Professor Don Kraybill on Amish Culture

Donald Kraybill, known worldwide as a premier expert on Amish culture, is retiring from teaching. On Good Day PA, he busted a few Amish myths.

Kraybill began working at Elizabethtown College in 1971 as an assistant professor of sociology. He served as chair of the Sociology and Social Work Department and as director of the Young Center. In 1994, he left to serve at Messiah College, but returned two years later.

Kraybill was raised in Mount Joy, Lancaster County on dairy farms among the Amish and other Anabaptist groups. It was not until later in life that he developed his deep interest in studying Anabaptist culture.

“I never really became interested in Amish life until I went to grad school. And there I studied with John Hostetler, one of the leDon Kraybillading experts on the Amish,” Kraybill said. “But beyond that, even after I finished grad school and started teaching at E-Town, I didn’t really get into Amish research for about ten years.”

Since then, Kraybill has authored or co-authored 29 books on Amish life. He has often served as a spokesperson for the Amish who most often decline interviews and on-camera appearances.

“For me, the intriguing question was how was it possible for a community like this who rejects television who rejects driving automobiles rejects online electricity — How’s it possible for them to not only be growing but actually thriving in the midst of high-tech, super hyper, modern America?”

Kraybill has worked tirelessly to educate others about Amish culture, often dispelling myths and rumors. He presented a few myths to Good Day PA.

Amish Myths: Presented by Donald Kraybill

1. They are all farmers. NO: Only about 1/3 of the households earn their living from farmin

2. The Amish don’t pay taxes.  NO: They pay all taxes like other Americans except Social Security which violates their religious belief in separation of Church and state.

3. The Amish are dying out.  NO: They are doubling every 20 years because of having seven to eight children on average and because more than 85% of youth join the church as you adults.

4. The Amish reject modern technology. NO: They accept some modern tech; reject some (like TV and cars) and modify much tech to fit their religious values

5. Amish Youth leave home and live in cities during Rumspringa when they are teens and only come home if they want to join the church.  NO: The vast majority of Amish teens live at home during rumspringa and never live elsewhere.

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