Op-ed: Time is right to study Jefferson in our schools

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

By Jamie Gass and Will Fitzhugh

“Students of reading, writing, and common arithmetick . . . Graecian, Roman, English, and American history . . .,” Thomas Jefferson advised about democratic education, “should be able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens.”

Friday marks the 275th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday. Given his world-changing achievements, this milestone is worthy of recognizing — and of being taught in our public schools. His contributions to the American civilization are incalculable; he was a revolutionary, statesman, diplomat, man-of-letters, scientist, architect, and apostle of liberty.

Rather than forcing a titan like Jefferson to conform to our era’s often Lilliputian-style narcissism, we should study history by entering the past with imagination and humility.

In drafting the Declaration of Independence, the most elegant and universally quoted political document in history, Jefferson displayed his greatest talents. He powerfully combined literary language and self-evident truths to shape the legal and political future of the United States.

Read more of this op-ed in your favorite news outlet: The Standard Times of New Bedford, The Berkshire Eagle, The Salem News, The MetroWest Daily News, The Providence Journal, and Gloucester Times, and The Daily Caller.

Get Updates On Our US History Initiative

Related Posts:

Law Prof. Melvin Urofsky on Justice Louis Brandeis, the SCOTUS, & Dissenting Opinions

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Melvin Urofsky, Professor of Law & Public Policy and Professor Emeritus of History at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the author of several books, including Louis D. Brandeis: A Life and Dissent and the Supreme Court. Professor Urofsky shares insights on Justice Brandeis’s jurisprudence, and why he consistently ranks among the three most influential Supreme Court justices in American history.

Rigorous civics education needed now more than ever

/
After decades of being overlooked, the importance of teaching US history and civics in public schools is at last gaining momentum. At the same time, the American Rescue Plan will bring an influx of tens of millions of dollars into Massachusetts schools. The confluence of these two events could transform civics education, but turning potential into reality will require combining a high-quality, fact-based curriculum with strong accountability measures.

Stanford’s National Humanities Medal Winner Prof. Arnold Rampersad on Langston Hughes & Ralph Ellison

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Professor Arnold Rampersad, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in Humanities at Stanford University and recipient of the National Humanities Medal for his books including The Life of Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison: A Biography.

Dartmouth’s Prof. Susannah Heschel Discusses Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel & the Civil Rights Movement

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Susannah Heschel, the Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, and the daughter of noted 20th-century Jewish theologian and Civil Rights-era leader, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. They discuss what teachers and students today should know about Rabbi Heschel’s life and legacy.

Best-Selling, Netflix Author Loung Ung On Surviving Pol Pot’s Killing Fields

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Loung Ung, a human-rights activist; the author of the bestselling books First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, Lucky Child, and Lulu in the Sky; and a co-screenwriter of the 2017 Netflix Original Movie, First They Killed My Father. Ms. Ung shares her experiences living through genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, which resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population. 

WSJ Drama Editor Terry Teachout on Jazz Greats Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and guest co-host Kerry McDonald continue our celebration of Black achievements with Terry Teachout, drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, and author of such books as Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.

Never Forgetting – Holocaust Remembrance Day – 25 Resources for K-12 Students

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Memorializing International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th and learning about the tragedy of the Holocaust during WWII.

Pulitzer Winner Taylor Branch on MLK, Civil Rights History, & Race in America

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard are joined by Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a landmark trilogy on the Civil Rights era, America in the King Years. They discuss the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday the nation observed on Monday. They review Dr. King’s powerful, moving oratory, drawing on spiritual and civic ideals to promote nonviolent protest against racial injustice, and how, as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he shared leadership of the movement with organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Ignat Solzhenitsyn on His Father’s Nobel Prize-Winning Fight with Communism

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a pianist, conductor laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and son of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. They discuss his father’s legacy, his courageous work to debunk the Soviet Union’s utopian myths, and key lessons American educators and students should draw from his life, writings, and battle with Soviet communism.

Oxford & UCLA Pulitzer Winner Prof. Daniel Walker Howe on Horace Mann, Common Schools, & Educating for Democracy

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Daniel Walker Howe, Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus at Oxford University in England and Professor of History Emeritus at UCLA. Drawing from his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, he provides background information on Horace Mann, the first secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, founder of the common school movement in public education, and a prominent abolitionist in Congress.

The 400th Anniversary of the Mayflower – 15 Resources for K-12 Students

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage.

UConn’s Prof. Wayne Franklin on James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans, & American Democracy

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Wayne Franklin, professor of English at the University of Connecticut and definitive biographer of the American literary figure James Fenimore Cooper. As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month, Prof. Franklin reviews Cooper's background and major works, especially the "Leatherstocking Tales," including The Last of the Mohicans, which are distinguished for their enlightened and sympathetic portrayal of the disappearing tribes.

Disputing Democracy – 5 Contentious U.S. Presidential Elections – Resources for K-12 Education

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs, on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Introducing K-12 schoolchildren to the great, contentious presidential elections in U.S. history.

Nationally Recognized Author Tara Ross on the Importance of the Electoral College

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Tara Ross, the nationally recognized author of Why We Need the Electoral College. On the eve of the 2020 election, they discuss the critical and controversial role of the Electoral College in determining which candidate will become the next President of the United States.

Pulitzer-Winning Author Stacy Schiff on the Salem Witch Trials

In our special Halloween edition of “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Pulitzer-Prize winner Stacy Schiff, whose most recent book is The Witches: Salem, 1692. They discuss why, in Schiff’s view, the Salem witch trials are the “the best known, least understood chapter” of American history, and why the trials, false charges, and finger pointing, remain relevant today in our Internet culture.