The eight-grades-and-out system has been criticized by some. One Amish teacher’s opinion, (taken from The Amish School, co-authored by Amish schoolteacher Sara E. Fisher and European Mennonite transplant Rachel K. Stahl):
But do Amish schools prepare their children for life?
Amish schools prepare their children to be God-fearing, hardworking, and self-supporting persons. They do not, however, teach them to be self-seeking, ambitious, and competitive.
Amish children learn to support themselves by the work of their hands. They learn basic business principles, how to borrow and lend money, how to sew their own clothes, plan and cook meals, prepare a field, and drive a horse and buggy team. Not all of this education happens in the schoolroom, however. The farm and home are seen as viable places for learning also.
An Amish child is taught not to have selfish needs of privacy, space, recognition, admiration, ambition, and rewards that a child in the larger society absorbs as its birthright. At a meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, commemorating the 1972 Supreme Court ruling on the Amish school system, a former Amishman, now with a doctorate in psychology, expressed regrets that he as an Amish child had been born before the Supreme Court ruling. Consequently, his parents were forced to send him to high school where he learned to have social and personal needs that he had never tasted before. His sorrowful conclusion was that it is not possible for most Amish children to go to high school and remain Amish.
An Amish child has an enormous sense of security in community. The practice of mutual aid and caring for one another assures children that they will be supported and kept from complete loneliness, from the time they are born until the time they die. Leaving that security for the fleeting pleasures of higher education is not only risky, but fearsome for most.
If children do leave the Amish community, their skills and ethics are a solid base for making a living. In every community where Amish are settled one can find want-ads in the local paper requesting Amish women to help cook, bake, and clean. The skills of these hardworking people and their conscientious honesty are greatly sought after.
Too rosy a picture? In any case I think some good points are made here.
‘Learned needs’ seems to me an interesting concept. I for one have definitely picked up a few of those I could probably do without!
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