Jefferson believed firmly in the value of education.
His whole idea of government depended on the ability of citizens to make intelligent decisions.
Jefferson had been interested in education for most of his life. He had developed many ideas about the best way to educate the people.
He believed that every citizen had the right to an education. But, he understood that all people do not have the same ability to learn.
Jefferson divided the people into two groups: those who labor and those who use their minds.
He thought both should start with the same simple education -- learning to read and write and count.
After these things were learned, he believed the two groups should be taught separately.
Those in the labor group, he thought, should learn how to be better farmers or how to make things with their hands. The other group should study science, or medicine or law.
We cannot always do what is absolutely best. Those with whom we act have different ideas.
They have the right and power to act on their ideas. We make progress only one step at a time.
To do our fellow men the most good, we must lead where we can, follow where we cannot. But we must still go with them, watching always for the moment we can help them move forward another step.
We propose a school system of three steps.
The first step would be elementary schools, where all children could learn reading, writing, arithmetic and geography.
The second step would be colleges.
Students would begin the study of science, or would study agriculture, or how to use their hands to make things.
The third step would be a state university, where students of great ability could go to get the best of educations.
The university would produce the lawyers, doctors, professors, scientists and government leaders.
Young men whose families had money would pay for their own educations.
The state would pay the costs of a small number of bright students from poor families.