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Document Type

Article in Response to Controversy

Abstract

Thomas Jefferson (1900), in his autobiography from 1821, clarifies for us where our focus must be if we truly value the education of all people born with inalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness:

The less wealthy people. . . , by the bill for a general education, would be qualified to understand their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise with intelligence their parts in self-government; and all this would be effected without the violation of a single natural right of any one individual citizen. (p. 50)

And as he charged many years before, in 1786, this public education would be the result of taxation:

I think 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. . . .The tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance. (Jefferson, 1900, p. 278)

But as we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, we have neither fulfilled the dream laid at our feet by Jefferson and others nor protected our commitment to this crippled social institution we call universal public education. In fact, we have demonized schools for over a century and sit poised to dismantle our schools without ever having allowed them to succeed.

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