Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Thomas Jefferson Education?

I just devoured A Thomas Jefferson Education, which has been on my reading list for a long time. I can't remember who recommended it, but it seems to be in the style of John Taylor Gatto - that is, flaming liberals and flaming conservatives alike could really get into it. I will certainly end up taking it with a grain of salt once I have fully processed it (or at least I'm giving myself permission to do so), but right now I am all about it.

The main message of the book is that education must come from inspiration. Teachers must inspire their students, not just teach them. His prescription for parents or teachers is to read the classics, and then get interested enough in them and their relationship to life and to each other, to inspire their students (children) to get really excited about them, too. This, he says, will make the student into a "leader," a "statesman," and a Great Person. I can see how this is true. Unfortunately I have read only a few classics, really - and any of the ones I read in high school were a waste because I didn't understand how to approach literature at the time. Needless to say, literature classics were the only classics offered in my public high school. It never even occurred to me that there are "math classics" or "physics classics" until I read this book.

The main reason I have to be wary, maybe of the idea of classics is that so many things I am interested in are considered new fields, and/or they are based, in my opinion, on wrong beliefs in the first place. For instance, the entire field of psychology is based on the idea that 20th century civilized subjects can be considered normal. I have yet to read Freud. . . but I have my own idea of what the real classic in psychology should be, and that is The Continuum Concept, or maybe something by Joseph Chilton Pearce. Or maybe even Rudolf Steiner?

Anyway, I like A Thomas Jefferson Education because it's very unschooler-y - based on the way people used to be educated back before school as we know it, which is a pretty new concept, even existed. Back when people used to be incredibly competent by the time they were twelve years old.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm always up for a good, interesting book. Will check it out as soon as I'm finished with The Essential Lewis & Clark.