4 Matching Annotations
  1. Dec 2017
    1. so important to be woven into the American character

      One of the most interesting motifs I've noticed in the report is Jefferson's desire to shape society in his image. Jefferson doesn't just want to educate the youth; he wants to define "The American Character". He and his compatriots spend a good deal of the report defining what they believes the ideal character of a person should be, and then proceed to design the curriculum around how they believe such a person can be created. The founders of UVA were obviously intent on using the university for some form of social engineering. I don't necessarily believe that manipulating the thoughts and feelings of the population is a bad thing, provided that the attempt at doing so is done properly with a strong ethical basis*, but it does bother me how all these old white men used their positions to shape the "American character" in their image.

      *Let's face it, we need a bit of social engineering sometimes. By and large, the American People have a tendency to behave horrendously when they find themselves in a position from which they can act with impunity.

    2. To harmonize & promote the interests of agriculture, manufactures & commerce and by well informed views of political economy to give a free scope to the public industry.

      I find this passage to be refreshing; here, Jefferson and his colleagues are rather forthright in admitting that universities essentially exist to produce skilled workers to be used by private interests. He still relies on the "self betterment" jargon that the university continues to use as a crutch in its advertisements, but it's nice that he takes the time to point out the industrial complex that colleges are typically built to support. Before anybody comments to this effect: I'm fully aware of how incredibly cynical a statement that is.

  2. Oct 2017
    1. To improve by reading, his morals and faculties.

      Here's a great example of the class warfare inherent in the text, as well as a hopeful sign of progress that hadn't yet reached fruition. By claiming that you can improve somebody's "morals and faculties" through education, the founders of the university were essentially offering a justification for the class system of the day; in essence, this statement implies that the ruling class (meaning wealthy and white) were better suited for their positions than their underlings because they had received an education, and thus possessed better intellectual "faculties" and a higher ethical podium from which they could act, thereby justifying their social positions and offering a means and justification for their children to take their place once they'd passed. Personally, I reject the notion that the well educated have a higher moral understanding, since I've never heard of anybody with only a G.E.D to their name declaring war on another country, but I think it's interesting how in the 1800s, people began to reject the notion that the ruling class was inherently better and were thus better suited to their positions; education began to socially supersede divine providence. This may not have catalyzed change at first, but it significantly expanded peoples' notions of who should and should not be in power. It's a meager edition to a document that most others might find horrifying with its blithe acceptance of the idea of class structures and slavery, but it provides a small hopeful note.

    2. To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business.

      I've always found it immensely ironic as to how universities always make a big show of acting in the public interest, despite the fact that more often than not they exist to keep education firmly within reach of the rich while far away from the poor. UVA, for instance, has a "watch-list" of people who are given a fast track to admission thanks to connections to wealthy university donors (Summary: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/at-u-va-a-watch-list-flags-vip-applicants-for-special-handling/2017/04/01/9482b256-106e-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.e0347fa7134b, Backing Documents: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/local/u-va-watch-list/2396/). That's certainly far away from the ideal of giving education to "every citizen", even by the backwards definition of citizen used in the 1820s (meaning to be both white and landowning). It's especially interesting that while the university and country as a whole has made immense progress socially since then, we still haven't even come close to coming within reach of the ideals the university was founded on.