- Oct 2017
The best mode of government for youth in large collections, is certainly a desideratum not yet attained with us. It may well be questioned whether fear, after a certain age, is the motive to which we should have ordinary recourse. The human character is susceptible of other incitements to correct conduct, more worthy of employ, and of better effect. Pride of character, laudable ambition, & moral dispositions are innate correctives of the indiscretions of that lively age; and when strengthened by habitual appeal & exercise, have a happier effect on future character, than the degrading motive of fear; hardening them to disgrace, to corporal punishments, and servile humiliations, cannot be the best process for producing erect character. The affectionate deportment between father & son offers, in truth, the best example for that of tutor & pupil
This excerpt from the Rockfish Gap Report draws an intriguing parallel between the founding ideals of the University of Virginia and the honor systems in place today. It can lucidly be seen that Thomas Jefferson placed a strong emphasis on self-evaluation and moral conduct as the defining principles of the UVA community. The focus on “moral dispositions” and “character” rather than “the degrading motive of fear” are timeless principles that have served the university well in its aim of ingraining “qualities of virtue and social worth” amongst the student body. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of the present-day Honor Code at UVA is its ability to create a definite standard of conduct to be upheld by members of the community, a standard that inherently relies on the virtue of honor in each and every individual. This idea of self-governance is one that has transcended time and has come to characterize being a student at UVA. This is one of many fascinating instances in the Report of founding principles bearing the test of time. Furthermore, the relationship between administration and students being likened to “the affectionate deportment between father and son” offers us an insight into the constructive and nurturing vision Jefferson had for education and conduct at the university.
What, but education, has advanced us beyond the condition of our indigenous neighbours? and what chains them to their present state of barbarism & wretchedness, but a besotted veneration for the supposed supe[r]lative wisdom of their fathers and the preposterous idea that they are to look backward for better things and not forward, longing, as it should seem, to return to the days of eating acorns and roots rather than indulge in the degeneracies of civilization.
This excerpt lays testament to the infamous ‘supremacist’ and racial background associated with the University of Virginia’s founding. Thomas Jefferson in his book ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’ offers a critique on the society of the “indigenous neighbors” by stating that “great societies cannot exist without government”. Indeed, by further alluding to their “barbarism and wretchedness” Jefferson clearly condemns their people on account of their rural and unstructured way of life. The writing hence emphasizes the power of education as a means to move “forward” rather than indulge in such a “besotted veneration” for the past. A strong paradox is hence created about the true value of an education. The Report stresses the esteemed values of “virtue and social worth” and the “well-being of mankind” as celebrated fruits of learning. However, these notable accomplishments remain at odds with the racist views expressed in the report. The inability of education to reconcile advancement and social inclusion, emphasize the discrimination present at the time. One of many instances that question the ideals of the founding document. Furthermore, this offers a distinct contrast to the open-minded nature of knowledge and learning present at UVA today, where inclusion and acceptance of other societies remains a forefront priority.