What should our schools teach?

Thomas Jefferson

“The objects of this primary education [university education] determine its character and limits. These objects are To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business; To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts, in writing; To improve by reading, his morals and faculties; To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either; To know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor and judgment.”

–Thomas Jefferson, August 4, 1818


  1. Martha says

    As a public school teacher in a low socioeconomic school district in Virginia, I can say with complete certainty that Mr. Jefferson’s goals for public education are not being met today.
    First, math and science are given priority. Reading instruction is changed annually to reflect the latest “research” which is code language for the latest program that is being sold on the market and purchased with grant dollars. Tried and true reading instruction has been abandoned. And most disturbing of all, social studies instruction is watered down and politicized without concern for developmentally appropriate instruction. The contributions of America’s founders (including Mr. Jefferson!) are minimalized or eliminated.
    Instead, schools are the panacea for all societal ills, including but not limited to providing 3 meals a day for students and lowering academic standards due to an unfounded concern for student self-esteem.
    Mr. Jefferson, your ideas were spot on. However, they are unrecognizable in twenty-first century public schools.

  2. Marty says

    This is an excellent method for creating more soft-handed planter-class prigs like Jefferson himself.

    By fetishizing the philosopher-politician, we denigrate the value of an honest trade. Fewer and fewer kids are choosing careers in vital trades, and as a result, we have a glut of graduates with meaningless degrees and an endangered species of people who know how to build a house, fix an engine, or solve basic physical problems.

  3. Betsy saunders says

    A lot of those things sound nice, but the “finer sentiments” have become impractical during tough budgetary times. Families need to pick up the slack when schools can’t do more than the 3 Rs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *