„The aim of education is the knowledge not of fact, but of values.“1 (D. Inge) According to Inge we therefore need to stress the system of values at school instead of trying to supply our youth with as much factual knowledge as possible. But where is to draw the line between needed and superfluous knowledge? This quote clearly emphasizes that education is, and has always been, a highly controversial issue. The paper concentrates on “one of America’s most misunderstood communities”2 – The Old Order Amish – and their peculiar system of education. It informs on the contemporary regulations and the historical approaches towards the right of having an own Amish system. The Amish society is an Anabaptist community which preserves the lifestyle of the late 17th century. The name of this movement was obtained from its European founder Jacob Amman3. Its largest settlements are situated in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. They maintain life apart from modern machinery and electricity, and separate from any other modern societies. To sustain this , they created an individual Amish educational system. The goal of this work is to answer the question whether the right for particular Amish schools forms the base for the survival of this unique society.
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Quote by Dean William R. Inge (1860-1954); English author, Anglican priest and professor of divinity at Cambridge Review by Philadelphia Inquirer on back of cover of “Amish Society” by J.A. Hostetler Jacob Amman (1656-1730), founder of the Amish movement through a schism in 1693 in Emmental (Switzerland)
The Amish Educational System
The Amish refuse to send their children to public schools. Therefore each community has its own one-room parochial school. The students attend first to eighth grade at the Amish schools. Usually they are taught by young, unmarried women who have received no teaching training. “After eighth grade, students polish their German language skills and take vocational classes at private homes, keeping journals of their lessons.” (Sharper, J.) At the age of 14 formal education is finished. 1. Content of the Education 1.1. The Amish Values Factual knowledge and competition is not the centre of attention at Amish schools. The teacher rather emphasizes discipline, basic values and rules for human interaction. Scholars4 are motivated by the concern for other people and are often supported by numerous adults throughout their socialization. The Amish value “humility, forgiveness, admission of errors, sympathy, responsibility and appreciation of work”(J.A. Hostetler, p.174). These attitudes are frequently rewarded and disobedience maybe punished. But this may only be taken into action by the parents, as the primary initiators of the child's socialization. Its development is also influenced by the community as it is encouraged to assist others and to acknowledge role-models in order to grow a group identity which is essential for small societies. 1.2. The Three5 R's Old Order Amish parochial schools aim for unique goals within their curriculum. The three R's are basic academic patterns scholars need to learn: a) Reading The students are to develop skills in “word recognition and comprehension [...] using basal readers published by a religious publishing house”(M. Ediger). b) Writing The scholars are encouraged to acquire the “writing of ideas, including spelling, handwriting, and punctuation” (M. Ediger). c) Arithmetic – Basic arithmetic skills like “addition, subtraction, multiplication, [...] percentages, ratios, [...] and conversion of measures and weights” (J.A. Hostetler, p.181) are taught. The children receive no instructions to newer math. 4 Scholars are children between the ages of six and fifteen who attend Amish schools. 5 In M. Edigers “Examining the merits of old order Amish education”, there is a fourth R mentioned: Religion.
According to M. Edigers researches in his article “Examining the merits of old order Amish...