Thomas Jefferson's view on education.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Like much with Jefferson, his view on education was complex.  Coming out of the Enlightenment school of thought, Jefferson believed in the power of education.  In this, one sees Jefferson being an advocate of education because it enabled to true potential of the individual to be realized.  Jefferson's unequivocal to the democratic process is one in which education has to be seen intrinsically important.  For Jefferson, his faith in a form of universal education ensured that his love of democratic rule could be maximized.  Jefferson believed that it was "safer to have the whole people respectfully enlightened than a few in a high state of science and many in ignorance as in Europe."  He even went as far as suggesting a bill in Virginia for comprehensive education at all levels.

Yet, this is where the challenge in Jefferson's view lies.  Being a Republican- Democrat who sincerely sought to limit the scope of the federal government and limit the scope of the external governing body, in general, Jefferson understood that his love for education should not be done through a government overstepping its boundaries.  Jefferson believed that individual education is needed, but it should not be something that overreaching governments compel.  Jefferson believed in small scale governments, localities in which individuals are able to have as much say in their ruling bodies, controlling them as opposed to being controlled by them.  It is here where Jefferson's zeal for education met its match.  While he loved education and sought to do as much as possible to ensure that it was a part of the modern nation, he also understood that it should not be something that must overtake the voice of the individual.  In this, one sees Jefferson's view of education as one where passion is present, but also recognizing the need for individuals to activate their own love of learning as opposed to having the government insist upon it.

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