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Abstract

Prior to the 1972 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin v. Yoder, et al., parents found themselves in court in a number of states. This essay explores the Yoder decision and its relevance for the Amish today, contrasting the understanding of Amish life implicit in the Supreme Court decision with the reality of the twenty-first century Amish world. In particular, it notes that the agency afforded the Amish by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Yoder case means that, as the Amish increasingly engage with the mainstream, education has for many become less about isolating children from the world than it is about shaping their interaction with it. It also notes that, in contrast to the court’s findings, those communities most closely meeting the court’s understanding of the Amish world are generally the least able or willing to provide an education judged “adequate” by external standards, largely because they are uninterested in evaluating their schools by any standards except those of their own community. Finally, it explores the legacy of Wisconsin v. Yoder, et al. for future litigation and for today’s Amish schools.

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