Education and the Amish

Education and the AmishThere’s something to be said about the power of the Amish education system.

Last night, my husband and I were talking about education (just your normal evening light conversation…ha ha). And we both determined that the American education system is a big, fat failure. In turn, we began to compare the Amish education system to the “Englischer” system and realized that there is a lot to be learned by studying how the Amish prepare their children for life as an adult within their community.

Because isn’t that what education is about? Preparing our children to become self-sufficient? Able to provide for their families?

Somewhere along the way, Americans lost sight of that.

Back in the day, teenagers finished high school and had two choices: learn a trade or go to college. High school had prepared our students for life in the real world while college groomed them to specialize in a particular speciality. Think doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.

Having worked in the world of higher education, I can assure you that most high school graduates are not only ill-prepared to face survival in the “real world” but they are ill-prepared to be a success in college. One of the reasons why is that high schools just move students along. I don’t know about YOUR school districts but the Morris School District in my hometown does not have a final examination to determine what the students have actually learned before they graduate. Oh sure, they might have a final paper in one class or a final exam in another class. I’m not talking about class performance. I’m talking about the readiness to survive in the world…to live based on what our wonderful (sarcastic) education system has taught them. Perfect example…my son had no idea how to cash a check when he started working after graduation. Forget about balancing a checkbook or living within a budget…we leave that to the credit card companies who push low-finance rates for the first 90-days while giving non-working 18-year-olds $5,000 in credit.

And then these kids hit college.

I don’t even want to share the stories…the horror stories…of my college students who couldn’t write at an eighth grade level and insisted that they were A students in all of their other college classes.

You get the picture.

Our education system is NOT preparing our children for the world. In many cases, what they ARE preparing them for is amazing debt for subpar education with the (false) promise that EVERYONE should be a CEO of his or her own business and make well into the six-figures upon graduation.

Now, let’s take a look at the Amish.

Their children study until the eighth grade and then they continue their education outside of the classroom, interning in trade. For young ladies, they might work at home or outside of the home. For young men, they might learn carpentry or farming or even work at a store. They must keep a journal of their activities. Every week, they meet with the teacher who reviews what they have learned. By the time the students are sixteen (and can legally stop attending school), they are well trained in a trade, know how to manage their money, live within a budget, and plan for the future.

Here’s the kicker…

In my experience with the Amish, I have NEVER met a “poor” Amish person. In fact, the majority of Amish people that I have met in Lancaster County, PA own their farms/homes (no mortgages) and have zero debt. Many take nice vacations (perhaps not when the children are small, tho) and some even own second homes for vacations (think lake houses for summer or winter residences in Florida). Quite a few of them are multimillionaires…you just would never know it because they don’t drive fancier buggies than everyone else or renovate their homes to be huge, majestic McMansions.

Does this mean that there are no poor or struggling Amish families?

Of course not.

Surely there are Amish families that are not successful or living beneath the poverty level. I just haven’t met any during the past thirty+ years.

However, I have seen farms that are riddled with junk and debris, something I personally tend to equate to poverty but, perhaps, might just be laziness or, in some cases, particular types of Amish that do not take care of the property as they feel that shows pride (i.e. Swartzentrubers in Ohio). I know in Lancaster that these families are frowned upon by the rest of the district. And there are Amish who cannot purchase things for their family. But rather than rely on the government to provide for their family, the community will come together and help with the expectation that the recipient will work to improve their situation. In other words, they aren’t sitting around watching satellite television, drinking soda (or beer!), or playing computer games while the community is helping them.

All of this with an eighth grade education.

Clearly, we have a lot to learn from the Amish.

Somewhere along the way, Americans have lost sight of what is important. Personally, I’d rather my kids be happy and supporting themselves (and their families) than have $100,000 or more in college debt, working in a career that stresses them out, and living a life that focuses on what can be acquired (on credit!).

Isn’t that we all want for our children? Enjoying life to its fullest?

I’m going to take this lesson from the Amish and keep it in mind for both of my children.

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One thought on “Education and the Amish

  1. Words of wisdom here, Sarah!
    Of course, we wish that our kids are happy, and living within their means, and know how to live and be happy, without more and more debt! I believe there are wise Amish, and wise people who are NOT Amish! The Bible speaks to us about not borrowing, and living in debt.
    However, few can go to college and NOT acquire debt.
    I sure do not know all of the answers, but our local high schools do not teach all of the life skills needed, and failure in a lot of marriages, and not teaching our kids and grandkids a good work and moral ethic, are just SOME of the pit falls!
    Blessings to you ~

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