Did Jefferson Have a Disdain for the Influence Christianity Played on Education?

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We read much today of the disdain our founders had for religion, and how they wanted to keep God out of  government and education.  Here recently  the views of Thomas Jefferson has been brought into focus, is this really true?

Again I quote from David Barton’s book, “Jefferson Lies.”

Jefferson’s own education, as well as many of the major educational influences on his life had been thoroughly Christian. He did not despise or reject his own favorable educational experience, so it is therefore not surprising that in his subsequent educational endeavors he repeatedly incorporated the same general religious instruction. For example, in 1783 when a grammar school was being established in his area, he wrote to the Reverend Dr. John Witherspoon, the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), a Presbyterian university that trained many clergy, to request one of Witherspoon’s students or staff as an instructor for the school.  In 1792, Jefferson again wrote the Reverend Witherspoon about another local school “in hopes that your seminary … may furnish some person whom you could recommend” to be the assistant to “the head of a school of considerable reputation in Virginia.”

 What would Jefferson expect from students trained by the Reverend Dr. Witherspoon? Certainly not a secular approach to education. On the contrary, not only did Witherspoon teach the Scottish Common Sense philosophy but he also specifically instructed his students: That he is the best friend to American liberty who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind.

Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.


 So when Jefferson needed teachers for schools in his area, he called on a leading Christian theologian and educator to send him religiously trained instructors. He certainly could have turned to other sources for help; he did not. In 1805, President Jefferson was elected head of the board of trustees for the brand new Washington, DC, public schools.  He told the city council that he would “willingly undertake the duties proposed to me – so far as others of paramount obligation will permit my attention to them”;  that is, he would do what he could for the city schools with the caveat that his presidential duties came first. Robert Brent, therefore, served as head of the trustees instead of Jefferson; but as a trustee, Jefferson contributed much to the new school system.

In fact, James Ormond Wilson, the first superintendent of the Washington, DC, public school system, affirmed that Jefferson was “the chief author of the first plan of public education adopted for the city of Washington.”  When the first report of the Washington public schools was prepared and released to document the progress of students, it announced: Fifty-five have learned to read in the Old and New Testaments and are all able to spell words of three, four, and five syllables; twenty-six are now learning to read Dr. Watts’ Hymns and spell words of two syllables; ten are learning words of four and five letters. Of fifty-nine out of the whole number admitted [enrolled] that did not know a single letter, twenty can now read the Bible and spell words of three, four, and five syllables; twenty-nine read Dr. Watts’ Hymns and spell words of two syllables; and ten, words of four and five letters.

Most can probably visualize the Bible as a text to teach reading,  but what of Watt’s Hymns? Isaac Watts was a Christian theologian and hymn writer, penning some of the strongest doctrinal anthems in Christendom, including classics such as “Jesus Shall Reign,” “Joy to the World,” “O God our Help in Ages Past,” 

From this small excerpt, it is plain to see how Jefferson felt about leaving God and religion in our lives. 

The blogger has been a writer/photographer for over thirty years. Specializing in nature and landscape photography, as well as studying native cultures.

His travels have taken him to most of the United States, as well as Australia, Belize, Egypt and the Canary Islands.

He has studied the Mayan culture of Central America as well as the aborigines of Australia. Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in various parts of the world.

He has published several books about his adventures.

For more information, please consult his website,www.journeysthrulife.com.

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a lutheran church against a sunny blue sky.

The day after Congress adopted the first amendment, they sent a message to George Washington. They asked him to declare a day of Thanksgiving to God.

Congress wanted to show America’s appreciation for the opportunity to create a new government in peace and tranquility.

The founders did not intend for God to be separate from our official acts. The founders just did not want a national denomination, such as in England.

They did not want an established church, an established church would take away religious liberty.
They did not want an established church that could force people to worship against their will or support it with private tax dollars.

Many say the founding fathers didn’t believe in God and weren’t Christian. They even go on to say that George Washington wasn’t a Christian and never went to church and never prayed.

This is completely wrong. In the early days of the United States, the whole of society centered around the local church. Most of the early pioneers attended church regularly or semi-regularly. Practically all our early schools were church sponsored, thus, the children’s education was based on religion, as was George Washington.

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