- Public Virtue
What this presentation teaches about Freedom and America are eye opening and inspiring.
To learn more details about Liber, come to the Face to Face with Greatness Seminar, Sept 25-26, 2009!
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free . . . it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson
"If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, as Jefferson cautioned, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed." Ronald ReaganSign up for a Freedom Project Class near you. Look at the sidebar on the right for schedules.
There are a few books that when you initially read them, simply resonate with your spirit. A Thomas Jefferson Education is one of them. I read many different books on educational philosophy over the course of about 7 years, searching for answers and learning by trial and error on my “guinea pig” children. I wanted them to have a superior education, but my own limited understanding and poor study habits were a definite hindrance. I had come to realize that a public school education would only give them what it had given me… and I wasn’t very happy or satisfied with the results. I wanted more for my children. What parent doesn’t want that?
I’ve always believed in building on what you have – weeding out the bad and improving on the good. I tried with all my might to “build” upon the public school system (classroom helper, homeroom mom, PTA, parent committees, school board), but it made no difference. The decision to “weed out” the public school system was decidedly the most difficult decision of my life – that was one HUGE weed; a gigantic leap of faith! It took over a year, once the thought took hold, to gain the courage to do so.
With a very poor beginning, feeling alone and unprepared, through lots of tears and time spent on my knees, I began my experiment, knowing that my children’s future was at stake. I was always cognizant of the fact that this little experiment could literally destroy my children and their futures… and that it would be all my fault. Talk about pressure! This was an enormous crossroad in our family – our Rubicon. Taking this road would forever change the course and destiny of my family. Would it be for better or worse?
Four years into my homeschooling experiment, I was introduced to the book, A Thomas Jefferson Education. By that point I had learned a great deal about what worked and what did not. I was doing OK, and remarkably happy with our progress as a family in spite of all the limitations and deep seated fears that continued to nibble away at my confidence. I knew I was doing better than the public school up to that point, but it still wasn’t enough. Something more was needed. Thankfully, a generous and loving Heavenly Father had been supporting and guiding my fledgling efforts. We discovered George Wythe College quite by accident; a peculiar story I won’t take the time to relate in this paper. I also had a seventeen year-old daughter getting ready for college. One look at the curriculum and we were both sold… instantly. Then, as a matter of course, one cannot attend GWC without reading and learning about A Thomas Jefferson Education. I find it interesting that when something is right, it has a way of making itself known to our hearts almost instantaneously. It just “feels” right and something cries out from deep within our very souls. Then doubts come, but only because the heart has to compete with the mind; especially when a new idea goes against tradition.
Somehow our society’s educational traditions have gotten off track. It was that insight that prompted me to make the attempt to teach my own children. But I also knew I couldn’t continue by myself indefinitely; I needed help! Badly. A Thomas Jefferson Education was an answer to prayer. It is much more than a book on educational methods or philosophy. It is a book on educational principles. My heart tells me they are correct principles; my experiences have confirmed them. However, friends, family, acquaintances, and even my own “conditioned” beliefs continue to fling traditions at me that keep me from implementing those principles to their full potential. Bad habits are so hard to break! Yet the principles are there. The paradigm has shifted.
My vision and understanding of education – what it is and what it is not – changed drastically after reading about TJEd. Once your eyes are opened to a grand view of a beautiful scene, you are never quite the same afterwards. That vision stays with you. It may fade with time if not refreshed, yet the memory is always there to some degree. Suddenly all the small components of that scene take on greater meaning, purpose and depth. One can see how each piece fits into the larger, greater puzzle of life. Greater appreciation and reverence for each small truth begins to make an impact that changes our lives forever. Our course has changed. We take that fork in the road that leads us toward that beautiful new vision. We stumble, fall, question, and encounter roadblocks along the way, but we cannot go back once we’ve seen it… and be happy.
Among all the substantial insights gained from reading A Thomas Jefferson Education, there were two key points that particularly captured my attention.
The most striking was the injunction to "Inspire not Require". I have always known that the power of example is tremendous. Like the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. But it especially hit home on one occasion in particular that I’ve never forgotten.
When my youngest son was just a toddler he began exhibiting some very odd behavior. For no apparent reason, he would suddenly stop whatever he was doing, walk towards a blank wall or door and press his face against it, stand there for a few seconds, then just as suddenly turn around and go back to whatever he was doing before as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He would do this at least three or four times a day. My husband and I would look at each other and wonder what prompted him to act in such a bizarre manner. This baffling behavior continued for several weeks. It was the only abnormal quirk he exhibited. He acted much like any typical toddler in every other respect, so we weren’t overly concerned, but we were certainly curious! We often made comments like, “He’s YOUR child” or “He must take after YOUR side of the family”, and would just laugh it off, knowing he would eventually grow out of it. But I’ll be forever grateful that he didn’t grow out of it before I learned the powerful message he was bringing me.
One day I was in the kitchen when I thought I heard a car in our driveway. Wondering who it might be, I walked to our laundry room door which opened out into the driveway and looked through the peek hole in the door. As I stood there gazing through the peek hole, my little boy came running up from behind and squeezed himself between me and door, again exhibiting that odd behavior of pressing his face against the door. Suddenly, in a flash of comprehension, I understood! He was copying me! Laughing, I quickly picked him up and positioned one of his eyes in front of the peek hole. I could see the little light bulb go off in his head as a huge smile spread across his face. Needless to say, his odd behavior immediately came to a halt. One look through the peek hole and he had the vision of what I was doing and why. This experience changed him. He never again pressed his face against a blank wall or door. From then on, he dragged a chair to the door and looked through for himself – behavior that made perfect sense.
We have two doors in our home that open to the front of our house; both with peek holes. Obviously, my son had seen me and other family members use these peek holes, but being so short couldn’t see them from his low vantage point. He only knew that we would walk to a door occasionally and press our faces against them. Children learn by imitation, so he was doing what any normal child does. He was copying us even though it made absolutely no sense! Although this incident brings to mind many possible analogies and lessons, one of the greatest lessons I learned from it was the power of my example on my children… for both good and bad. But more importantly, how easily we follow and copy things that others do – that society does – that make no sense. How many false traditions do we pass on without understanding why? How often do we press our faces against a blank wall?
Reading A Thomas Jefferson Education opened my eyes to many blank walls I had been pressing my face towards. Like my son, now that I’ve seen through that peek hole and caught the vision beyond the closed door, there’s no going back. I cannot continue a tradition and habit that doesn’t make sense. I have to change! And I have to find some way to help others see what I’ve seen. I have to learn to inspire!
To inspire, however, requires another key point – "You not Them." To be a good example, requires establishing good habits worthy of emulation and also means getting rid of bad habits as well. That’s the painful part. We have to pull up a chair and get busy studying ourselves, as well as do a bit of weeding. Eventually we all come to realize sooner or later that the only person we can change is ourselves, and that changing ourselves is what makes the greatest impact. It brings to mind a little poem I once heard that has simplified my life and given me hope. It reads:
“Your task… to build a better world”, God said. I answered, “How? The world is such a large, vast place so complicated now. And I so small and useless am; there’s nothing I can do”. But God in all his wisdom said, “Just build a better you”. –AnonymousSusan J. of AZ
By Jared and Selena Sorensen
“The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men of all ages as the surest foundation of happiness.” Benjamin Franklin
Our freedoms are under attack, our economy has weakened and public virtue among our political leaders has vanished. History repeats itself and therefore we are experiencing the past due crisis in our nation. Although the government can be blamed for many of the maladies in our current economy, if there is to be real “change” it will come from the bottom and work its way up, not be imposed upon us from those on the top. That means that we must begin with our generation in order to become the informed electorate envisioned by the founders of our country. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be.”(Thomas Jefferson) By paying the price to obtain a Leadership Education for ourselves and our children, we can stop the erosion of our freedoms.
By Laurie Gatrell
Recently, as my husband and I ate dinner at a rustic steakhouse, I noticed a large portrait of a mother and child above our booth. In the picture, the young woman, in her blue satin Victorian gown, gazed adoringly into her child’s cherubic face as they sat serenely on a pastoral bench. Across the bottom of this tranquil scene blazed the bold statement: “A Woman’s Place is in the Home.”
In our politically-correct society, “them’s fightin’ words!” Therefore, one could almost dismiss them as sentimental; an out-dated, irrelevant Victorian platitude. But I couldn't; not since learning about the importance of statesmanship and leadership education in the home at the “Face-to-Face with Greatness” seminars.
Statesmen, I learned, are ordinary people who choose to live good, honest lives and pay the price of greatness; who become the change they want to see in the world and who make a difference in society. Leadership education is the type of education our Founding Fathers had.
One presenter, Laura Bledsoe, quoted Samuel Smiles, who said, “The nation comes from the nursery.”
These words resounded in me.
Before our country was founded, before the Boston Tea Party, or the Stamp Act, and before Thomas Jefferson heard Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death” speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, and before the men who made our country had paid their price to be great-- there was a woman. You probably haven’t even heard of her, but her legacy influenced the founding of our country. Her name was Margaret Walker Wythe.
Margaret and Thomas Wythe, a plantation owner in Virginia, had two sons and a daughter together before Margaret was widowed at a young age. Her second son was having difficulty in the public school, so she brought him home and taught him herself.
It was rare in those days for a woman to be educated, and Margaret was not merely ‘literate,’ she was a ‘highly educated woman’. She mentored her son until he was about sixteen in Latin, Greek, mathematics and more. Most importantly, she helped him acquire the greatest gift: a life-long love of learning.
Margaret passed away about this time, but building on the foundation she gave him, he decided to study at the College of William and Mary. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford it. He didn’t let that stop him, however. Indeed, over time, Margaret’s son became Virginia’s foremost classical scholar, the colony’s Attorney General, a delegate to the Continental Congress, a speaker of the Assembly, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, the young man who’d been too poor to even attend the College of William and Mary eventually became its, and the nation’s, first law professor!
This man went on to mentor the generation of lawyers, judges, ministers, teachers, governors, senators, congressmen, and ambassadors who surrounded the events and laid the foundation that birthed our nation, and who led it in its infancy. Two of his students became president, two others were attorneys general, and, as Professor Forrest McDonald put it, this man mentored “enough other Founding Fathers to populate a small standing army!”
Who was this great man who was educated at his mother’s knee? He was George Wythe, and the impact of his mother, “of this amazing woman…cannot be overemphasized.” 1 How would it be to have such a positive impact on your child; on your community? By obtaining a leadership education for myself, it’s possible.
I soak up every opportunity I can to learn about the principles of great teaching, mentoring the classics, and creating within the walls of my own home a great environment for freedom and self-governance. Through studying the classics and coming Face to Face with Greatness, I am building my own superb classical education. I’m making a difference to my family and my community.
I can be like that Victorian lady in the picture. I can be like Margaret Wythe. So can you. When it comes to educating our children, a Stateswoman’s place is in the home.
1Brown, Imogene E., American Aristides: a biography of George Wythe, Rutherford N.J: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1981.
Are you growing uncomfortable with the unexpected “stuff” your child is learning in school? Has your child lost his/her curiosity or creativity? Does your child view learning as a chore, or as something unpleasant? Have you noticed that public education treats your child like an object on an assembly line, where every child is taught the same thing and in the same way, even if your child has unique abilities that should be nurtured in a unique way? Has your child ever had a teacher that squashed his/her interest in a subject? Have you found your own personal education stagnating?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then perhaps a Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) is what you and your child need. The term “Thomas Jefferson Education” is named in honor of one of the great thinkers amongst our Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson, as well as several other prominent thinkers during the founding of our country, was mentored by a wise teacher, George Wythe, who taught Thomas through studying the great classics of literature, history, political thinking, mathematics, and science, etc.
Our family started our TJEd about three and a half years ago. Since that time, I’ve observed the gradual transformation in our family as I, my spouse, and my children have read and studied some of these classical concepts (our education is not complete—not that you should ever “finish” learning).
Following TJEd principles, the parents are to set the example by continuing their education, and so I’ve read more books in the last three years than I did in the previous 17 years combined. I’ve seen our 11 year old son close a book about Archimedes one Saturday and exclaim “That was a great book”. I’ve watched our 7 year old daughter change from crying that she “hates” reading and that she can’t do it, to now devouring 150 page novels in a day or two, and studying about animal science so that she can become a veterinarian when she grows up. She is writing her own novel that is quite interesting. When our 16 year old son was 12, he played the trumpet in the school band, but we couldn’t get him to practice, nor did he enjoy it. Now, he has discovered his talent on the piano, and several times a day he chooses to sit at the piano and work on a piece, or work on figuring out a song by ear. My children now love to read.
I’ve noticed that the behavior problems have diminished; they’re not perfect, but there has definitely been an improvement. I’ve noticed that my children have become more kind to others. Their willingness to do chores has also increased; again, they’re not perfect here, either, but they have improved.
If you’d like to learn more about a Thomas Jefferson Education for you and your children, please contact Ann Agent, 503-939-6577 to participate in an introductory meeting. Or sign up for the Seminar: You, Not Them to be held in Portland OR on September 25-26, 2009.