“The more Adams thought about the future of his country, the more convinced he became that it rested on education. Before any great things are accomplished, he wrote to a correspondent, a memorable change must be made in the system of education and knowledge must become so general as to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher. The education of a nation instead of being confined to a few schools and universities for the instruction of the few, must become the national care and expense for the formation of the many.”
― David McCullough, John Adams
I've been reading David McCullough's John Adams for approximately 647 days, according to GoodReads.com. Truth is, I've read a few books while I've trudged through this beast of a book. The thing is, it's not a bad book. It's just a massive book. I've rededicated myself to finishing it (see a trend here?), and with it, I've noticed that John Adams and Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, and all the rest of the people that were living in the early days of the revolution were incredibly interesting. I can't help but wonder if books written 300 years from now will show the current residents of Earth in such an interesting light.
The quote above is timeless, and can be used to suggest John Adams supports everything from Universal Pre-K to free higher education. Both might be true if the second President of the United States of America were around today for a quick Q&A to confirm. It opens up a huge can of worms. What would John Adams think about charter schools? Where would he stand on standardized testing? How about teacher tenure?
The best answer to these questions can be found simply by googling John Adams quotes. Googling gives millions of results, all claiming quotes by Adams, and then there are even more websites claiming misquotes.
I wanted to share the quote above because it created a reaction from me when I read it. Like a "Heck Yeah!" reaction, where I wished I could shout it out loud, like it'd make a difference. I ended up posting a photo of the paragraph to Instagram. I didn't post to Facebook because I thought it'd create a discussion that either paints me as a liberal hippy or cause a comment by one friend to offend another who might work in academia.
I thought about how quotes inspire us to share them, because they create that reaction, and then I thought how rarely do people try to attribute quotes to sources? I guess it doesn't really matter, right? It's the one or two lines of inspiration, who cares if it wasn't really spoken or written by the person you attribute it to?
I'm too lazy to research it and add it here, but John Wayne has been the unfortunate subject of a lot of misquotes that are shared on social media. Poor guy.
I've kind of lost my point, which is addressing the importance of making sure a quote is actually tied to the person you're referencing. So let's wrap it up.
John Adams was an incredibly bright individual, and he likely would have supported whatever things I support, because he famously might've once said, “Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”