A vote is upon the citizens of Kanawha County, and it is a vote placing us in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers of this great and benevolent nation.
I do not know what drives men and women to rail against public education, but it must be their intense hatred of our Founding Fathers. Men like John Adams who in 1776 wrote, "Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant."
Adams believed it to be anti-American to oppose a tax for public education. I suspect he would weep at the "taxed enough already" signs littering our streets.
Men like Thomas Jefferson who, in his 1806 State of the Union Address, called for a constitutional amendment to "come in the aid of public education. The influence over government must be shared among all people." Jefferson believed public education was the cornerstone of a vibrant Republic. In an 1816 letter to a friend in Spain, he suggested tying education to the right to participate in the democracy. Why? Because an educated populace is the best defense against tyranny. These are the same thoughts echoed to George Wythe, a Founding Father as well, in 1786.
In the letter to Wythe, Jefferson wrote of a tax for the benefit of public schools. "Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance."
Jefferson, who established the University of Virginia, also wrote to James Madison, "Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty."
Later, Jefferson wrote, ""Now let us see what the present primary schools cost us, on the supposition that all the children of 10. 11. & 12. years old are, as they ought to be, at school: and, if they are not, so much the work is the system; for they will be untaught, and their ignorance & vices will, in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences, than it would have done, in their correction, by a good education."
Jefferson and Adams were not alone in seeking a public education. Benjamin Franklin, in 1749, wrote, "The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention, to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the Publick with Honour to themselves, and to their Country."
The Founding Fathers left us with the requirement that a public education, at the expense of the taxpayer, was the surest way to safeguard our liberties and to create a whole society. Those who oppose the levy stand in opposition not only to modern levy supporters, but also to the Founding Fathers themselves.
Given the Founding Fathers thought no expense should be spared, either in tax or tithe, to better our public education system, I hope you will join me in supporting not just the levy, but freedom.
Watts is an author in Charleston.