Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille

A Thomas Jefferson Education:
Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century
Oliver DeMille
Published 2000

This is the most awesome book about self-education and reading classics. I have read it three times. Shortly after I began homeschooling, in 2001, it inspired me to begin my own journey of self-education, and it radically changed my views on schooling. 
...societies are successful when people choose to be good. If people choose mediocrity, they end up with a mediocre society. If they choose excellence, they build an excellent society; if they choose decadence, society decays. This is not only common sense, it is historically accurate.
THE STATE OF EDUCATION TODAY

Oliver DeMille argues that the reason we cannot fix education is because people cannot agree on its purpose. There is also a misconception about what the problem is. In the end, the only person who can fix education is the student. DeMille adds that teaching is not education, but rather teachers should inspire students to educate themselves. Education happens when excellent teachers inspire students to learn.

There are only two teachers: mentors and the classics. Mentors meet with students face-to-face to encourage, inspire, and share knowledge, while the classics are works produced by other great teachers through books, music, art, science, and the like. 

Parents are a student's first mentors, which is why homeschooling is perfect for education. Unfortunately, many parents only know one way of teaching: the way they learned in school. 

THE THREE SYSTEMS OF EDUCATION

1. Public Education teaches WHAT to think, and prepares everyone for a job. Originally, public schools were created to educate the poor, while the wealthy were educated at private institutions or had tutors or apprenticeships, focusing more on leadership or professional training. 

Public schools use a "conveyor belt" method of teaching. Each student gets the same ideas and is graded the same, "regardless of interests, talents, goals, and mission." The object is to set standards so low that all students finish at the same time, while conforming to the same ideas.

Over time, even the wealthy attended public schools, which monopolized the education system, eliminating those institutions that produced professionals and leaders. 

2. Professional Education teaches WHEN to think and trains up specialists, like doctors, lawyers, etc. to know how to utilize information in their field of expertise; but it is not the best training for leadership. Even this system has its own conveyor belt, in which standards are set higher, making the field competitive.

3. Leadership Education teaches HOW to think and prepares students to be entrepreneurs in business, statesmen in government, and leaders in the home and community. The three main goals of leadership education are to train up competent thinkers, to perpetuate freedom, and to lead effectively to "help society remain free and prosperous.

THE LEADERSHIP CRISIS

Today, more people receive the conveyor belt public school education, which means there are more people in leadership positions, such as business and government, who are unfit for such positions. (You can say that again!) The result is a highly trained, uneducated society of people. 

HOW TO MENTOR

Thomas Jefferson, the author of America's Declaration of Independence, was a well-educated statesman. (Look at his resume, if you need evidence.) George Wythe, signer of the Declaration and delegate to the Constitutional Convention, mentored Jefferson for four years in law, the ancient classics, English literature, and political philosophy. It was an "apprenticeship for greatness." 

Mentoring under TJE is quite simple because all that is required is reading, having the student write about what he read, and then discussing with the student what moral lessons he takes away from reading the book. When discussing, mentors should ask questions to prompt the student to think deeply. When students write, mentors can focus on content, helping them to be better communicators. Another aspect of mentoring is application of lessons, either personally or to current events and society. 

Mentors can personalize a program for each individual to fit his or her goals. Learning through the classics is individualized because each reader will get something different from the same book. 

Finally, mentors must set the example by reading, studying, thinking about, and applying the classics along with their students.

WHY STUDY THE CLASSICS

Reading the classics changes people because they make us think about the "great ideas of humanity." 
The classics teach us about human nature, how to predict behavior, and to use good judgment. They teach us "empathy, compassion, wisdom, and self-discipline." 

They bring us "face-to-face" with greatness and inspire us to be better. They give us courage to confront our internal "frontier," which has yet to be conquered. They force us to think. And they connect us to those we share stories in common. 

In addition, reading the classics helps us to discover our own PERSONAL CANON, "a set of stories which we hang onto and believe in and base our lives around; and great classics are the best canon. A canon is the set of books we consider to be the standard of truth." Our canon "becomes our plot!"

There are four types of stories: bent, broken, whole, and healing. Bent portray evil as good, and good as evil. Avoid these. Broken portray evil as evil and good as good, but evil wins; though not pleasant, they may help us to change the direction of society. Whole stories portray good as good, and good wins. These are the best stories. Finally, healing stories are whole or broken where the reader is personally moved, changed, and improved for life. Healing stories become part of your canon.

DeMille encourages readers to develop a personal canon, spend time reading these books, become an expert in them, and teach them to others. 
As students become familiar with and...conversant with the great ideas of humanity, they will learn how to think, how to lead, and how to become great. The classics, by introducing the young mind to the greatest achievements of mankind and the teachings of God, prepare children to become successful human beings,...
TEACHING

Teaching subjects in TJE simply means using the classics in literature, history, science, math, art, and the rest. DeMille encourages students and mentors to study the originals and make personal inferences instead of using modern text books that often "mischaracterizes classics and historical figures to fit an agenda." 


STATESMANSHIP: MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN SOCIETY

Again, TJE seeks to develop men and women capable of leadership, no matter what they do. Statesmen portray six characteristics: virtue, wisdom, diplomacy, courage, ability to inspire greatness in others, and to move the cause of liberty.
The Leadership Education goal is to train thinkers, entrepreneurs and statesmen - individuals with the character, competence and capacity to do the right thing and do it well in business, government, church, school, family, and other organizations.
 The second goal is to perpetuate freedom, to prepare people who know what freedom is, what is required to maintain it, and who exert the will to do what is required.
The success and perpetuity of our society depend upon leadership education. 
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Following is a list of 100 required classics for students of George Wythe University, which sadly closed its doors in 2016. Nonetheless, it's a book list!! My edition also includes a list for children and youth and a recommended reading list about education. 

100 Classic List

From George Wythe College Required Classics List



Acton
The History of Freedom
John Adams
Thoughts on Government
Aquinas
On Kingship
Aristotle
Nichomachean Ethics

Politics

Rhetoric
Augustine
The City of God
Aurelius
Meditations
Austen
Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility
Bacon
Novum Organum
Bastiat
The Law

What is Seen and Not Seen
Benson
The Proper Role of Government
The Bible

Boethius
The Consolation of Philosophy
Bronte
Wuthering Heights
Bronte
Jane Eyre
Carson
The American Tradition
Capra
The Tao of Physics
Chesterton
Orthodoxy
Churchill
Selected Speeches
Cicero
The Republic

The Laws
Clausewitz
On War
Confucius
Analects
Various
The Constitution of the United States
Copernicus
On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
Covey
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Dante
The Divine Comedy
Various
The Declaration of Independence
DeFoe
Robinson Crusoe
Descartes
A Discourse on Method
Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities

Great Expectations
Douglas
Magnificent Obsession
Durant
A History of Civilization
Einstein
Relativity
Emerson
Collected Essays
Euclid
Elements
Frank
Alas Babylon
Franklin
Letters and Writings
Freud
Civilization and Its Discontents
Galileo
Two New Sciences
Gibbon
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Goethe
Faust
Hobbes
Leviathan
Homer
The Iliad

The Odyssey
Hugo
Les Miserables
Hume
Essays Moral, Political and Literary
Jefferson
Letters, Speeches and Writings
Keegan
History of Warfare
Kepler
Epitome
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Collected Speeches
Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolution
Lavoisier
Elements of Chemistry
Lewis
Mere Christianity

The Screwtape Letters

The Weight of Glory
Lincoln
Collected Speeches
Locke
Second Treatise of Government
Machiavelli
The Prince
Madison, Hamilton, and Jay
The Federalist Papers
Marx and Engels
The Communist Manifesto
More
Utopia
Various
The Magna Charta
Mill
On Liberty
Milton
Paradise Regained
Mises
Human Actions
Various
The Monroe Doctrine
Montesquieu
The Spirit of the Laws
Newton
Mathematical Principles
Nichomachus
Introduction to Arithmetic
Nietzsche
Beyond Good and Evil
Various
The Northwest Ordinance
Orwell
1984
Plato
Collected Works
Polybius
Histories
Potok
The Chosen
Plutarch
Lives
Ptolemy
Almagest
Shakespeare
Collected Works
Skousen
The Five Thousand Year Leap

The Majesty of God's Law

The Making of America
Smith
The Wealth of Nations
Solzhenitsyn
A World Split Apart

The Gulag Archipelago
Sophocles
Oedipus Trilogy
Stowe
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Sun Tzu
The Art of War
Thackeray
Vanity Fair
Thoreau
Walden
Tolstoy
War and Peace
Thucydides
History of the Peloponnesian War
Tocqueville
Democracy in America
Washington
Letters, Speeches, and Writings
Weaver
Mainspring of Human Progress
Wiser
The Virginian

HOW MANY OF THESE HAVE YOU READ?

5 comments:

  1. I've read only part of TJE but it sounds like I need to own it and read it a few times. So much sense in it!

    Well, the reading list is heavy on books that pertain to the U.S. so I'd be at a disadvantage, but of the 100, I've read 25 of them. I can't wait to hear how many others have read.

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    1. This is a great book for adults for their own self-education journey. There is a program in the back of my edition that starts you on your way, providing steps w/ a list of books to read and question prompts. Unfortunately, at the time I started (2002??), I had no idea how to read deeply, so I gave up. The book I chose was The Lonesome Gods by L'Amour, and I did not get it!!! I should have chosen something else. Maybe one day I'll go back.

      I didn't count until now...I read 30 of the books on the list, some a few times, but I am severely lacking in the Ancients. I'm working on it.

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  2. I read TJEd when I started homeschooling, and while it is indeed very inspiring, I always felt frustrated by its fuzziness. I figured I was missing something, but I also preferred the practical inspiration in WTM. Over the years I found out that many people try to follow TJEd but the fuzziness is a real problem, and there has to be more in a real-life homeschooling family. (For example, they recommend learning geometry and calculus by reading Euclid and Newton, which is very bad advice if you want to learn math, esp. the calculus. The Principia is missing a good deal of modern calculus and it was written in a deliberately difficult style.)

    It is very inspiring, and the reading list is fine; I just wouldn't use it as a main text for homeschooling. There's not enough substance.

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    1. I have to agree bc I prefer to use Saxon for our math. It just makes sense to use application, though it would be interesting to read the books suggested for math, in addition.

      Over the years, I have developed my own homeschooling philosophy by taking from my favorite philosophies (TWTM, Charlotte Mason, and TJEd) and combining what I think works best. If I could, I would just read literature and history all day long w/ my kids, but this is not enough. I think homeschool moms learn after some time to develop a method that is best for each family and even each child, although that can be more difficult for mom.

      But overall, homeschool parents need to fill in those holes (as they see happening w/ each child). For example, my 11-year old thrives on CM, but my girls still are not thrilled about learning. However, I suspect one of them would love to skip math application and rather read math stories as a substitute. So again, parents need to consider what works best and how to reach their specific goals for education.

      Personally, I think TJEd is a great starting point for adults who want to self-educate using the classics.

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  3. Wow, that's another title I will search for. It sounds absolutely fascinating. Those two teachers De Mille mentions are certainly the best we've come across. It's very interesting to ponder the four types of stories too, and I'm sure my favourites do fall into the whole and healing categories. The list of recommendations caps it off really well.

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