Amish Education: Public or Private?
If I asked you what percentage of Amish children attend public schools, what would you answer?
Overall, the percentage is about 10 percent. In some areas with large Amish populations, however, the percentage might be 50 percent or higher. That doesn’t match up with what many of us expect.
A hundred years ago, 100 percent of Amish children were likely to be in public schools. The shift came not in what the Amish believed about education, but in public policies about education.
In the era of small, rural schools, Amish parents established understanding with teachers about what their children needed to learn. But when the general population shifted to larger schools in towns, and students rode buses to get there, Amish parents perceived a threat to their faith and how they expressed it in their way of life. In addition to hesitating to send their children to schools far from home, where they didn’t know the teachers, parents resisted laws requiring students to remain in school after the eighth grade.
This went on for decades, until finally in 1972 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Amish children could end their education at age fourteen.
That’s the “story behind the story” of Brightest and Best. The third book in the Amish Turns of Time set explores the heartfelt convictions that made Amish parents persist for over fifty years through the English courts in their quest for determining what kind of education was appropriate for their children.
Here’s a quick take on the story: The collapse of a schoolhouse puts pressure on Amish families and their long-held educational values. Ella Hilty anticipates marrying Gideon Wittmer and becoming a mother to his children. In a whirling clash of values, Ella seeks the solid ground that seems to have slipped away. Margaret Simpson, an English schoolteacher, wonders if she is losing her last chance at love. As the local authorities draw lines in the sand, Margaret puts romance at risk one final time. All eyes turn to Ella to make a sacrifice and accept a challenge that can bring unity to the Amish and understanding to the English.
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