Sneath, Robyn. (2013). Be not wise – A study of Old Colony Mennonite educational beliefs and practices in Canada and Mexico. Sneath, R. (2013). Doctoral student paper, Oxford University, Oxford, UK. (Personal communication 7/18/13 with author says paper is based on “unpublished raw data.” Appears very respectful of the religious values and beliefs of the Mennonite people who are faced with state authority regarding their children, and of private schooling and homeschooling. “Drawing on over a century of history of Mennonite communities in Canada, Robyn Sneath is learning about how government education policies may have conflicted with Mennonites’ vision of citizenship” – retrieved 7/8/13 from http://www.fondationtrudeau.ca/en/community/robyn-sneath. “Abstract: This study comprises an archival and multi-sited ethnographic analysis of the Old Colony Mennonites’ perceptions of the purpose of schooling and the extent to which this understanding has remained constant across time and space. In the 1920s conflict over schooling prompted the exodus of 8,000 Mennonites from Manitoba, Canada to Chihuahua, Mexico; since then at least 50,000 Old Colonists have returned to Canada, where tensions over schooling persist. For the Mennonites, schooling serves as the primary locus through which their language, faith, and worldview are transmitted and these goals have often conflicted directly with concepts of schooling as a vehicle through which autonomy and social mobility are promoted. Ethnographic accounts—composed through participant-observation in two Old Colony private schools in Manitoba and two in Mexico, as well as interviews with teachers, community leaders, parents of children in private, public, and home schools [homeschools], and with Old Colony children (50 interviews in total)— will complement the rich archival record, which includes school inspector reports, court records, memoirs, newspapers, and personal correspondence. The archival analysis as well as the Mexican Mennonite ethnography will be used to inform and contextualize the current state of Old Colony education in Manitoba. Canada has had a long and contentious history on the topic of religious and ethnic minorities and schooling, and yet there exists a paucity of research in the area. This powerful and relatively unknown story of Old Colony Mennonite schooling has the potential to make significant contributions to the field of intercultural education by illustrating how minority groups have used education to preserve the religious and linguistic boundaries of their group vis a vis the dominant culture. My hope is that by elucidating Old Colony Mennonites’ attitudes towards education, light may be shed on current issues surrounding education, citizenship, and religion, especially given the increasingly diverse religious commitments of Canadian citizens” (p. 2). “By approaching my project with an ethic of respect and thinking of my research as ‘with’ and ‘for’ the Old Colony Mennonite communities, then hopefully issues of reciprocity, access, consent, and the application of theory to the data will be easier to navigate. For many Old Colony Mennonites, to relinquish control of their children’s education to the authorities was to deny their godly duty to raise their children within the protective fold of the community. From the perspective of Canadian lawmakers, to allow Mennonites full control of the education of their children was an affront to their understanding of what it meant to be Canadian and was perceived as an act of subversion against the state. Ultimately, an archival analysis, combined with interviews with those who have experienced firsthand the tensions between state and sect—Old Colony parents, teachers, pupils, and leaders—will provide a powerful triangulation with potential to shed considerable light on a heretofore underexamined issue” (p. 19).) (Keywords: philosophy, religion, Mennonites, public school, private school, homeschooling, research, qualitative, state authority)
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