18th Century Advice: Thomas Jefferson on Education Reform
By: Elena Segarra From: Heritage.org
The original “Man of the People,” Thomas Jefferson, was born on April 13 in 1743.
Jefferson is best known for drafting the Declaration of Independence
, but he also wrote prolifically and prophetically on education. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be,” he wrote
in a letter to a friend.
Jefferson understood that freedom depends on self-government: the cultivation of self-reliance, courage, responsibility, and moderation
. Education contributes to both the knowledge and virtues that form a self-governing citizen. By proposing a bill
in Virginia that would have established free schools every five to six square miles, Jefferson sought to teach “all children of the state reading, writing, and common arithmetic.” With these skills, a child would become a citizen able to “calculate for himself,” “express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts,” and “improve, by reading, his morals and faculties.”
Jefferson viewed this basic education as instrumental to securing “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” for Americans because it helps an individual “understand his duties” and “know his rights.”
Once taught reading and history, people can follow the news and judge the best way to vote. If the government infringes on their liberties, educated citizens can express themselves adequately to fight against it.
By providing equal access to primary schools, Jefferson hoped to teach children “to work out their own greatest happiness, by showing them that it does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed them, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.”
While Jefferson supported the idea of public education, he would not have placed schools under government supervision. Instead, he argued for the placement of “each school at once under the care of those most interested in its conduct.” He would put parents in charge.
"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by…[any] general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience.… No, my friend, the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to."
Taxpayers would provide the resources for public education; the community would arrange the schooling. Although we today face a very different set of challenges than Jefferson, his reasoning remains relevant: Those most concerned with the school’s performance, i.e., parents, will best manage education.
We spend more than enough on our struggling
education system. Empowering parents with control over dollars, instead of increasing the amount spent on schools, will improve educational outcomes.
During his lifetime, Thomas Jefferson had little success with his efforts to reform the American education system. Yet the principles he promoted hold true today: Our freedom depends on delivering a quality education to future generations. As we honor Jefferson’s birthday, let us also heed his advice and enable parents to make more of the decisions regarding their children’s education.
Americans have long been blessed with abundant freedom to live, believe, and worship as we desire. President Obama
"For nearly four centuries, men and women have immigrated to America's shores in pursuit of religious freedom. Hailing from diverse backgrounds and faiths, countless settlers have shared a simple aspiration -- to practice their beliefs free from prejudice and persecution.
"In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly took a bold step toward preserving this fundamental liberty by passing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which brought to life the ideal of religious tolerance from the texts of the Enlightenment in the laws of state...
"Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Statute formed the basis for the First Amendment, which has preserved religious freedom for both believers and non-believers for over 220 years..."Tony Perkins
, president of the Family Research Council, teaches us more about Thomas Jefferson's legacy:
"If you've ever toured Monticello, then you know that Thomas Jefferson had very strong opinions about what his legacy should be.
"He wanted to be remembered as the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and as the 'father' of the University of Virginia.
"Both are inscribed on his tombstone, along with his second proudest achievement--authoring the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom.
"That might surprise Americans today, who wrongly believe that our third President wanted to divorce the government of all religious expression. On the contrary, what Jefferson wrote in Fredericksburg some 230 years ago was such a groundbreaking defense of freedom that the men who drafted our Constitution relied on it for the framework of the First Amendment.
"'No nation,' the third President said years later, 'has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be.' Thomas Jefferson understood then, as we do now, that religious freedom is fundamental to every other freedom on earth. Maybe that's why, despite all of his other accomplishments, Jefferson considered the statute one of his greatest legislative feats."
Many of us have taken our legacy of religious liberty for granted -- like the air we breathe, it has always been abundant. Lately, as our rights have been questioned, I have appreciated more than ever before the sacrifices so many have made to preserve religious freedom in America. It's our turn to preserve and pass on this noble heritage.
Thomas Jefferson was a man of unusual intelligence
, ability, and accomplishment.
In fact, as President John F. Kennedy once welcomed forty-nine Nobel laureates to the White House, he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Jefferson's love of learning and his ability to work diligently prepared him to be the principal author of the Declaration of Independence when he was just thirty-three years old. In less than three weeks he drafted the document that would change the course of history and influence the lives of untold millions.
By: Brittany Baldwin From: Heritage.org
Today we celebrate the birthday of the man who united the colonies with mere parchment and pen. As we remember the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, we commemorate the document that embodies the principles of America.
At the age of thirty-three, Thomas Jefferson accepted the challenge of writing the Declaration of Independence. John Adams insisted that Jefferson was the one for the job, because, Adams admitted, “I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular… [and] you can write ten times better than I can.”
Many delegates wondered if the colonists could join together to defend themselves against Britain. Such unity would be possible with the right statement of purpose. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson harmonized the dissenting voices echoing across the colonies. The self-evident truths rang from the swamps of Charleston to the sea-ports of Connecticut.
Jefferson not only united the colonists, but he gave future generations a clear vision of the purpose of government. His succinct statement of principles resonated with the delegates of Philadelphia as they crafted a new Constitutional government. The principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and promulgated by the Constitution still define us as a nation and inspires us as a people.
Jefferson boasts an impressive resume—including Governor of Virginia, Minister to France, Secretary of State, and United States President. But, as his gravestone enshrines, the Declaration was his greatest legacy. Perhaps nature knew Jefferson’s attachment to the parchment; for on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, he passed away proclaiming, “It is the Fourth!”
Thomas Jefferson’s timeless wisdom continues to inspire and guide us today.
Our Founding Fathers were men of great education and insight. Their deep knowledge and understanding of history and human nature prepared them to frame a constitution and government that have led to the greatest liberty, peace, and prosperity the world has ever known.
It's time to learn and return to the principles they taught in our founding documents. They are more timely now than ever!
In this inspiring presentation, Nobel Prize winner, David McCullough, shares a moving portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.
But McCullough does more than give a glimpse of Jefferson's genius. He paints a vibrant picture of an important and inspiring part of the "American Spirit."
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743. He was one of our most significant Founding Fathers and his list of life accomplishments is amazing.
To celebrate his birth, this week I will be posting articles and videos about his life and work.
It's been wonderful to learn more about President Jefferson. I hope you enjoy learning more about him too!
To start with, here is a quick video for kids.
Americans traditionally observe Religious Freedom Day on January 16th. But as Obama issued his 23 executive actions on the 16th (in violation of our Constitution), today seemed a better day to share these wonderful resources.
If you've ever toured Monticello, then you know that Thomas Jefferson had very strong opinions about what his legacy should be.
He wanted to be remembered as the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and as the "father" of the University of Virginia.
Both are inscribed on his tombstone, along with his second proudest achievement--authoring the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom.
That might surprise Americans today, who wrongly believe that our third President wanted to divorce the government of all religious expression. On the contrary, what Jefferson wrote in Fredericksburg some 230 years ago was such a groundbreaking defense of freedom that the men who drafted our Constitution relied on it for the framework of the First Amendment.
"No nation," the third President said years later, "has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be." Thomas Jefferson understood then, as we do now, that religious freedom is fundamental to every other freedom on earth. Maybe that's why, despite all of his other accomplishments, Jefferson considered the statute one of his greatest legislative feats.
For 20 years, Americans have set aside this day to honor the tradition of liberty that sets our nation apart. In a world where three out of every four people live in regions hostile to faith, America is still one of the brightest lights on freedom's shore.
But for how long, no one knows. Under this administration, Jefferson would barely recognize his country. The government, once the guardian of liberty, is now the aggressor. It tramples our consciences with health care mandates, silences our chaplains with radical marriage policy, and expels our pastors
from public ceremonies.
In four years, we have become a people afraid to pray
, practice medicine
, or even manage a business
without fear of government backlash. When President Obama recognizes Religious Freedom Day, as he did this morning, he is doing so as the leader of the most oppressive administration in American history. Read more: The Statute of Liberty