What did our founders believe about education?
I had the opportunity this summer to visit the home of one my favorite founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. As a recovering history teacher, I find places such as Monticello, Virginia both inspiring and a bit intimidating. Below are a few quotes regarding the role of education from this amazing man’s viewpoint:
Regarding the need for education
“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”—Thomas Jefferson
“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”—Thomas Jefferson, 1820
Regarding the need for education for all
“By that part of our plan which prescribes the selection of the youths of genius from among the classes of the poor, we hope to avail the state of those talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich, but which perish without use, if not sought for and cultivated.”—Thomas Jefferson, 1782
“Instead of an aristocracy of wealth, of more harm and danger than benefit to society, to make an opening for the aristocracy of virtue and talent, which nature has wisely provided for the direction of the interests of society and scattered with equal hand through all its conditions, was deemed essential to a well-ordered republic.”—Thomas Jefferson, 1821
“The object [of my education bill was] to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind which in proportion to our population shall be the double or treble of what it is in most countries.”—Thomas Jefferson, 1817
“A system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens, from the richest to the poorest, as it was the earliest, so will it be the latest, of all the public concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest.”—Thomas Jefferson, 1818
“I feel … an ardent desire to see knowledge so disseminated through the mass of mankind that it may, at length, reach even the extremes of society: beggars and kings.”—Thomas Jefferson, 1808
Jefferson was not the only “founding father” who believed in the value of an education.
“If a man empties his purse into his head no man can take it from him. An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”—Benjamin Franklin
“If Virtue & Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav’d. This will be their great Security.”—Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779
“It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country.”—Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America
“Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.”—Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788
Education is more than schools teaching facts:
“It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently, and according to their circumstances; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness.”—James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. —George Washington
“For avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy . . . the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people. I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments. Therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.”—Gouverneur Morris, Penman and Signer of the Constitution.
“A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district–all studied and appreciated as they merit–are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.”—Benjamin Franklin
We have a great legacy to live up to. Raymond Schools are proud to partner with parents in accomplishing this mission.