02 October, 2016

The American Scholar: The Virtue of an Educated Voter - Alan Taylor

The American Scholar: The Virtue of an Educated Voter - Alan Taylor:

He distinguished between the old “artificial aristocracy” of inherited privilege and a new “natural aristocracy” of virtue and talents. Despite having inherited both wealth and slaves, Jefferson considered himself a natural rather than an artificial aristocrat because, he asserted, his commitment to serve common men proved his superior virtue. Through education, people could learn to think as active democrats, forsaking the passive deference that had elected old-style aristocrats to govern. “Worth and genius” should be, Jefferson preached, “sought out from every condition of life and compleately prepared by education for defeating the competition of wealth & birth for public trusts.”
Jefferson wanted to weaken the old Virginia elite by broadening educational access for ordinary folk. He favored taxing the rich to educate the poor as essential for the common good. Jefferson assured George Washington, “It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This it is the business of the state to effect, and on a general plan.” Government had to act to reshape society. His friend and future president, James Monroe, agreed: “Being a high public concern, [education] ought to be provided for by the government itself.”

'via Blog this'