Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Education; When is Enough?

Our community here in my small town is largely Mennonite. There are a couple different groups of Mennonite that are fairly segregated; the Holdermans and the Germans. The Holdermans have been here for many generations and run a private school for their children. The Germans have only been here for less than two generations and many came from Mexico. In fact, my neighbor who is about my age, lived in Mexico until she was twelve. The German Mennonites attend public school. Both groups only send their kids to school to about the 8th grade. I don't believe all Mennonite communities are like this.

I have no problem with Mennonite customs, religious beliefs or lifestyle...until it comes to education. I can't agree that only educating a child to the age of 14 or 15 is beneficial to them or the Mennonite community. It's not as though these kids don't want to go to school either. There are some, if given the choice, would finish high school and continue on to college.

We are all citizens of a community, a town, a country, and a world. There are very few of us in this life that are so isolated that we aren't affected by others or influence the life of someone else. Therefore as a citizen of humanity isn't it our obligation to educate ourselves as fully as possible (not everyone is PhD material) for the benefit of not only our lives but of the lives around us as well?

My dad has told the story he heard of an Amish farmer. After the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986 the Amish man was asked how he thought it would effect him and marketing his crop. He had no clue about anything that had happened in Chernobyl. The Amish man was furious that his religion so isolated them that he wouldn't be informed of something that could effect his livelihood so drastically that he left the church.

I'm not advocating the break up of the Mennonite church. It just really bothers me that education, what I consider a right, is denied to someone who wants to pursue it. And it bugs me that other people (church elders, etc.) decide what is the 'right' amount of education for someone who isn't even their child.

I've been substitute teaching recently at the local preschool. It really bothers me to see some of the very brightest boys and girls working so hard and to realize that they probably only have nine or ten more years, at the most, of schooling ahead of them. I'm all for the first amendment and the freedom of religion but where is the guarantee of freedom to pursue an education?


  1. I have always felt that religion has a tendacy to hold people back. If you are "too" educated you may question the tried and true. The same thing was done with the church when they went to foreign lands and converted the natives. The choice should be offered.

  2. When our school was being evaluated for accreditation, the team asked a group of parents if we would want our kids to go to a private Catholic school through high school. I said, "No. We give these kids a great fundamental education in all subjects AND a strong sense of who they are as a person. BUT, they have to go out and make their way in the world with people who are not always going to think or feel like they do.
    As an educator, it saddens me to know that students are not allowed to pursue dreams and goals that require higher education. I don't know what the right answer is; I guess they have to decide that when the time comes. It's very hard to tell a parent how to raise his/her child, but I do understand your frustration.

  3. This brings back sad memories for me. I was raised in a community that didn't allow education past 6th grade--at least when I was growing up--they later saw reason. I do wish I had been given the opportunity to complete my education. I was very bright (reading before I was 3 years old)--of course I did finish it on my own. And I've since homeschooled my own six kids up to high school level so anything is possible, but I believe children should be given the chance to finish studying.

  4. Not all groups of Mennonite believe that. Usually it is an Amish belief to school until 8th grade. Eastern Mennonite University is one of the largest Christian Universities on the East coast.


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