By Angelina Burkholder | Echo
Meet Maciah Yoder. He's an Amish thirteen years old with the fullest head of curly, dirty blonde hair a teenage boy can have. His blue eyes even sparkle when he laughs. Some say he has plenty to laugh about. His family lives on 10 acres of land in northern Indiana with sprawling red barns and a three-story white farm house. In front of their property, a wide pond offers escape to neighbors during hot summer afternoons. The entire 10 acres are surrounded by a rich brown fence leading to a tall ranch entryway, which bears the last name of his family.
But young Maciah sees beyond the sensationalized Amish way of living. He just wants to play basketball.
In October 2012, he stepped onto a middle school basketball court with a regulated team for the first time in his life. Now he has a number on his back and teammates at his side. He is a name fans scream from the bleachers and players fear on the court. The only problem? Because he's Amish, his dream of playing competitive ball is scheduled to end in three months when he graduates from 8th grade.
For years, Amish children have been kept out of high school. After 8th grade, they give up pencils and workbooks for a place in a lifetime of work. At only 13 to 14 years old, these children set aside ambitions and dreams to assume a role commanded of them by their culture. Meanwhile, the government stands by, silently watching, doing nothing to stop it.
On the basis of religion, Amish are not obligated to complete high school, as confirmed by the Supreme Court in the Wisconsin v. Yoder case. They are the only minority in America to receive such exemptions from the government, but those exemptions aren't helping anyone. They only lead to an aimless cycle of work, marriage and raising children. The second generation grows up and repeats it. Then the third and the fourth. It never stops. Without saying a word, these young children file into full-time work while their non-Amish peers attend school, join sports teams and plan for college and careers. These Amish children never have a chance at dreams.
In the 1972 Wisconsin v. Yoder case, only one justice disagreed with the ruling of keeping Amish children out of high school.
"On this important and vital matter of education, I think the children should be entitled to be heard," Justice William O. Douglas said. "It is the future of the students, not the future of the parents, that is imperiled by today's decision."
"I love basketball," Maciah says. The grin on his face spreads and his hair bounces a little as he nods in excitement. His determination shows. Long before his feet touched the slick basketball court, he learned how to train himself. A crude slab of cement with a hoop and a weathered basketball was all he had to gain strength and skill. In the city, his classmates sat on a couch, scarfing down potato chips and fighting for a video game win.
Miciah earned a spot on the team, but he's running out of time. His culture, his whole way of life, demands full-time work from him in just a year, but he only wants high school and more basketball.
"I want to, but I don't know if Dad will let me." Maciah glances behind him, pauses for a little and walks off. His head hangs slightly. His parents didn't show up in the stands much during his games. His suspenders sit tightly on his shoulders, holding in his light blue button-up shirt. At home, his family, his church and his culture weigh just as heavily, jerking him back into the confines of conservatism every time his 14-year-old heart starts dreaming.
The sun is setting now and the wind is chilly, but it's never too cold for basketball. Maciah picks up the ball and shoots. He really does have stars in his eyes.
Welcome to America, the land of the free, home of the brave. Where they say dreams come true. Well, for some at least.