Reading through the case document for the Wisconsin v. Yoder‘s trial has been… interesting, to say the least. Not only did some of the issues presented within sound extremely unethical, but it also helps clarify everything I have learned so far from the trial audio and from what I already know about the Amish.
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Easily the biggest shock for me when reading the document was when it said that the Amish children “must enjoy physical labor.” To me, this almost feels unreal, like I’m reading a dystopian novel. It’s like every child of the Amish had their futures decided for them before they can even read. It makes me even more sympathetic for these children, since the only future they will have is an agricultural life at an Amish farm. It also sounds contradictory when the document talks about how the children must learn “self-reliance”, when they are basically relying on their parents, since they did all the decision-making for them.
The document goes into detail about how high schools for Amish children could be detrimental to . . .
. . . their religious beliefs and might even separate them from their Amish community, especially if said high school is against Amish beliefs, specifically the traditional Amish. (One of the three men in the case with Jonas Yoder, the lead plaintiff/respondent, was “Amish Mennonite”, which is not the same as Amish. But the Supreme Court asked no questions about the Amish Mennonite religion and based their decision solely on the Amish religion.) It feels like this is a decision based more on stubborn tradition than it is about the lives of their children, a tradition that prevents the community from experiencing any change that is considered outside interference from the modern world.
Another line from the document talks about how going to high school would negatively impact an Amish child, due to the conflicts that it could bring about. I disagree with this. Do conflicts not inspire choice? I feel that this is why the community doesn’t want to take their children to high school, because then they risk their children making choices on their own.
Another thing I noticed about the document is near the end, where it says that the Amish are people “not set apart or different.” Basically, it’s saying that all Amish people are the same. I feel that this almost sounds boldly ignorant, considering that traditional Amish communities have no central governing authority, and last I checked, they’re all not the same. This also coincides with the audio from the trial itself, where the lawyers and experts essentially said the same thing. So long as these myths and misinformation spread around, the Amish community will continue to remain frozen in time, and always staying the same for a long time.
It also does not help that this statement is in the same paragraph that talks about how the drinking rate among the young Amish is just as high as the suicide rate amongst the group. Which raises a question: if high schools were seen as detrimental to the Amish parents, what about the drinking and suicide? Wouldn’t that be even worse, considering that it makes the community as a whole look extremely bad?
Overall, I sympathize with the Amish children due to this case document. The unethical decision-making from both the Supreme Court and the Amish parents resulted in their children being unable to make choices for themselves, both due to the parents dropping them out of an education beyond the eighth grade, and also because their futures were already decided for them.
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