What Does Your Child Know About Thomas Jefferson? (23 AHMP Podcast)
Many people have asked me what launched me on my campaign to inspire adults to learn more about the Founding and Founding Documents? Of course, the simple answer is so they can educate their own children about information which will either be poorly taught to them in school or not taught to them at all. I also believe that it is critical for us to grasp the mounting level of tyranny that the Founders experienced under British rule, and how it served as basis for many of the principles and guarantees they incorporated into our Founding Documents. The plethora of stories from the colonial and founding periods of our nation are also filled with wit and wisdom that we can continue to learn from today.
Today’s podcast is a bit about the spark that ignited my mission, as well as why you MUST make it a priority to teach your children, your grandchildren, and others around you about the Founding, our Founding Documents, as well as the amazing country in which they live.
“What exactly do you know about Thomas Jefferson?” That simple question started me on a quest. It was the summer of 2011, and Congress was in the midst of yet another debate as to whether the debt ceiling should once again be raised. I asked that question of my son who had recently completed the eighth grade. As we discussed the debate, I became amazed by some of the basic information that he did not seem to know. For example, he could not describe exactly how a piece of legislation should move through the Congress, whether or not it was permissible for members of the House and the Senate to negotiate with each other during the time that the legislation is being constructed, whether those discussions were supposed to take place behind closed doors, and if citizens should be able to review the text of proposed legislation before the actual debate began. I began to quiz him about the people and the documents associated with the founding of our country, and my amazement grew further still. I was particularly surprised because he was an avid follower of all things historical. He had even received history-related awards in the fifth and the eighth grades during which time the history of our country was the focus of the Social Studies curriculum. His answer to my question about Thomas Jefferson? He recalled that Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence, he was the third President of the United States, and he owned slaves. I was dumbfounded. What about authoring the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom or founding the University of Virginia? Jefferson considered those two items, as well as authoring the Declaration, to be so important that he included them as an epitaph on his grave stone. He did not even bother to mention the presidency as one of his accomplishments. Upon further questioning I decided he knew far less about Jefferson than I expected.
Later that day I decided to ask my other children what they knew about Thomas Jefferson. My middle child, who had just completed the sixth grade, told me that when she studied U.S. History in the fifth grade, there was no particular focus on any individual. By the way, fifth grade is the year when the colonial and founding periods are the focus of the Social Science curriculum in most schools. She could have learned specifically about Jefferson if she had chosen him to be the topic of her independent study project for Social Studies, but she instead chose to learn more about the Sugar Act. She could, however, recite a dearth of extraneous information about Jefferson which she had memorized from a book I bought for her about the American Revolution. My youngest child, who had just finished 2nd grade, responded to my question by asking, “Isn’t he the guy with the kite?”
If I was concerned about what had been taught to my children in 2011, my concerns have only grown over time. My son completed the AP U.S.