"The Instruction of Youth"

Many years ago, I came across a little booklet titled "The Instruction of Youth." It was printed in 1964 by Pathway, an Amish publishing house in Canada. While no authorship was noted, I learned it was written by a local Amishman, Noah D. Zook. I tracked him down, spoke with him briefly, and he autographed my copy. He claimed not to be offering any new advice, but rather to be gathering "some of the important teachings from various sources."

In the introduction, it was noted that parents are often quick to note the faults and mistakes that others make in raising their children, while often overlooking their own. "They will be quick-sighted as eagles in detecting mistakes abroad, and yet blind as bats to fatal errors which are daily going on at home."

A recent documentary, "The Devil’s Playground," focuses on some Amish teenagers who leave the fold to indulge in the "sins of the world" during their running around (rumspringa) years prior to adult baptism in the church. Obviously, the Amish are not immune to the problems of the "outside" world. Their young people face the same temptations, and Amish parents may sometimes be "blind as bats," just like their non-Amish counterparts.

Zook’s little booklet is divided into brief sections. In the preschool years, he advises to "explain why things happen, what is the right way to do, and when to do it."

In the school section, Zook emphasizes that a child’s thinking will now largely be shaped by others --- teachers and classmates. There is the potential for "bad company" and other outside influences.

In the growing up years, he recognizes that "youth craves excitement." He stresses the importance of knowing what young people are thinking and doing, and that both adults and their children are accountable for their actions.

Throughout the book, Zook urges parents to provide a good example for young people to follow, especially with so many bad examples out there. He includes an uncredited poem entitled "A Little Fellow Follows Me" to make his point…

A careful man I want to be;

A little fellow follows me.

I do not dare to go astray

For fear he’ll go the selfsame way.

I cannot once escape his eyes;

Whate’er he sees me do, he tries.

Like me he says he’s going to be,

The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine;

Believes in every word of mine.

The base in me he must not see,

The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go

Through summer’s sun and winter’s snow,

I’m building for the years to be

That little fellow following me.


Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou



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