The King Ranch Colony, featured in National Geographic’s reality television show, Meet the Hutterites, continues to depict education as something to be thrown away and feared, viewed by many colony members as a threat to the Hutterite way of life.
On the latest episode, Tammy, a 17-year-old Hutterite girl, was forced by her family to choose between living in the Hutterite colony and finishing her high school education. Pressured by her family, she chose to drop out of school. Her mother, Marie, was elated.
“That is just awesome to hear, Tammy. You actually made Mom’s day,” Marie told her daughter excitedly. In a camera cameo, she continued expressing her joy at her daughter’s decision to drop out of school. “I am really proud of my daughter Tammy, making the choice that she’s made. I just almost cried with happiness that she’d choose that route. It’s just great to see as a parent.”
Great to see as a parent? Made Mom’s day? Seriously?
“I hope it works out for me, because I’m sacrificing a lot,” Tammy said to her mom, “because I’m giving up my education for this.”
“It will,” Marie said to her daughter. “Trust me, it will, Sweetheart.”
Many people have commented on Huliq that the Hutterites do not try to limit their children’s education, and perhaps that is true of a lot of Hutterite colonies. But, the King Ranch Colony, as depicted in Meet the Hutterites, not only does not encourage their children to get their educations, many members actively discourage it. How a mother can be “proud” of her daughter for quitting high school is simply incredible.
Designated colony rebel Claudia had a much different view on Tammy quitting school:
“Tammy, you can honestly see the difference between people that have gone to high school around here and those that haven’t. You can see the difference. They kinda look stupid, for the ones that haven’t.”
“Having school and cooking and baking at the same time was a lot of responsibility, but I dealt with it,” Claudia said in a camera cameo. “I think that she just doesn’t have the support that I had.”
That was an understatement.
The interesting thing is, Tammy has been very clear that she wants to stay on the colony. She wants to be a Hutterite woman and, someday, a Hutterite wife and mom. She has no desire to leave the colony. But, still, Tammy’s parents have not encouraged her at all to attend school, and have been actively encouraging her to quit. “I love school, Dad,” Tammy said, in tears, as her father rolled his eyes. “I want an education. I want to go to school, and I want to graduate.” Her father, unsympathetic, continued his Hutterite-life-or-school tirade. “Like I said, one of the two’s gotta go,” he demanded to her. Under that pressure, it is no wonder that the 17-year-old decided that her education was as worthless as her parents viewed it to be.
In Mary-Ann Kirkby’s book, I Am Hutterite, she indicates that kids are able to finish school via correspondence. Today, there are on-line homeschooling programs available. Why quitting school is the only option available in this Hutterite colony is simply unfathomable, except for the view that has been expressed time and time again since this program began to air: Gaining an education may give young adults the tools to leave the colony. And, this type of portrayal on Meet the Hutterites may be why the Hutterite Bishops felt moved to release a statement saying that they felt betrayed by National Geographic. But, if members of this colony honestly believe that this is true—that young people will leave in droves if they have the skills and knowledge necessary to function in the “English” world—then maybe the Hutterite way of life on King Ranch Colony is not as perfect as they want to believe it to be.
Meet the Hutterites airs on the National Geographic Channel on Tuesdays at 10 p.m E/P.