By Linda Mc
Thomas Jefferson, arguing for a publicly-funded, universally accessible, education system for the United States in 1818, wrote the following about education. See if it reminds you of anything.
‘The objects of primary education:
- To give 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 and fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgement
- And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed’
Thomas Jefferson: Report for the University of Virginia, 1818
Sounds like the Key Competencies, don’t you think?
- Thinking; Using language, symbols and text;
- Managing self; Relating to others; and
- Participating and contributing
It incorporates much of what is taught in the Values Curriculum as well. The intention of the piece resonates pretty well with what we teach today.
What is the relation to libraries? Jefferson, by 1814, had accumulated the largest personal library in the United States, a collection which was to become the foundation of the Library of Congress.
He recognised that his books provided him with knowledge far wider than he could attain through personal experience or travel. As librarians, we facilitate access to collections - online along with the hard copies familiar to Jefferson - as well as facilitating the creative drive necessary ‘to express and preserve… ideas’.
‘I think that by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom, and happiness.’
Letter to George Wythe, 1786
I wonder if he’d recognise his vision in our schools and libraries two hundred years later.