What would Thomas Jefferson think of education today? | Blogs
Every young American has the right to a K-12 education. Above all, we have to thank Thomas Jefferson for this. He defended his idea of ââtax-financed general education for all children of citizens. Almost the whole world has since embraced his concept.
Literacy, once reserved for the aristocracy, makes social mobility and the middle class possible.
Jefferson’s proposals went from a modest three-year program to elementary school for 6-8 year-olds, middle school for 9-16 year-olds and university for 17-19 year-olds. He believed that an educated public was essential to the functioning of a democracy. âNo other secure basis can be designed for the preservation of freedom and happiness,â he wrote.
I wonder what Jefferson would say about how America implemented their concept?
Today, the vast majority of our fellow citizens attend school and master âreading, writing and arithmeticâ. He would be impressed with the large tax-funded investment in education, and he would be proud if some of America’s universities were some of the best in the world.
It might surprise Jefferson, a slave owner, that all races now attend school together, but I think he would have recognized the wisdom and righteousness supporting integration.
Jefferson would be proud if America maintained the separation of church and state in our schools. He was a spiritual person, but he believed government and religion benefited when the two were apart.
Jefferson designed and built the University of Virginia. Universities at this time were generally built around a central church to which the university was affiliated. His UVA plans initially had no churches at all; instead, there was a central library. The only other university that then existed without ecclesial affiliation, to my knowledge, was the University of Bologna, founded in 1079.
He would oppose school vouchers, which divert public tax money from public schools to religious schools.
Jefferson would be puzzled if we had such a high sport within our academic institutions. Our company invests millions in student sports arenas, coaching salaries and equipment. Across the country, coaches and athletic programs receive more money than college presidents, governors, or brilliant academics. In 40 states, including Tennessee, the highest paid person in the public payroll is a sports coach. Yet only 1 in 16,000 high school athletes and less than 2% of NCAA student-athletes become professional athletes.
I was recently in an orthopedic surgeon’s office, which was decorated with a photo of Gate City High School. There is a towering bronze statue of a football player in front of the building, on an elevated platform – the first thing students see, each day, as they approach the front door. This focus on high school football generates a large portion of my orthopedic surgeon’s income.
I enjoy a good sports program. Tennis, athletics, volleyball, swimming – sports that can be played throughout life – provide a healthy outlet for youthful energy, children learn to work together, support courage and persistence, and vigorous activity improves general health.
But it doesn’t make sense to spend millions on a few sports with little to do with academics or a future job, while teachers have to get their own pockets to buy paper and pencils. Thomas Jefferson might wonder why.
Jefferson argued in his day that college attendance should not be based solely on ability to pay. He advocated for tax-funded tuition fees and the widest possible availability of higher education for willing and able citizens.
I think Jefferson’s biggest disappointment would be that despite all this education, so many Americans are being misled by lies. For example: myths about ârigged electionsâ, or vaccines, ivermectin, chloroquine and others. I suspect some of those being manipulated include people in my high school science class who refused to study, saying “I’ll never need to know that!”
Every time I’ve written in this column about vaccines, my inbox is littered with wacky anti-fax propaganda – probably from Russia or China. I’ve heard people say, âI don’t trust the mainstream media, so I do my own research,â but a lot of them rely on unwanted scientific sources. This suggests that the education we provide should provide better research and analytical skills.
Public education may not be perfect, but a largely state-funded education is one of the great achievements of the American experience.
David Kashdan, Ph.D., is a retired director of Eastman’s chemical research division and senior consultant to RISE: Research Institutes of Sweden. Email him at [email protected]