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Jefferson’s Blog

Some election issues are timeless.
Thomas Jefferson writes on the issues of his day, and ours.

March 22, 2012

What should students read?

“But that time is not lost which is employed in providing tools for future operation: more especially as in this case the books put into the hands of the youth for this purpose may be such as will at the same time impress their minds with useful facts and good principles.”

–Thomas Jefferson, c.1781, Notes on the State of Virginia


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  1. I wonder if Thomas Jefferson would have imagined a time of banned books?

  2. Students should read everything except Federalist newspapers, unless reading those will serve to enlighten and motivate them to anti-Federalist positions.

  3. I believe the books Jefferson was thinking about revolved around the classics and all the current happenings.

    It was a privilege then to be able to your your hands on books.

    It is far easier now and that fact should be impressed on youth!

  4. If you put yourself in that era, books were rare and treasured. They were also an important source of knowledge. Today, I think we can look at this quote from a larger perspective of education in general. Is it taken for granted? Are we doing all we can to give our kids, of all ages and backgrounds, the best educational environment and resources available?

    TJ was right then and his thinking is spot on for today.

    The more we teach people how to read and make books available, the better it is for our / their future.