I walked into town. It was a perfect, crisp fall day. Everywhere I looked there were either Amish people, or people staring at the Amish.
A big yellow school bus roared up the street. It was full of adorable Amish children, with their bonnets and bowl cuts, peeking out the windows.
Now I was staring too.
“Do the Amish schools hire school buses?” I asked my landlady that evening. “Or do Amish children go to public school?”
“Oh, some Amish school children go to public school, and some go to Amish schools,” she said.
“What about the Mennonite kids?” I asked.
“It’s the same way. Some go to public school, and some go to Mennonite schools.”
I must have looked amazed, because she qualified her statement. “The public schools here aren’t like other public schools, you know,” she said. And then, I don’t know how she worded it, but she made it sound like the area has enough Amish and Mennonites that they have a good say in what happens at the public schools.
I found this so fascinating.
I know that both my parents went to public school when they were young. But now, I don’t know of any Mennonites in Oregon who send their children to public school. Paris, TN was the same way. Public school was not an option.
I wonder how this switch happened. From what I know about Oregon, it happened because the small country public school consolidated into a much larger school in town, so local Mennonites had much less influence over what and how their children were taught.
I’d be so curious to know how it was in other places. And why the attitude is different in different areas. Does it come down to how much influence the parents have at the school? Or is there more going on than that?
In general, I am fascinated by people’s attitudes towards education in different places. In Oregon, it would never have occurred to me to drop out of high school, and my parents would never have allowed me to anyway. Still, some Mennonite schools in our area do stop at 10th grade. I’m not sure why. But both here in Ohio and in Paris TN, “normal” was going up to 8th grade.
Still, in Paris TN, as far as I know I didn’t meet a single Mennonite who’d been educated past eighth grade (although to be fair, not every single person told me how far they’d gone in school)(and many of them did get their GED). But here in Ohio, I’ve already met a number of college educated people. Maybe it’s just because there are SO MANY Mennonites in Ohio, that your chances of finding another college educated person is that much higher?
One quick note before I end this musing: I was emphatically told, after my last blog post, that I absolutely cannot judge all of Holmes County by this little stretch of Hwy 39 between Sugarcreek and Berlin. That the bizarre tourism here is not the “real” Holmes County at all.
I am sure this is correct, but I do have two things to say regarding this.
First, I didn’t for a moment connect the Amish tourism with the actual Amish, or even the Mennonites. I assumed that it was caused by non-Amish coming to stare at the Amish, and other non-Amish deciding to capitalize on the this tourism by opening gift shops and “Amish” variety shows.
I would be very curious to know to what extent the actual Amish people benefit from the tourism. I’m sure that it happens, because people are eager to buy Amish made products. But I still feel like actual Amish have nothing to do with the weird showy touristy stuff.
Second, I don’t want to ever pretend that I understand an area just by living in it for a month and making a few observations. I welcome any and all insights from locals, and will always assume that you know what’s up, and I don’t.
With this in mind, I would LOVE to hear about the Mennonite/Amish relationship with education in your area, whether you’re from Oregon, Tennessee, Ohio, or anywhere else.