale.

There is a lot of family involvement and connection between school families. Parents, children, and teachers are connected outside the classroom, as well, in such social events as weddings, funerals, church, and other gatherings. Whereas in public schools teachers may have very little or no involvement in the child’s life outside the classroom.

8.

AMISH SCHOOLS – stress drill accuracy and proper sequence.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – stress speed, variety, and freedom of choice.

It is important to us that our children learn to work neatly and accurately in the proper order of the day’s assignments.

9.

AMISH SCHOOLS – favor correct knowledge.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – favor critical thinking.

Memorization, the “right answer”, and proper spelling and grammar are considered very important. Critical thinking suggests, the exact answer might not be as important as how they think through their answer.

10.

AMISH SCHOOLS – rank penmanship high as a skill.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – rank penmanship low as a skill.

Neatness, easy read-ability, and correct letter formation are deemed more important than unique letter formation. Many public schools are considering dropping the art of cursive writing altogether.

11.

AMISH SCHOOLS – see the child as a future Amish person with a soul.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – see the child as a citizen with an intellect.

We aren’t only concerned about the child’s education, but also about his soul. Teaching spiritual and moral values, integrity, and honesty are more important than just book learning. Still we want them to get a good education.

12.

AMISH SCHOOLS – hire teachers only from the plain community.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – hire teachers from diverse backgrounds.

Amish children are taught by an Amish teacher with a sense of Amish behavior, morals, and dress. A public school teacher might be from an entirely different cultural background and children may pick up dress ideas the parents aren’t comfortable with.

13.

AMISH SCHOOLS – stress memorization.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – downplay memorization.

Besides doing Bible memory verses, we also memorize the times tables, formulas, equivalents (ex. 1 gal. = 4qt.), the presidents, states and capitals, counties of our state, poems, and songs.

14.

AMISH SCHOOLS – reject technology.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – embrace technology.

The only person with even a calculator is the teacher. There might be a copier in some schools, but even word-processors are discouraged. I know of only a few schools that have a telephone. It’s definitely not the norm.

15.

AMISH SCHOOLS – believe the Bible reveals the Truth.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – search for truth.

We have Bible stories in the morning, sing Christian songs, and memorize Bible passages. We believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired Word of God. And hopefully that can be passed on to our children.


In closing I would like to say we do not consider either school system to be perfect and we realize not all the contrasts are positive or negative. This article was merely written to show the differences in both systems (from an Amish perspective).

These are things parents in this community might consider when deciding which school system they want their children involved in. Hopefully it can also help answer some questions people might have had about our parochial school system.