By Hector Bojorquez • Knowledge is Power • December 2, 2021 •

There has never been a time in U.S. education when standards, objectives and curricula were not embroiled in some controversy. The first American reader “The New England Primer” published in 1690, had a sole purpose to teach everyone to read the Bible. Some 50 years later, Benjamin Franklin formed the American Philosophical Society to further education, science and the secular ideas of the Enlightenment. This society influenced many of the founding fathers and mothers, including Thomas Jefferson. Simply, controversies around these contradictory purposes in U.S. education have been with us since the beginning.

Thomas Jefferson embodies those and other controversies to this day. He has become one of the most polarizing personalities in U.S. history because of his nonconsensual exploitation of enslaved woman, Sally Hemmings, and the very fact that he owned slaves. These are absolutely important facts that should be taught about Thomas Jefferson. We should also teach that he held racist personal views and that while he thought that slavery was an abomination to democracy, he offered few solutions that could be seen as anything but a repudiation of his own principles.

These are all important facts that our students must know in tandem with his highest aspirations. Our students should know his personal paradoxes along with his contributions to democracy.

The following facts should also be taught as they are not opinions and are important to current debates:

  • Thomas Jefferson was a firm believer in the strictest separation church and state.
  • Thomas Jefferson believed in the moral teachings of Christianity on equal footing with all other religions.
  • Thomas Jefferson did not believe in what he considered to be supernatural teachings of any religion.
  • Thomas Jefferson wished to influence Christian education away from ideas he saw as irrational by rewriting the Bible without miracles.

These are historical facts that can be found throughout online resources.

My next entry on this subject in an upcoming issue of Knowledge is Power will feature a lesson plan using these materials.

[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the December 2, 2021, edition of Knowledge is Power by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]