Quote of the moment: Thomas Jefferson’s admonishment to Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and the Tea Party, and their War on Education


Thomas Jefferson's view of education, from a mural at the Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson’s view of Education illustrated in this mural by Ezra Winter — Thomas Jefferson’s view of Education is illustrated in this mural by Ezra Winter in the South Reading Room on the top floor of the Adams Building of the Library of Congress. Other murals dedicated to Jefferson decorate all of the reading room’s walls.

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.

Thomas Jefferson, letter from Paris to James Madison, December 20,1787, stating Jefferson’s objections to the proposed U.S. Constitution

This quotation comes from a letter more popular among Tea Partiers and other troglodytes for Jefferson’s harsh words against “energetic government,” which he feared might result from the Constitution.  In the letter Jefferson said that he’d go with the will of the people if the document was ratified (it was).  In the end, Jefferson said, just be sure to educate “the common people,” and things would work out to protect liberty.

Wise words much ignored and abused in state capitals and the U.S. Capitol these days.

I’ll wager that among the millions who did not study this letter are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  An uneducated populace is easier to cow, easier to control, and easier to enslave.

For a larger view of the mural, click on the thumbnail image.

Jefferson education views, mural at Libary of Congress, Adams Building

8 Responses to Quote of the moment: Thomas Jefferson’s admonishment to Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and the Tea Party, and their War on Education

  1. Nnox says:

    @ Mr. Roberts, I am a great partisan of Paine’s, glad to meet another. There should be a monument to Paine, he is, in my mind, a critical founding father, and should be acknowledged as such. “The Rights of Man,” while being his best work, is the one I am least familiar with, just because I haven’t yet had time to fully understand (and read) Edmund Burke’s denunciation of the French Revolution. But I have read “Rights of Man,” it is his best writing.

    And Jefferson, from my readings of his letters to
    Adams in the last 15 years of his life, (their lives), TJ was far more interested in a scientifically educated population than a religiously educated one. It is difficult to understand any religious person co-opting the sayings of Jefferson. A wide reading of TJ just doesn’t allow it.

    Ed, I love your blog, based on your comments on Madison I have procured a few books specifically about him, and look forward to fitting him into my limited but always growing knowledge of the founding of our country. Thanks for this useful blog.
    Nnox

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  2. Nick K says:

    To amend:
    And yet the local public school is far better then the local private Christian school and that’s established fact.

    That should be “And yet the local public school in my area…in fact all of them, are far better than any of the local private Christian schools and that’s established fact.”

    Since Mr. Barton wants to apparently paint all public schools the same because of the failings of some does that mean that all private schools can be painted the same because of the failings of some?

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  3. Hank Roberts says:

    My favorite bit of writing:

    —–
    “… Whatever wisdom constituently is, it is like a seedless plant; it may be reared when it appears, but it cannot be voluntarily produced. There is always a sufficiency somewhere in the general mass of society for all purposes; but with respect to the parts of society, it is continually changing its place. It rises in one to-day, in another to-morrow, and has most probably visited in rotation every family of the earth, and again withdrawn.

    “As this is in the order of nature, the order of government must necessarily follow it, or government will, as we see it does, degenerate into ignorance.

    ” … by giving to genius a fair and universal chance; … by collecting wisdom from where it can be found.

    “… As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions.”
    —————————————–

    Tom Paine, The Rights of Man
    http://www.ushistory.org/Paine/rights/c2-03.htm

    ———-

    This is why there is yet no monument to Tom Paine in Washington DC. His is still a revolutionary voice today, still pointing beyond what we ever attained, saying do better.

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  4. Nick K says:

    David writes:
    I spend money every month to send my child to a Christian school so that she will be properly educated. Yes I said Christian school. The government schools (yes I said government schools) have never been a viable option for our family. If anyone should know about getting the public to “cow” and become “enslaved”, it’s the left. Not going to waste time with facts and figure, you would dismiss them anyway. Did you ever think that the founding fathers were intelligent enough to know that a nation full of diverse values and mindsets would somehow reach a balance that would produce “liberty and justice for all”. I don’t have a problem with the left (that’s you guys) running things once in awhile. I just hope they don’t mess up more than we can fix when we get to drive the bus again

    And yet the local public school is far better then the local private Christian school and that’s established fact. Sorry, did you think public schools would make your kids something other than Christian? My what a delusional world you live in.

    And as for bus dirving…considering it was your side that drove the “bus” off the cliff and nearly crashed the country…you don’t get to claim that your side is the one that fixes things. For the last 50 years at least it’s been the Democrats fixing the Republicans mess, not the other way around.

    Oh and we all work too. But unlike you we don’t buy into the bullshit that we should be barely paid serfs to the rich masters. See we still have our pride and our self esteem and we’re not willing to be slaves like you are.

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  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Sending your kid to a Christian school? I’m not sure Jefferson would approve. In Notes on the State of Virginia he wrote that we needed to get the Bible out of the classroom. First, kids are not morally developed enough to deal with the issues (Twain said “depravity”), and second, it makes bad readers. Finally, Jefferson said, with the time saved by not studying the Bible, schools could teach morals, instead.

    If you think the public schools are left-wing, you may be beyond redemption. If your kids learn to read, there’s hope for them despite the handicap of most Christian school educations. It was precisely the corruptions of Christianity that worried Madison and Jefferson, and led them to propose and build public, secular institutions for education.

    And that is the ultimate savior of our nation, having an educated populace that can tell a spade from a shovel, and who can tell when their leaders are trying to mislead them.

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  6. Jim says:

    Hi there, Robert!

    You and I have something in common! My wife and I spend money every month — lots of money — to send our daughter to a private, Christian school. This may be where the commonalities end, of course. But first, I am not sure I have heard anyone on the liberal side suggesting that private, Christian schooling should not be an option. Have you?

    Why do people send their children to private, usually Christian, schools? The reasons are as many as the people, I suppose. May I tell you why we do it? We live in one of the geographically largest counties east of the Mississippi. There are very fine public schools here, for the most part. The city schools are decent and much depends on which school your child feeds into. The northwestern and southwestern county schools — separate public districts — are the very best in the state of Indiana. Unfortunately for our daughter, we live in the eastern county district.

    Robert, this district spans a huge area and includes a small chunk of the city of Fort Wayne and all of the city’s depressed, industrial east end. But it also covers rural areas and a locale where some fabulously wealthy people live in the northeast. Robert, guess what happens when the district has funds to distribute? Guess what schools get the money? I’ve had a number of conversations with school board members in this district. To a person, they are all “born again, Bible believing, fundamental Christians”. Until recently, all the East Allen County School Board members either homeschooled or sent their children to private, Christian schools. Again, no one is criticizing their choice. But they serve on the public school board? In no uncertain terms, they have told me things like — “We want to starve the urban public schools out of existence while supporting the rural and wealthier schools.” One board member said to me, “The pickaninnies ruin everything we give them. So if I have anything to say about it, we’ll give them as little as possible.” (This is a man who, it turned out, has some deep-seated issues of racial inferiority of his own…)

    My wife and I live in an urban area of this school district. So, when we adopted our daughter…who has special needs, btw…we were torn. We believe in public education and we care deeply about the lives and education of our mostly African-American and Latino neighbors. At the same time, the schools Rachel would be attending are starved for even basic needs like textbooks, supplies and infrastructure repairs. We opted to send her to a private, Christian school. Perhaps we were wrong, but it is what we felt we had to do for her situation. We’re not entirely happy with the private, Christian school. We like many things about it — the teachers are very loving and sweet; the resource teacher helping special needs kids is particularly dedicated; and the school has a second-to-none music program. I have been particularly pleased with the emphasis on history at this school — unlike the private, Christian school I attended in High School, this school actually tells the truth about what happened to First Americans, slaves and other minorities when our nation was colonized, founded and so forth. I have made known to the faculty how delighted I am that they have stood their ground against the fundamentalist tendancy to redact, sanitize and Christianize American History.

    There are also things we dislike very much. For instance, even at elementary levels, significant sections of our daughter’s science textbook have been blacked out or ripped out — because these sections of the book refer to evolution. I look forward to our pending move to Illinois, when our daughter will be able to learn actual science. You see, Robert, the reality of evolution poses no threat whatsoever to our Christian faith.

    Now Robert, let me tell you what did NOT factor into our decision. We did not choose to send our daughter to a private, Christian school because we worried that she would be “converted” into a lesbian, an atheist, an occultist or a hedonist. This is usually why fundamentalist Christians resist what they derisively call “government schools”. They fear that the schools, as Dr. James Dobson has said, are training children to be homosexuals. Or, as Pat Robert$on suggests, they are stealing out childrens’ Christian faith and perverting it into atheism or paganism.

    Is this why you and your wife have chosen private, Christian education?

    If so, Robert, you might want to examine your faith more deeply in terms of how it is lived, expressed and quantified both at home and in church. You see, Robert, my wife and I have taught our daughter all about the love of Jesus. She hears this belief system echoed in church, too. And, God helping us, she sees it modeled in such a way that it impacts her life and her choices about faith positively.

    Ultimately, she will reach the age of 18. And the choice will be hers, not ours. The same will be true of your kids, my friend. Perhaps they will remember their Christian schooling with warmth, joy and happiness. I hope so. My daughter will, for the most part. I have more of a mixed experience from my high school years. But be that as it may, Robert, the choices your children will make will surely have much more to do with how you and your wife have lived your lives…and with what they have heard and seen modeled in church, don’t you think?

    The question is, why would you wish to surrender this sacred trust to a school? For the many hundreds of GOOD REASONS to send a child to a private school, fear of public schooling is surely NOT one.

    Fear has no place where love is, Robert. Why are you so afraid? I hope you get it all worked out.

    All the best,

    Jim

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  7. You guys never cease to amaze me. You illustrate my points while trying ot make your own. The letter from Jefferson is a perfect example of how this is not about ideas, but instead ideals. I can find an endless supply of “data” to “support” my side, and you on the left can do the same. This is not about logic and quotes, but about beliefs and standards. I spend money every month to send my child to a Christian school so that she will be properly educated. Yes I said Christian school. The government schools (yes I said government schools) have never been a viable option for our family. If anyone should know about getting the public to “cow” and become “enslaved”, it’s the left. Not going to waste time with facts and figure, you would dismiss them anyway. Did you ever think that the founding fathers were intelligent enough to know that a nation full of diverse values and mindsets would somehow reach a balance that would produce “liberty and justice for all”. I don’t have a problem with the left (that’s you guys) running things once in awhile. I just hope they don’t mess up more than we can fix when we get to drive the bus again. I’d love to chat more, but I’m one of the working Americans, and I have to go.

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