National Geographic : 1965 Aug
Though not a member of a Plain sect, she answered my questions somewhat apprehen sively; the bishop might disapprove if he learned she had been talking to an outsider. "I was hired by the local Amish board that supports this school," she said. She gestured around the neat little room, heated by a wood burning stove. "We have 28 pupils here. Sev enteen of them-would you believe it?-are named Stoltzfus." On one side stood small desks, about 24 inches high, for the lower grades; the bigger girls and boys sat on the other side. "While one class is reciting, the rest do their studies," the teacher explained. "Or some of the brighter ones listen to higher grades. "A one-room school has no place in pro gressive educational theory," she went on, "but you know, sometimes I think it's better. Our first-graders, for the most part, can't speak anything but Pennsylvania Dutch when they first come. The older children help teach them to read and write English. They help in other ways, too. "I think a school like this, with everybody in the same room, gives them a sense of com munity responsibility that they wouldn't get in a bigger school." Later that day, an Amish bishop said, "Yes, that is true. Also, it holds our people together. If the kinder go to a public school, they learn the 'gay' ways. Soon some of them may leave the church." And a deacon of their church said, "They do not understand us, the gay people. They do not know that we believe that once we are gone, we are all." He meant, of course, "all gone," the end of the Amish sects. Tourists Flock to Plain Country The end is not at all apparent, however, despite a popular notion that Amish numbers are shrinking. Actually, since 1900 their num bers in the United States have grown steadily, from less than 10,000 to close to 50,000 today, according to recent studies by John A. Hostet ler, a leading authority on the Plain People. Large families account for this growth. Sel dom, if ever, does an outsider join the Amish faith. A non-Amishman might want to marry into it, but an Amish boy or girl would almost never take up with an outsider, without risk ing excommunication or some other severe punishment, such as being made to do with out a horse for a year, or being denied the privilege of venturing off the farm. Conversions to the freer Mennonite sects, however, are on the rise. The Mennonite 250 Still sits the school-house by the road.. Its door's worn sill, betraying The feet that, creeping slow to school, Went storming out to playing! John Greenleaf Whittier's "In School-Days" lives again in this one-room Pennsylvania schoolhouse. Students come to class at the summons of a bell atop the Stumptown School. Hand pump outside serves as the water fountain. Twenty-nine Amish children and one Old Order Mennonite, in grades one through eight, share the classroom. Faces as bright as the sunbeams that light them reflect ea gerness to learn. The dunce cap seldom sits on a student's head. Amish believe education beyond the eighth grade unnecessary, hold ing with the Bible that "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (I Corin thians 3:19). Destined to be farmers and housewives, children receive their most val uable training on the land and in the home.