AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF A MENNONITE CHRISTIAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN LANCASTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
This study concerns the ways in which children in a particular private Mennonite elementary school are taught those matters considered essential and important to the Mennonite culture and society.
The purpose of the study was to provide a descriptive analysis of classroom and other school activities which relate to the perpetuation of Mennonite religious beliefs and values, and to identify and explain Mennonite perceptions of the importance and necessity of preserving such beliefs and values. A specific focus of the research was to discover teacher self-perceptions as they are reflected in the classroom and in other activities, and to determine how these perceptions and attitudes are relevant to producing a successful school.
The research strategy combined classroom observation with formal and informal interviews, questionnaires, attendance at seminars and social events within the Mennonite community, and perusal of historical and current reading materials.
Analysis of data produced five major findings identified as having importance within the school: First--The curriculum is planned to achieve a Christ-centered education for students, and the most important issue in the school is to instruct students in fundamentals of Biblical truths. Second--Educators in this school believe that all knowledge is significant only as it is based on and is consistent with Biblical truths. All subject matter must, therefore, be integrated with fundamental Bible truths. Third--Teachers in this Mennonite school believe that teaching is a special calling which is inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. They feel responsible to follow their own religious commitments to gain disciples for Christ and for the Mennonite Church. They consider their teaching talents a special gift to be used to help others to know God. Fourth--Parental involvement is a key component which contributes significantly to producing what these Mennonites consider to be a proper education for their children. Fifth--The Church and the school are each an extension of the other. The three forces which must co-exist in a child's life are the home, the school, and the Church.
The study shows that unity of purpose of parents and educators produces a school where clear objectives can be established and attained.