Susan J. Reinhardt asked: Do the Amish deny young people educational opportunities because of their religious beliefs or is to to keep them from leaving the community?
Wow, Susan, this is a succinct, yet tough question. I've been thinking about how to answer it for the last day and a half. In fact, I had a conversation with one of my sisters about this, asking her what she thinks the answer is. The question stumped us both. Here is why…
There are many unwritten rules in the Amish community, and these are the ones that we all took for granted and didn't question. Limiting education to the eighth grade was certainly not one of the things mentioned in the "Ordnung", yet if we had asked about it, we nevertheless would have gotten a typical answer: "It's just the way it is." Which meant: "It isn't going to change, because it has always been done this way. It is certainly not going to change for you. So now stop asking."
Susan, your question has shed light on how much of these "ways" we all accepted without question, partly because we knew the traditions were much stronger than one individual's desires. Sometimes I have to remember what it was like to have "an Amish mind." It is really hard to explain how differently the Amish think from people who were not brought up in the culture, and now that I've been away from that way of thinking for thirty years, I have to actually try to recall it. There is a mindset of accepting "the Amish ways" that astonishes me to this day.
Some of the Amish religious beliefs are designed to keep people from leaving, so we considered whether this might be both, but in the end, my sister and I agreed that denying young people higher education is a way to keep Amish youth from leaving the community. There is no other way to explain it.
Which brings me to the next question:
Boogersugar asked: Do you think that stopping education so young (because I believe that at 13 and 14 is when you really begin to question things and your mind begins open up more) is meant to basically squash any questions about this particular way of life? Religion and the culture itself?
After careful consideration of Susan's question, I would have to answer yes to both these questions.
I will give an in-depth report on the Wisconsin vs. Yoder case in the next posting. It may be that I will actually post it on my website, and give a link directly to it. (It is rather long for a blog posting).
I'd like to thank all of you who are reading my blog and a special thanks to those who are commenting and asking questions… it really helps me to know what aspects of Amish culture you are interested in.