Tuesday, July 04, 2017

What we seem to have forgotten about our independence

He founded the University of Virginia.
Let's consider the education of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today. Please stay with me. Charlie Martin writes:
Jefferson, along with most well-educated people at the time, was given a "classical education" -- the trivium and quadrivium, along with languages and history. In particular, it almost always included Euclid's Geometry; Jefferson we know read Locke and others, and almost certainly read Spinoza, who constructed his books very much like a geometry text. The point is that Jefferson, as one of the perfect examples of men of the Enlightenment, believed wholeheartedly in science and in, above all, reason, and Euclid was considered the epitome of reason.
Now who gets that kind of education today? And what are the implications of that?
If you read Book One of Euclid's Elements you see some definitions and "common notions," and then the five Postulates. Postulates, or axioms, are the starting point in a logical system; they are statements that are considered universally acceptable — or at least are accepted as statements from which deductions can be made. To Euclid, these are universal truths that are held to be self-evident and thus require no proof. (In modern logic, they no longer have to be self-evident, and can merely be interesting. But that's a topic for another time.) So, we start out with "We state these basic beliefs so that our reasoning can be seen to be well-founded."
Now reread those famous words of Jefferson:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Charlie Martin concludes:
It seems to me now that a lot of people in the government have forgotten this: that the reason the government exists is to secure our rights to Life, Liberty, and to order our own lives in the pursuit of Happiness. On this Fourth of July, we should remind them. It is time to treat the Constitution as the founders intended, to remind government they're servants, not masters, and to return to our foundational document in such a way that it permits us best to ordain our life and liberty and pursue our happiness. For this we work, and thereunto we pledge our life, our fortune, and our sacred honor."
Our education system has failed us. Perhaps it's time we undertake teaching our children these fundamentals.

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