Saturday, March 17, 2012

Education in the Republic

“Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, Schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.” Northwest Ordinance passed by Congress, July 13, 1787.

“[T]he common education of . . . our youth . . . well deserves attention. . . . and a primary object . . . should be the education of our youth in the science of government.  In a republic what species of knowledge can be equally important and what duty more pressing . . . than to patronize a plan for communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?” George Washington, 8th Annual Message, December 7, 1796

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” John Adams, “Defense of the Constitutions,” Vol. III, Chapter 3; Works: 6

“[The purpose of education in a republic is] to form the statesmen, legislators and judges, on whom public prosperity and individual happiness are so much to depend; To expound the principles and structure of government, ... and a sound spirit of legislation, which ... shall leave us free to do whatever does not violate the equal rights of another; … to develop the reasoning faculties of our youth, enlarge their minds, cultivate their morals, and instill into them precepts of virtue and order ...”  Thomas Jefferson, Report for the Commissioners for the University of Virginia, August 4, 1818

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” James Madison, Letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822.

“[P]ublic education must prepare pupils for citizenship in the Republic. . . . It must inculcate the habits and manners of civility as values in themselves conducive to happiness and as indispensable to the practice of self-government in the community and the nation.” U. S. Supreme Court, Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986), quoting C. Beard & M. Beard, New Basic History of the United States 228 (1968).

“We also need to make sure that [students] understand their own country. Far too little is taught about America at Harvard. The Government Department has too few courses on America; little on the Supreme Court, for example, and less on American foreign policy. The History Department has no course on the American revolution or on the American founding. . . . Courses in American history and politics should be part of the recommended or required part of the curriculum.” Harvey C. Mansfield, “A More Demanding Curriculum,” 2004.

“[T]hat's what I think education, in the end, involves -challenging our children seriously to take a look, seek the truth and think it through for themselves. I therefore have to say that I can think of nothing that could be more powerful for the start of the educational day, indeed as a basis for our educational philosophy, than the notion that we wish to shape our young hearts and minds in the new generations in the light of those principles which have been the basis for our freedom…” Alan Keyes, The Declaration in Our Schools, May 15, 2000.

“I don't think the problem is the teachers …I think the problem with education in our country is us. We're not doing anywhere near enough as parents or grandparents to talk about history with our children, to talk about the books we've loved about historical subjects or figures. And taking our children or grandchildren to historic sights... we can't leave that for the schools because they don't do it much anymore. Reinstate the dinner table conversation.” David McCullough, Interview, New Haven, Connecticut, May 25, 2005.

1 comment:

Tony Williams said...

The comments of the founding fathers seem to agree on several points. A republic must have an educated citizenry to endure for a couple of reasons. One, as Jefferson stated in his First Inaugural Address, a majority must be right and just for it to be a majority. Secondly, the purpose of an education to is not merely to instill knowledge but to instill virtue and morality. Thirdly, the people and their representative must make informed votes in elections.

The Founders were classically educated whether by tutors or formally at colleges like Harvard, Princeton, and the College of William & Mary. They shared a core of knowledge rooted in such classics as the Bible, Plutarch, and Shakespeare, not to mention Thucydides, Homer, Virgil, Livy, and the other classic writers as well as modern Enlightenment thinkers.

They differed from us in HOW they educated and also the moral PURPOSES of that education. In doing so, they produced profound statesmen who founded a nation and a deliberate citizenry that read the Federalist and Anti-Federalist newspapers and pamphlets that are barely comprehensible today.