Freedom and Democracy Absolutely Fail Children in the US

Children are human beings, not property owned by adults who gave birth to them. We need a movement that acknowledges and enforces the Constitutional rights of Amish and other children, such as Ultra-Orthodox Jewish, fundamentalist Christian, Jehovah’s Witness, and Native/Indigenous.

Democracy

The prevailing secular political force that continues to influence the educational system of the United States is democracy, the form of government upon which the U.S. Constitution was founded. During the post-war or cold war era, democractic ideals such as freedom and equality, and a concurrent goal to advance global citizenship, have conflicted with ideologies influenced by communism and fascism around globalization and education (Reimers, 2017). For example, one of the effects of the rise of populism, seen especially during the Trump era, is a move away from preparing students for a globally-minded citizenry due to the idea that one “is defined by citizenship, not by membership in humanity” (Reimers, 2017).

Perhaps the greatest example of how democracy has, and continues to, influence the U.S. educational system is seen in John Dewey’s work. To Dewey, a democractic education was “the right kind of education” (Mintz, n.d.). This meant, among other things, an educational system that embodied the ideals of individual liberty (e.g., allowed students to thrive in their studies) and the public good (e..g, prepared students for civic engagement and contribution to economic growth), not just domestically but also globally.

Democracy and social reform are linked in Dewey’s mind and throughout his career, he continually made the case for “the importance of education not only as a place to gain content knowledge, but also as a place to learn how to live” (Talebi, 2015). Considering that spreading democracy has been . . .

. . . a major foreign policy goal of the United States for decades, and that the Biden administration is returning to a mindset of global democratic leadership as opposed to national populism, it is not surprising to see that the force of democracy continues to strongly shape the U.S. educational system, despite the disagreements over which democratic values should take precedence over others when deciding on what to teach, how to teach, to whom to teach, and when to teach.

All the above said, freedom and democracy don’t apply to Amish children — and children of other insular religious groups such as Ultra-Orthodox Jewish, many fundamentalist Christian, Jehovah’s Witness, and the list goes on. Neither are the rights of Native, or indigenous, children of this land protected. Children are human beings, not property owned by adults who gave birth to them. We need a movement that acknowledges and enforces Amish and other children’s inalienable rights, as well as Native/Indigenous peoples’ rights.

Until then, the assertion that the United States is a democracy, the land of the free, and the home of the brave is a blatant lie to a 15-year-old Amish American girl who was forced to endure a childhood of torture (because the U.S. Supreme Court decided it was okay to strip her of her rights as a citizen in favor of the Amish religion’s rights) and escape in the middle of the night just for a chance to be free and go to school past the 8th grade. It’s also a blatant lie to the Native peoples of this land, who were slaughtered, raped, enslaved, and experimented upon for generations and who are still the target of heinous violations and abuses by the United States (e.g., the United States forbids Native nations from prosecuting a non-Native who rapes a Native on a reservation; thanks again to the U.S. Supreme Court: Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe).

This is the country that claims to be the beacon of democracy and freedom.

References: Carleton, D. (n.d.). Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647 (1647). In, The First Amendment encyclopedia. Middle Tennessee State University. Retrieved February 05, 2021, from https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1032/old-deluder-satan-act-of-1647 Graham, P. A. (2005). Introduction. In Schooling America: How the public schools meet the nation's changing needs. (14-20). Oxford University Press. Retrieved February 05, 2021, from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/univ-people-ebooks/detail.action?docID=272654 Gray, P. (2008, August 20). A brief history of education. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200808/brief-history-education Gutek, G. L. (1991). An historical introduction to American education, 2nd edition. Matzat, A. L. (n.d.). Massachusetts education laws of 1642 and 1647 [History of American Education Web Project page]. University of Notre Dame. Retrieved February 05, 2021, from https://www3.nd.edu/~rbarger/www7/masslaws.html Mintz, A. I. (n.d.). What is the purpose of education? Dewey's challenge to his contemporaries. [pdf] Retrieved February 05, 2021, from https://www.academia.edu/23693775/What_is_the_Purpose_of_Education_Deweys_challenge_to_his_contemporaries National Education Association. (2021, January 08). Students and educators can't take four more years of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://educationvotes.nea.org/2019/03/22/devos Reimers, F. (2017, August 03). Rediscovering the cosmopolitan moral purpose of education. Retrieved February 22, 2018, from https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/rediscovering-the-cosmopolitan-moral-purpose-of-educationSchrager, A. (2018, June 29). The modern education system was designed to teach future factory workers to be "punctual, docile, and sober". Quartz. https://qz.com/1314814/universal-education-was-first-promoted-by-industrialists-who-wanted-docile-factory-workers Talebi, K. (2015, September) John Dewey- Philosopher and educational reformer. European Journal of Educational Studies. [pdf] Retrieved February 28, 2018 from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED564712.pdf

End of Part 3 of 3

To education,
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Amish escapee & Columbia University alumna. For the right of Amish kids to go to school. Get chapters of my book Amish Girl in Manhattan @ TorahBontrager.com

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