By Kevin Williams
The Amish generally do not go to college. I say generally because there are some rare exceptions. For instance, there are some converts who have joined the church from the outside. David Luthy, a well-known Amish historian living in Canada is Amish, a convert, and a college grad. Ditto for Mark Curtis, an Amish man living in Belle Center, Ohio is a former school teacher and college grad. Curtis Duff is an Amish convert living in Oakland, Maryland. The Amish in Oakland considered Duff a particular valuable convert because of his medical background, to this day he sort of serves as an unofficial "nurse" for the community.
Now, interestingly, a I did run into a young horse-and-buggy Amish woman in Partridge, Kansas a few years ago who was preparing to go to college in Pennsylvania so she could become a teacher. Partridge is a pretty progressive Amish settlement, so if that were to happen anywhere, that would be the place. I so, so, wish I could remember the name of the college. Some Plain Mennonites do go to colleges affiliated with the church, like Goshen College or Bluffton University in Ohio.
College is also rare among the Plain Brethren. Writer Rosanna Bauman has taken some college level courses and 18-year-old Daisy Turney turned heads on the campus of Baker College in Kansas this fall by enrolling. What I find most fascinating about Daisy is that Baker isn't a Brethren university, it is a Methodist one and that she isn't commuting, she is actually living in a dorm with a randomly assigned roommate. The college newspaper did an article about her last month, click here to read the article.
The reasoning behind eschewing higher education among the Plain are multi-faceted. One is just desire to remain insular and exposing oneself to all the ideas and philosophies in college isn't necessarily compatible with that. Second, is more practical. College is expensive and if you're going to farm or make cabinets for the rest of your life, why spent $100,000 on a liberal arts degree? Thirdly, the Amish lifestyle is built upon not standing out from your peers and a college degree would definitely be counter to that philosophy. But views are slowly changing. Interesting, I was visiting an Old Order Amish engine repair business recently and the Amish owner had a certificate proudly hanging on the wall. He had taken a 10 week correspondence course in engine repair and passed with flying colors!