What would Jefferson or de Tocqueville do?
October 17, 2011
“It is the provision for public education which, from the very first, throw into clearest relief the originality of the American civilization” (Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” 45).
The visiting French scholar Alexis de Tocqueville wrote this line in the 1830s in his masterful survey of the emerging American democracy. He was accustomed to European feudal monarchies in which peasants labored without any access to the liberties afforded by education. De Tocqueville was amazed that in this New World “provisions follow for establishing schools in all townships, and oblige the inhabitants, under the penalty of heavy fines, to maintain them.” (de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” 45).
Such provisions meant that all people had access to quality education, equipping them with the ability to intelligently speak out their opinions in the public square, voting box, and in the institutions of democracy. In de Tocqueville’s analysis, American principles of liberty and education for all in the wilderness of the New World were to become watchwords of a great people.
The founding fathers understood that in order for America to be great, it required quality public education – in contrast to the elitist European culture from which they had immigrated (and with which de Tocqueville was personally familiar).
Thomas Jefferson himself felt that the best defense of freedom was an educated person actively participating in government. He wrote that if public education in America crumbled and “if people forget themselves in the sole faculty of making money, the future of the republic was bleak and tyranny would not be far away.” (Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” 676). The founding fathers understood that the greatness of America depended upon an equally great public education system.
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Voting yes on 3E for public education funding in the Roaring Fork Valley may not seem like a vote for the strength of America – but Jefferson and de Tocqueville teach us that such a vote protects a distinctive American tradition.
Voting yes on 3E ensures that every Roaring Fork Valley student can make his/her voice heard in the public square. Voting yes on 3E means that those same students are equipped to succeed in life and to contribute to their home communities. Voting yes on 3E protects founding American principles of liberty and education for all. Voting yes on 3E ensures that our beautiful valley and our country remain great.
Please vote yes on 3E.
Rev. Dr. Melanie Dobson Hughes