Friday, October 8, 2010

Educating a Populace Matters: Thomas Jefferson Quotes

After writing about Rick Staggenborg's thoughts on education, a few respondents suggested that educating a majority of Americans was not in our best interests. I will be writing a lengthier piece about why this sentiment is not only wrong, but dangerous to the health of our nation.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a quote by Thomas Jefferson on his thoughts regarding education: "I have indeed two great measures at heart, without which no republic can maintain itself in strength: 1. That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom. 2. To divide every county into hundreds, of such size that all the children of each will be within reach of a central school in it." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1810. ME 12:393 


Anonymous said...

Hi Cryn:

A lot to ponder. Lots.

So much of what you speak about bespeaks of going back to the roots of a belief system. It is like revisiting the very nature of old and taken-for-granted issues for American Ideology.

Ideals somehow lost and forgotten about along the way, in the relatively short history of the American Experiment.

Lots to ponder.

Who were those people--Jefferson--Adams--Washington-Franklin, Patrick Henry.Nathan Hale, Paul Revere? and others?

Who were they, those mysterious people after all and what did they say,and what did they stand for, other than as figures in bas-relief on North American coinage?

Do any of the schools in America today even mention them?

The ideology of the founding fathers is not even discussed, it seems, even insofar as to diamiss them as right or wrong.

Is that right? Or wrong? in the face of 5 or 6 thousand years of previous civilization that also barely gets mentioned?

Does Education matter anymore? To anyone?

Is there anyone out there who cares?

Nando said...

It is possible for people to be over-educated, especially if we are learning rubbish. Practically speaking, one can earn good income without so much as stepping inside a college classroom.

The fact remains, that higher education is probably a good thing overall. My chief concern is that "higher education" has become Big Bu$ine$$ - and students and taxpayer are merely seen as commodities. Tuition has skyrocketed over the last 30 years, from the undergrad level to professional schools. And Congress, the banks/owners of Congress, Dept. of Ed. officials, the press, and the school administrators do not care about this situation.

How the hell is someone supposed to buy a home, start a family with $300K in non-dischargeable debt? What bank will even offer a home loan to such a risk?

We now have a permanent over-educated, working class proletariat. Sadly, too many of these people are lumpenproletariat, i.e. they still think of themselves as "middle class." That would fall under these categories: coping mechanism, self-deception or blatant idiocy. How can someone with a Master's degree making $25K as a "sales associate" at Dillard's - and strapped down with $100K in student loans - be considered middle class?!?!

Diane said...

Our founding fathers knew that a strong democracy would depend on informed, educated, involved citizens. Going to college does not render a person "over-educated." Conversely, one does not need to attend college to be educated or informed.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Excellent points, Diane. This issue is more about ACCESSIBILITY. I am also tired of this idea that people are "over-educated" with x-degree(s). That's just a term that hiring managers use to throw out dozens of resumes these days. I agree with your point that one does not need to attend college to be educated or informed. However, it is a sad truth that we rely upon credentials from universities, and that's why they are ripping off millions of Americans. People have been told they must obtain degrees in order to get ahead, be respected, etc., etc. Of course, I do not regret any of the degrees I obtained. These degrees and the institutions I attended shaped me to be a critical thinker, and, perhaps most importantly, they taught me how to be an engaged citizen. That said, I do not think any of higher education institutions have the right to gauge prices the way they have. Something must be done to ensure that higher education is accessible to ALL. That's my point. Sure. Some ought not go to college or get graduate degrees. But that's not the point. We're talking about something else, and we're talking about a student lending crisis that ought not exist.

Nando said...

Diane, if someone has a Master's degree, JD, Ph.D, etc. and is making $7.50 at a coffee shop, that person is clearly over-educated for that job. Serving coffee and bagles does not require a Bachelor's degree.

A high school student could competently perform the job functions. While I agree that employers like to claim people are "overqualified" as a way of justifying a low wage structure, this is also a way of saying, "You have learned theory, and have an impressive education, but we don't think you have enough practical experience."

"Higher education" is profitable, and when the federal money keeps pouring in - without any corresponding ethical obligations or independent auditing - you will continue to see fraudulent stats and baseless claims. The administrators are free to do so, because there is no fear of punishment.

We have the most educated populace in American history, yet we keep electing people who don't give a damn about the average working family. Why? Because these officials are beholden, i.e. owned, by Big Intere$t$. Also, many people still hold on to failed idea that "a rising tide lifts all boats." Well, it raises the yachts and large boats, but those on life rafts are typically taken under.

Lastly, I am a big fan of this blog - and I tell others about it all the time. However, I am also not nostalgic about the Founders. After all, they were interested in exploiting the original inhabitants of this land, and they made sure that only land-owning white men could vote. (This means that even the poor whites who bled and won the War of Independence were a mere afterthought to the Founders.) There are certain admirable traits among these men, but beacons of democracy they were not. Actions speak louder than words, even if written in beautiful prose.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Nando, who said I am nostalgic? You are right. There is a downside to the history of our country and its beginnings. However, this doesn't entirely disqualify them, especially someone like Thomas Jefferson. We are speaking of ideals, and I admire that about his work. It's about striving towards those ideals, and that's why it's worth mentioning. We must be mindful of contextualizing these people's action. That's not to say that we shouldn't be critical, but aware of that fact. I'm not a relativist. Also, if I were nostalgic, I'd be longing for that period of time, and that is certainly not the case. In short, don't thrown the baby out with the bath water.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am off-topic, but speaking of slavery in America, was there a lot of depression and/or suicides among the African-American slaves?

Depression and mental illness seem like such modern terminology, and can be said to apply to a lot of student loan debtors who feel despondent over a hopeless situation with no way out.

I remember seeing a dramatization of a short story on PBS many years ago.

It was about a slave who stole a ham out of a smokehouse and was caught.

As punishment, he was made to wear the decomposing ham chained to his breast for an indefinite period.
After a while he started to go crazy, and started talking to the ham, calling it "Mister Bacon" or "Master Bacon" (I can't remember.)

When the punishment was deemed over, and he was no longer required to wear the ham chained to his chest, the man felt very despondent and bunched up some grass in a burlap bag, and tied it around himself in the same way the ham was, and mumbling all the while to it.

He ends up killling himself, and the story ended with a very horrifying view of him hanging inside the smokehouse.

Over the years, I have tried to find out the name and author of that story with no success.

Anonymous said...


I googled a lot of phrases, and I found it, thanks to the internet and after all these years.

The story is called "Dave's Neckliss" published in 1889.

The author was Charles W. Chesnutt.

Here is a critical analysis:

I cannot believe it,but I just found it on Youtube as well:

It is a masterpiece, full of symbolism, and brought tears to my eyes this morning.

Nando said...

I did not mean to suggest you, or your readers, were seeking a return to our earliest days. I pointed out that the Founders were wealthy landowners, who sometimes expressed lofty ideals.

Another commenter stated that "our founding fathers knew that a strong democracy would depend on informed, educated, involved citizens." Well, more citizens of this nation - in gross numbers and as a percentage of the population - have attained a college education, than at any time in our history. Furthermore, with the advent of the internet - and more open access to information - we should also be more informed.

This being the case, we are still electing people who are unsympathetic to working families - including people who are strapped down with $200K in student loans. In short, our experiment in democracy has been hijacked by Industry. This has happened even with legions of educated, informed citizen going to the polls.

I am simply stating that you cannot change human nature. People are going to do what they think is in their best interests. From my perspective, practicality and self preservation will trump idealism pretty much all the time. Then again, this is coming from a guy who beats the hell out of American "legal education" at every turn.

TAA said...

Great post! Education should be available to everyone to provide a wealth of knowledge to prepare us for the real and challenging world.

Anonymous said...

And the College Board today is again arguing that, despite increases in sticker price, the net price paid by the students is declining due to increases in student aid. They also imply that they support that more public institutions shift to the "high price, high aid" model which has been implemented by several of the nation's flagship publics, including Tom Jefferson's UVA.

AllanH said...

The solution for increasing the benefits of education are the vision tests at

"no republic can maintain itself in strength [without]: 1. That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom." -- Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1810. ME 12:393

However, the value of education is from the economic profit it creates. Illiterate people consume less than literate people. But literate people tend to challenge the control of production and resources of producers. So producers do NOT really want literate/intelligent consumers. They only want compliant consumers.

What is limiting education is that people would much rather have their vacuous "bread and circuses" of American Idol than the information of educational TV. They would much rather listen to music than read about the world via Wikipedia.

The primary reason for the limited education of consumers is their inability to read. The primary limit to their ability to read is that they can't see with the clarity required for 21st century consumption.

If you can't clearly see, and know how to read critically, you tend to believe anything you hear. You also don't have the skills to compare what is happening now to what has happened in the past or might happen in the future.

The key to continuing economic growth is making sure that people have the visual clarity necessary for successful functioning in the 21st century.

The solution for knowing who needs glasses to be able to have sufficient visual clarity is the FREE visual clarity tests at where you can almost instantaneously test children for acuity and screen for the chromatic aberrations that are associated with dyslexia-type symptoms.

The FREE adult acuity screening test is at:

The FREE infant/children acuity screening test is at:

The FREE color screening test is at:

Please let me know what I can do to be of assistance to you.

Allan Hytowitz