Sunday, January 4, 2009

TLR / Education: the Jefferson Project

"Where's our Jefferson?" someone I know asked recently. Good question. Thomas Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence in 1774, and 233 years later we still have not seen his equal.


America became a world power in the twentieth century. Our best universities are now considered among the best in the world, but they have not produced a new Jefferson. Perhaps the greatness within a person takes root before college.

Perhaps a person with the seed of greatness needs a particular type of education to bring that greatness to fruition. Our country has not seen great leaders since the days of the Founding Fathers. Examining the education of the Founding Fathers we see they studied the classics.

I found this quote on the internet:

"Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew that there were three books every gentleman had to have familiarity with; Plutarch's "Lives", Livy's "History of Rome" and Virgil's Aeneid. In fact, all the founding fathers of note had read Livy and learned much from his history of Rome."

If you are thinking I over looked Abraham Lincoln as a great person, allow me to point out he was home schooled, not a Harvard graduate, and he had studied the classics. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was based on the Funeral Oration of Pericles.

Thomas Jefferson was home schooled, with a tutor, from ages 5 through 9 (kindergarten through 4th grade). Then Jefferson went to private schools until he was 17. His studies included the Latin and Greek classics. At 17 Jefferson went to the College of William and Mary, where his studies include classical literature.

Perhaps the age of great leaders is past, but let us not give up so easily.

We should educate all our children, from kindergarten through high school, as though each one will become President of the USA. Every child needs an education for greatness, an education that includes a study of classics like Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans.

Perhaps America will again be blessed with great leaders if we educate for greatness.

TLR: The Texas Leadership Revolution

I propose a Jefferson Project to educate our children for greatness. The public schools could take a step in this direction by incorporating lessons from Plutarch's Lives various parts of the curriculum: History, selected readings within English Language Arts, and selected readings within Social Studies.

Parents do not have to wait for the public schools. Innovation happens best outside bureaucracies. Parents who home school can adopt a classical approach. Charter schools can incorporate a classical approach into their curriculum. Parents with children in the public schools can read and discuss Plutarch with their children. Parents can educate their children for greatness with or without the public schools.

Plano for the Presidency is a blog post I made when I ran for the school board in 2008 that says we should educate our children as though each one might some day become President. The Timeless Way Foundation web site has a page, The 12th Man Writ Large, giving another perspective on the same thought.

Attitude is Everything

Great achievement requires great aspiration. Let us fix our sights on developing in Texas the best leaders America has ever seen.

Robert Canright


If you wish to give this more thought, here are a couple of books that might be worth examining.

"A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century" by Oliver Van DeMille. If you check this out at Amazon, be sure to read the book review that gave the book only one star because the reviewer raises good points. I have looked at this book and I do not think it has the answers we need. Mr. DeMille is well intended, but his analysis is flawed and his conclusions unsound.

"The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home" by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

You might wish to examine the website for the Great Books Academy for home schooling.

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