A Thomas Jefferson Education Overview:
Every single individual born to the earth has the potential for greatness. Many do achieve greatness. How is it that household names such as Gandhi, George Washington, and Mother Teresa achieved this greatness and how can one duplicate the process? The answer can be found and it begins with education. In a nutshell, Thomas Jefferson Education is Leadership Education. For a more thorough understanding of this educational approach, I suggest reading the books A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille and A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion by DeMille and Jeppson. Also there are wonderful articles available through George Wythe College: “A Thomas Jefferson Education in our Home” by Rachel DeMille, and “Core and Love of Learning: a Recipe for Success’” by Oliver and Rachel DeMille. You can purchase these publications, including the book, through www.gwc.edu; much of what follows is excerpted from Dr. DeMille's book.
Oliver DeMille named this approach, ‘A Thomas Jefferson Education’ because this is the type of education that Jefferson received through the mentoring of George Wythe. Wythe was a signer of the Constitution and a great leader of that time. Dr. DeMille researched as well, the education of other great leaders throughout time and found that they all had very similar educational experiences. He found this approach lacking today and so he founded George Wythe College, in Cedar City Utah.
TJEd, as it is commonly referred to by those that follow this approach, is founded upon certain principles, which can be applied to any educational method. They are known as the 5 Pillars of Leadership Education, namely:
4) Field Experience, and
This approach to education has trained great leaders from Washington, Jefferson and Abigail Adams to Lincoln, Churchill and Gandhi.
There are seven keys to being a great teacher. Many of them are similar to the 5 pillars of a leadership education. These keys are:
3) Inspire, not require,
5) Structure time, not content,
6) Simplicity, and
7) You, not them.
With this approach, a person's educational journey is divided into phases. Whether a student starts on this journey from birth or finds this approach later in life, everyone still needs to go through all the phases. The phases are:
1) Core Phase,
2) Love of Learning Phase,
3) Scholar Phase,
4) Depth Phase, and
5) Mission Phase
Core Phase is spent at home, learning to work, play, and love. This is when a person's core values are determined. Character development is a priority, routines are learned and practiced, and relationships are developed. This is not to say that academics are kept totally out of the picture. If a student in Core Phase desires to learn to read or do math, etc., they may do so, but there is no requirement placed upon the student to achieve anything academically. Keep it simple.
Love of Learning Phase is just what it sounds like. The student develops their innate love of learning during this phase. Everyone is born with the desire to learn and grow. This phase fosters that desire by giving the student opportunities to explore life, academics, and their own possibilities, interests and aptitudes. Time is structured so that the student gets into the habit of studying, but the content of that time is determined by the student. It is often during this phase that a person may get a glimpse into what their personal mission in life might be. During this phase is when "inspire, not require" really comes into play. For a student to really learn something well, for them to internalize it, they need to be inspired to want to learn, to love learning.
Scholar Phase is the time for intense studying. By this point the student has developed good habits in their Core Phase so they can work hard on a task. Through the Love of Learning Phase they have gotten an idea of what they might want to do with their life, where their talents lie, what their abilities are. Now it is time to buckle down and study. A student may be found studying for 10+ hours a day because they want to learn and grow and fulfill their life's mission. Of course, they may find through this intense time of studying that they have a different path to follow in life than they originally thought. They might change lanes part way through and begin to pursue a whole new avenue. This is the time to expect quality work. It is either ‘A’ Acceptable or ‘DA’ Do Again. Mentors play a much larger role during this phase helping the student to reach their goals.
In Depth Phase the student has found their niche in life and is pursuing it with real gusto. This could be the time for college. The student has decided what they want to learn about and they go into real depth in their studies of it.
Mission phase is applying what the student has learned to life through such venues as a career or teaching others, etc.
Many educational philosophies, styles and approaches can fit into this model of leadership education. For example, the Charlotte Mason approach is wonderful for the Core and Love of Learning Phases. So is 'Unschooling'. The Well Trained Mind or textbooks such as Saxon Math, as well as 'Trivium' can be utilized well for a student in the Scholar Phase. TJEd is not a curriculum, but rather a set of principles around which one molds their education.
One of the core principles of TJEd is studying the classics. Without classics one cannot get a good leadership education. What is a classic, you might ask. As defined by Dr. DeMille a classic is a work that one can experience many times over and receive something new from it each time. Classics are not limited to literature but also can be found in art, math, science, etc. A classic can assume the form of a movie, a piece of music, or even a person can be considered a classic.
Why study the classics? Classics teach us about human nature. They allow us to experience, in an intimate way, the greatest mistakes and successes, of human history. If we learn from these mistakes and successes, we will make fewer mistakes and have more successes. Learning how others think, feel, and act allows us to predict behavior, it helps us to develop empathy, compassion and wisdom in our relationships with others.
Classics bring us face-to-face with greatness. As we study the characters, real or fictional, in the classics, we are inspired by their greatness, which is the first step to becoming great ourselves. Who we are changes as we set higher and higher standards of what life is about and what we are here to accomplish.
The classics take us to the frontier to be conquered. Human beings need a frontier in order to progress. In the past the frontier was geographical; today it is internal. In classics we can often experience other people's characters more powerfully than in real life because the author lets us see their thoughts, feelings and reasons for and consequences of their choices. The classics help us see the quest in others to conquer a frontier and how their choices failed or succeeded. Classics force us to turn off the TV and computer, to quietly study, ponder, think, ask, cry, laugh, struggle, and above all feel, change, and become. Then, because we are better, we must go out and serve.
The classics force us to think. First we think about the characters in the work, and then we think about ourselves. Sometimes studying a classic can be difficult. But if we persist, one day all the exposure to greatness will awaken us and change us for the better. The classics can be hard work and that is exactly what is needed to learn to think. The classics make us struggle, search, ponder, seek, analyze, discover, decide and reconsider. The experience of doing something wholesome and difficult changes us for the better.
The classics connect us to those who share the stories. Each culture is different because it has different shared stories. Different stories define each family, each religion, and each nation. And members of each connect themselves with the stories – they make the stories part of their personal story. Our personal set of stories, our canon, shapes our lives. And the characters and teachings of our canon shape our characters – good, evil, mediocre or great.
Thomas Jefferson was a great man as well as a great leader. He had what would be considered a liberal education. His education is what helped him and the other founding fathers of America to do what they did. He got his education through studying the classics with the assistance of his mentor, George Wythe, by practicing what he learned through simulations both in his mind and with his mentor. He then applied what he learned to life, with the help and guidance of the ultimate mentor, God. We have a need for great leaders today, too. Who will they be? Your children? You? A Thomas Jefferson Education is the way to help raise the leaders of tomorrow.