- Dec 2017
We should be far too from the discouraging persuasion, that man is fixed, by the law of his nature, at a given point: that his improvement is a chimæra, and the hope delusive of rendering ourselves wiser, happier or better than our forefathers were.
This excerpt is very relevant in UVA’s current climate. While the negative histories of both Jefferson and UVA have always existed, they are receiving more scrutiny now because of the August 11 and 12 events on Grounds and in Charlottesville. I believe Jefferson’s (and the other commissioners’) own words support a solution to this issue. Instead of not drawing attention to this past, the university community should be making a conscious effort to recognize the error of “our forefathers” so we are not “fixed” to duplicate them. Ignoring them, however, runs the risk of us not “rendering ourselves wiser” and slipping into the same atrocities as our university’s founders.
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.
The board shames Native Americans’ appreciation for the wisdom of their ancestors and state that education has allowed a shift from the following idea: that “we must tread with awful reverence in the footsteps of Our fathers”. This is rather ironic considering the legacy Thomas Jefferson has on ‘his’ university. It is a center of education structured in a manner that idolizes Jefferson at every opportunity, despite the reasoning (given in a document co-written by Jefferson) that education frees men from lingering on their ancestors.