Quote of the moment: John Adams, nation must have public schools, paid by the people

What would John Adams have said about charter schools?

Adams was quite clear, during his lifetime, that a nation should be known by the good people its good schools produce. No, not private schools: Adams insisted the schools must be open to the public, and funded by the people. Public schools, not private contractors brought in at public expense.

Do you think Adams changed his mind after his death?

Here’s the letter Adams sent to a regular correspondent, John Jebb, on September 10, 1785, 230 years ago today. Capitalization, spelling punctuation, insertions and grammar, as in the original; highlighting added:

John Adams' residence at Grosvenor Square, in London

John Adams’ residence at Grosvenor Square, in London; presumably, his letter to John Jebb took form in this house. Long in use by U.S. Ambassadors to England, it is in 2015 the office complex of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, envoy for The Quartet.  Image from London Cyberpunk Tourist Guide

the social science will never be much improved untill the People unanimously know and Consider themselvs as the fountain of Power and untill they shall  know how to manage it Wisely and honestly. reformation must begin with the \Body of the/ People which can be done only, to affect, in their Educations. the Whole People must take \upon/ themselvs the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expences of it. there should not be a district of one Mile square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expence of the People themselv[s] they must be taught to reverence themselvs instead of adoreing their servants their Generals Admirals Bishops and Statesmen — Instead of Admiring so extravegantly a Prince of Orange, we Should admire the Botavian Nation which produced him. Instead of Adoring a Washington, Mankind should applaud the Nation which Educated him. If Thebes owes its Liberty and Glory to Epaminandas, She will loose both when he dies, and it would have been as well if she had never enjoyed a taste for either: but if the Knowledge the Principles the Virtues and Capacities of the Theban Nation produced an Epaminandas, her Liberties and Glory will remain when he is no more: and if an analogous system of Education is Established and Enjoyed by the Whole Nation, it will produce a succession of Epaminandas’s, the Human Mind naturally exerts itself to form its Character according to the Ideas of those about it.

♦  Letter from John Adams to John Jebb, September 10, 1785, from Grosvenor Square, London

It’s a warning from the past: Do we like freedom? Then we must educate our children well, in public schools, to understand the public interest and their role in preserving and bettering the state. Can any presidential candidate expound on the issue, let alone the man, with any sing of erudition?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Diane Ravitch’s Blog.


John Adams High School, a public school in South Bend, Indiana.

John Adams High School, a public school in South Bend, Indiana. According to the Michiana Schools site, ” John Adams High School is a public school located in South Bend, Indiana right across the street from Indiana University South Bend. Adam’s mascot is the eagle and their school colors are scarlet, blue and white. Adams has a very successful mock trail team. The school was established in 1940. They have around 2,000 students every year, making it the second largest school in the Michiana area.”

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

3 Responses to Quote of the moment: John Adams, nation must have public schools, paid by the people

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Before the “school reform” bomb went off in Texas, we used to have schools like that in most Texas districts. I started teaching at Union Bower in Irving, salvaging graduates from the maw of “you-can’t-graduate-if-your-butt’s-not-in-that-seat.” Graduating students on non-traditional paths somehow seems anathema to the testing regime, and many of those schools have closed.

    About one out of every 10 charter schools I know of serves a noble purpose. Sounds like yours is in that 10%. Good on you, good on the school, and I hope someone will hold you up as a model and follow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the photo of John Adams High School in South Bend! My husband graduated from there. I think John Adams would have liked the charter school where I teach, as it is a public school operated at taxpayer expense. I teach at Mountain Education Charter High School, a public charter school that has locations in 11 counties in north Georgia. We are an evening high school that offers high school diplomas (not GEDs) and serves students who cannot attend school during the day. Many of our students are from very poor families and must work during the day. Because we are a public school, we accept all students who register, and we operate like every other public high school in the state except that our concentration is totally academic, and we have no clubs or sports or extra-curricular activities. I love teaching there, and at taxpayer expense, we are keeping in school kids who might otherwise drop out or fall through the cracks. That, of course, benefits all of society in the long run!


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