Wisconsin v Yoder Discussion

Amish schoolchildren

Amish schoolchildren (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Political Science 102 – The Constitution and Rights of Americans (Fall 2009)

Wisconsin v Yoder Discussion

[Students and professors, please read.]

I do think Wisconsin’s compulsory school-attendance law violates the free exercise of religion rights of the Amish.  As Justice Burger mentioned in his opinion, “The high school tends to emphasize intellectual and scientific accomplishments, self-distinction, competitiveness, worldly success, and social life with other students.  Amish society emphasizes informal learning-through-doing; a life of ‘goodness,’ rather than a life of intellect; wisdom, rather than technical knowledge, community welfare, rather than competition; and separation from, rather than integration with, contemporary worldly society.”  To send his children to a U.S. high school would be to the Amish as exposing our children to Taliban indoctrination would be to us—complete culture shock, on the level of the religious.  “The traditional way of life of the Amish is not merely a matter of personal preference, but one of deep religious conviction, shared by an organized group, and intimately related to daily living.”  I thought it was interesting that free exercise of religion was deemed more important in this case than compulsory education.  I am glad a freedom won over a compulsion.  However, unless our values are shared by an organized religion, they will be deemed mere “personal preference”.  I see little difference between the deep convictions of persons, and the deep convictions of organized persons.  Suppose hypothetically I am not Amish, but am instead an atheist (in reality, I am a Christian), but I share the same values as Justice Berger mentions in the above quote—can I remove my child from high school?  Unless every individual sharing those values is allowed to remove their children from compulsory school-attendance, it could be argued Justice Berger’s opinion favors one particular religion or denomination.  Not that I disagree with the outcome.  I just think (maybe) it should be generalized.

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