I remember my first day of school as a lesson of independence and shame. Independence, because I strode off from my home all on my own and walked the three city blocks that took me to my local public school amidst the parade of other children on the same trek. I expect my mother had walked it with me as a rehearsal before but for school, I walked it alone. That was what we did in those days.
And shame. The shame had nothing to do with being a Mennonite in a public school — that wasn’t obvious to anyone and even if it was, it is quite possible that the other five-year old kids wouldn’t have cared. In a much more mundane way, the shame came from another little girl who educated me in the inappropriateness of performing a handstand while wearing a dress. Oddly enough, my parents who were neither hippy nor conservative Mennonites had failed to instill in me the importance of a little girl’s underwear remaining unseen.
No matter. That’s what school is for.
The vast majority of Mennonites in North America send their children to public school, if only because we are too cheap for private school and too busy with Church work to home-school. Most of us have quibbles from time to time about the school system, either because of our peace stance or for more socially conservative reasons. But the quibbles aren’t enough to keep us away. Well, not most of us. There are a couple branches of the Church that prefer their own schools and limit schooling to the legal minimum, valuing literacy and numeracy but not independent thought.
For grades 4 through 8, I went to public school in classes that included a couple Old Order Mennonite kids, a few Conservative Mennonites, one or two “Old” Mennonite and General Conference Mennonite kids, and a whole lot of “englander” kids. The top grades always went to the Old Order and Conservative kids. Perhaps they were driven to succeed by the knowledge that their time in school was limited. Or they were just flukish prodigies.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Mennonites sometimes get worked up about schooling. Public schooling is, after all, a branch of the state and we’re traditionally pretty wary of state involvement in our lives and children. But then again, it is free, many of us actually think that independent thought is a good thing, and really, little girls need to learn social expectations somehow.
But the kids are gone. Let’s have a drink.
I didn’t make up today’s cocktail, the only difference between mine and the original is the use of a light ale rather than a pilsner beer. It sounded unpleasant to me when I first came across it, like remedial class or a late detention. But it’s actually kinda fun, like recess but without the bullying. It’s called the Schoolhouse cocktail, though I have no idea why, or which particular educational philosophy it espouses. Still, it pairs well with back to school shopping and early September.
3 oz orange juice
1 1/2 oz amaretto
- Pour ale into a pint glass.
- Add orange juice
- Add amaretto
- Garnish with a cherry or an orange wheel
As always, I encourage you to find some local ingredients for your cocktails. I used Left Field Brewery’s Maris pale ale for mine as the Brewery is in easy walking distance of the nearest Mennonite Church.