Writing About the Plain People---The Amish and Old Order Mennonites
(revised 10/11/02)

Visits to all of our field sites in Sociology 215 are meant to do three things:

(1) Encourage you to think about readings and class topics and to use those materials in your discussion of the field experience;
(2) Raise issues for you about participation in community life and political activity and to discuss how engagement and social responsibility, or disengagement and social irresponsibility happen;
(3) Give you field experiences to prepare you for other courses that will have more intensive field experiences, like Anthropology/Sociology 201.

Your paper is not meant to be long. Three or four pages is enough. You also should not try to write about all of the themes given below. Pick your focus, state it, and give lots of description and detail to develop your points.

One of the most important things about the time you spend observing is that you should not be passive. Be involved in activities and, most importantly, talk to people. Try especially to meet people other than the hosts who bring us into the settings. In addition to the main participants in the program (the kids in a school), seek out and talk to some of the people who are more in the background---office people, family members, custodial staff. Look at the questions given for each assignment and ask people in the setting what they think about the issues that are listed.

Participating in the Amish Tour for this class has three objectives.

1. For you to see a unique lifestyle and describe what it is and what motivates the participants.

2. For you to learn about and understand the general principles of the Amish and Old Order Mennonite religious groups.

3. For you to notice social service activities built into these communities and to consider whether the character and structure of those services are made unique and distinctive by virtue of having been created within a faith-based community.


1. Write a brief account of the experience. You should both describe events that occur and things you see and learn about the Amish as a result of this tour.

2. Explain why the Amish and Old Order Mennonites live as they do, what the general principles of their religion are, and what things keep their community obedient and cohesive. You might pay special attention to how social control works in the community and how the status of women and men differ.

3. In class we discussed whether faith-based social services have anything distinctive to offer compared to secular social services. The Amish have schools and other services. Does religious doctrine or faith make these services different than they would be if they were run in a secular setting, aside from the fact that they happen within a religious community?