October 7, 2022

InfoTrace

The value of truth

Democracy and education: How tied are the schoolhouse and ballot box?

10 min read

From the beginning of the American republic, some Founding Fathers pushed for the establishment of an institution they thought crucial to the success of democracy: public education.

Self-government would require informed citizens, they felt. Important decisions would be in the hands of farmers and tradesmen, not courts and kings. 

That meant the nation’s youth – the citizens of tomorrow – needed to learn the history and operation of republics. They needed practice disagreeing, debating, and then moving forward together, whether their views won or lost.

Why We Wrote This

Do Americans agree anymore that public education is fundamental to democracy? Part 1 in a series.

The “prospect of [a] permanent union” depended on education in the science of government, said George Washington. “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people,” said John Adams. “Above all things … the education of the common people [should] be attended to,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Do today’s Americans agree on the importance of common schoolhouses? Do they hold anymore that public education is fundamental to U.S. democracy? 

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