Thomas Jefferson's Philosophy of Education: A utopian dream, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Thomas Jefferson's Philosophy of Education

A utopian dream, 1st Edition

By M. Andrew Holowchak


210 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Thomas Jefferson had a profoundly advanced educational vision that went hand in hand with his political philosophy - each of which served the goal of human flourishing. His republicanism marked a break with the conservatism of traditional non-representative governments, characterized by birth and wealth and in neglect of the wants and needs of the people. Instead, Jefferson proposed social reforms which would allow people to express themselves freely, dictate their own course in life, and oversee their elected representatives. His educational vision aimed to instantiate a progressive social climate only dreamed of by utopists such as Thomas More, James Harrington and Louis-Sébastian Mercier.

This book offers a critical articulation of the philosophy behind Jefferson’s thoughts on education. Divided into three parts, chapters include an analysis of his views on elementary and higher education, an investigation of education for both the moral-sense and rational faculty, and an examination of education as lifelong learning. Jefferson’s educational rationale was economic, political and philosophical, and his systemic approach to education conveys a systemic, economic approach to living, with strong affinities to Stoicism.

Thomas Jefferson’s Philosophy of Education will be key reading for philosophers, historians and postgraduate students of education, the history of education and philosophy.


'Thomas Jefferson’s view on the importance of education and schooling has served as a foundation from which various curricular developments have derived and has also informed people on how to go about their lives at the conclusion of their formal education. These ideas are expertly articulated in this book by Holowchak (Philosophy, Rider Univ.) … Holowchak's distillation of Jefferson’s vision provides the reader with a succinct and powerful introduction to the wide range of Jefferson’s ideas, as well as the context in which they were developed. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.' J.A. Helfer, Illinois State Board of Education, CHOICE, August 2015

‘Jefferson the dreamer, Jefferson the realist, or the complexity of a great mind is the theme of this insightful book by Holowchak. Or to paraphrase Jefferson's favorite novel by Laurence Sterne: he was always on a journey which is revealed herein.’ – Professor Richard Guy Wilson, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia, USA

‘Written with engaging prose, Holowchak's vivid grasp of Jefferson's political and educational philosophy and his engagement with competing interpretations of Jefferson provide an outstanding historical synthesis of our third president's commitment to the republican canon. Holowchak brings to life Jefferson's crusade to institutionalize his educational ideals and his commitment to immersing subsequent generations with a civic virtue balanced by human reason and moral sensibilities. Holowchak's book is an exemplary work that will captivate readers and provoke debate among historians.’ – Assistant Professor Brian W. Dotts, Department of Educational Theory and Practice, The University of Georgia, USA

‘Public education for all citizens was a lifelong goal of Thomas Jefferson and M. Andrew Holowchak has written a valuable addition to the available literature on this topic. In this book, Holowchak offers a consistent interpretation that stresses Jefferson’s philosophic foundation for his faith in education as a fundamental component of republicanism. This represents a different approach from most and in particular, he stresses Jefferson’s moral focus as a driving force in his educational thinking. Holowchak’s perspective is sure to generate a considerable "buzz" among scholars and general readers alike.’ – Professor James Carpenter, Graduate School of Education, Binghampton University, USA

Table of Contents

Part 1: The Laborers and the Learned A Crusade Against Ignorance: Educating the General Citizenry. A Dialog between Ancients and Moderns: Creating a Natural Aristocracy Part 2: The Heart and the Head Fixing the Principles and Practices of Virtue: Educating the Heart. I Feel: Therefore I Exist: Educating the Head Part 3: Lifelong Education An Education Directed to Freedom and Happiness: The Usefulness of "American" Education. A Heart at Ease Flies to No Extremes: Life as a Sentimental Journey.

About the Author

M. Andrew Holowchak is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rider University, USA.

About the Series

New Directions in the Philosophy of Education

This book series is devoted to the exploration of new directions in the philosophy of education. After the linguistic turn, the cultural turn, and the historical turn, where might we go? Does the future promise a digital turn with a greater return to connectionism, biology and biopolitics based on new understandings of system theory and knowledge ecologies? Does it foreshadow a genuinely alternative radical global turn based on a new openness and interconnectedness? Does it leave humanism behind or will it reengage with the question of the human in new and unprecedented ways? How should philosophy of education reflect new forces of globalization? How can it become less Anglo-centric and develop a greater sensitivity to other traditions, languages, and forms of thinking and writing, including those that are not routed in the canon of Western philosophy but in other traditions that share the ‘love of wisdom’ that characterizes the wide diversity within Western philosophy itself. Can this be done through a turn to intercultural philosophy? To indigenous forms of philosophy and philosophizing? Does it need a post-Wittgensteinian philosophy of education? A postpostmodern philosophy? Or should it perhaps leave the whole construction of 'post'-positions behind?

In addition to the question of the intellectual resources for the future of philosophy of education, what are the issues and concerns that philosophers of education should engage with? How should they position themselves? What is their specific contribution? What kind of intellectual and strategic alliances should they pursue? Should philosophy of education become more global, and if so, what would the shape of that be? Should it become more cosmopolitan or perhaps more decentred? Perhaps most importantly in the digital age, the time of the global knowledge economy that reprofiles education as privatized human capital and simultaneously in terms of an historic openness, is there a philosophy of education that grows out of education itself, out of the concerns for new forms of teaching, studying, learning and speaking that can provide comment on ethical and epistemological configurations of economics and politics of knowledge? Can and should this imply a reconnection with questions of democracy and justice?

This series comprises texts that explore, identify and articulate new directions in the philosophy of education. It aims to build bridges, both geographically and temporally: bridges across different traditions and practices and bridges towards a different future for philosophy of education.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Educational Policy & Reform / General
EDUCATION / Philosophy & Social Aspects