Drive along any back road in Amish country, and you will see an iconic sight. That being the one-room schoolhouse. The goal of the Amish schools is to prepare children for work and for eternity. Teacher’s are encouraged to increase children’s God given talents.
It may surprise some people to learn that before 1950, Amish children attended public schools. After World War II, small one-room schoolhouses began consolidating into large building. Some Amish parents protested because they believed they were losing control over the nurture of their children. After the Great Depression, Amish felt the need for their own schools. Formal education is only provided through the 8th grade. Which would be ages 15 or 16. When the government began to pressure the Amish to attend school past the 8th grade, a decision was made to open their own schools. Still Amish fathers were fined or imprisoned for not sending their children to school past the 8th grade. Finally, a Supreme Court decision was made in 1972 in favor of the Amish. Amish no longer needed to attend higher education classes.
School Building and Land
Some schoolhouses are one room and some are two room. One room schoolhouses have all grades(1st-8th) in one room. Two room school house separate the grades into 1st through 4th and 5th through 8th. Amish schoolhouses are built by local men. This includes fathers and relatives of the children. When a new school is built, it is also called a “Barn raising”. Participation is usually mandatory. Serious illness would only be an excused absence. Land is usually donated to build a schoolhouse on. Besides the school, the land usually has a sport’s field, playground and an outhouse or two. Amish schoolhouses keep schools local to the community. It is easier for children to walk to school.
Schoolhouses have no electricity instead they have fireplaces or coal or wood furnaces. Each school houses an average of 30 students. Besides formal schooling, farming and homemaking skills are extremely important in a child’s education. The parents come to the schoolhouse about a week before classes begin. Here, besides cleaning the school, the teacher can get acquainted with the parents. The Amish have school boards to run the schools. They are responsible for many things such as collecting taxes, hiring teachers, buying supplies and acting as consultants to parents and teachers. Some school districts have a three member board, others a five.
In conclusion, I want to mention here, the Amish schoolhouse shooting tragedy that happen on October 2, 2006. At West Nickel Mines school, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, ten girls were shot. Five died but miraculously, five survived. What’s amazing is that the parents of the girls and all Amish community members forgave the shooter.