“Preach, my dear sir, a crusade against ignorance…” Thomas Jefferson

A couple of Christmas’ ago, my in-laws bought us a Kindle.  Besides trying to support my favorite independent authors, I also use my Kindle to support a habit I started several years ago of perusing Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/) and reading old, sometimes forgotten works.  I try to alternate between the novels/novellas and project Gutenberg, and I usually read these while reading a paperback or hardcover (there are some instances where one works better than the other) so it can take a long time to get through something.  Currently, I’m working on the second volume of Thomas Jefferson’s Memoirs and Letters.  And I came across this quote that I had to share.  It’s from a letter written in France to Mr. Wythe on August 13th, 1786.

“Preach, my dear sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people.  Let our countrymen know, that the people alone can protect us against these evils [of tyranny currently in France], and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose; is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests, and nobles, who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

This strikes home to me.  While we don’t label them kings, priests, and nobles, we are definitely in a have/have-not situation here in the United States, where education is valued less than war and commercial gain, where it seems in the power structure’s best interest to keep us as ignorant as possible, where we are all caught in the dance and whirl of material desires and media spin.

We need to look to the nations with the top education, health care, and technology stats and emulate them if we are not to continue our descent into the dust.  We need to base our opinions on the facts (as we actually can dig them out) and be able to debate civilly on issues.  We need to do what is best for society as a whole without infringing on the rights of individuals.  And we can do it as long as we can get rid of the special interests that currently hold our government hostage.  Will we be able to?  That remains to be seen.

I think most of the founding fathers would be very disappointed with the fear and ignorance that grips our nation today, and that saddens me.