Meet a Revolutionary Educator: Thomas Jefferson

Nat Hentoff:

II’m surprised that with all the warfare under way about teacher tenure and performance evaluation, together with standardized testing and schools as dropout factories, there has been hardly any mention of the leading active educator among our founders, Thomas Jefferson.
Some know of him only as the creative founder of the University of Virginia, but when he was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Jefferson introduced what he considered his most important educational effort, “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” in 1778.
In the invaluable The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson (Cambridge University Press, 2009), there is a chapter by Darren Staloff that I strongly recommend to present-day school boards, principals, teachers, students and members of Congress of both parties.
The chapter is titled “The politics of pedagogy: Thomas Jefferson and the education of a democratic citizenry.” In the primary grades, the goal of education was to ensure a citizenry that would be made “the safe, as they are the ultimate guardians of their own liberty.”