If I could erase an era from education, it would be 1700-1799. In 1779, Thomas Jefferson proposed the two-track system known as “the laboring and the learned. ” This was a method of education, where those with natural academic ability were allotted scholarships to continue their studies, while filtering out those with less intellectual ability for industrial job endeavors and vocational. This system leads to and supported the “two tear educational plan that has endured into the present time. According to Jefferson, ignorance and sound self-government could not exist together: the one destroyed the other.
A despotic government could restrain its citizens and deprive the people of their liberties only while they were ignorant. Jefferson could never completely separate education from government. With the fullest faith in the ability of man to govern himself, Jefferson nonetheless realized the responsibility of self-government could be assumed successfully only by an enlightened people. As a result, he came up with the two-track system. The habit of thinking of public education in essentially political terms, as an auxiliary of free government, naturally suggests a common father for both.
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In associating manhood suffrage with education, Jefferson was in the forefront. It was his belief in universal suffrage that made necessary the accompanying idea of universal education. Only popular government can safeguard democracy. . . . Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree. . . .” (as cited in Koch and Peden, 1972, p. 265)