Monday, September 07, 2009
Read the Founders!
Apropos of President Obama's forthcoming speech to America's schoolchildren, Tim Rutten writes in the Los Angeles Times that one conservative group "is urging parents to demand that their children be excused from watching the president and be sent instead to the library to read the Founding Fathers." I think this is a fine idea, and as a historian of early national America, I would like to offer the following reading suggestions:
* Benjamin Franklin, "Advice to a Young Friend on Finding a Mistress," a 1745 letter observing that the proper remedy for "the violent natural inclinations" of youth is marriage, but that taking a mistress is an acceptable substitute, as long as she is an older woman.
* Thomas Paine (or, as we call him here in the early 21st century, "Glenn Beck"), "Agrarian Justice." Argues in favor of the creation of a guaranteed income for all, funded by a tax on estates. "It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for."
* Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on the State of Virginia," Chapter 17. The future third president's reflections on the separation of church and state: "It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
No offense to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue intended, but any of these essays would be more edifying and stimulating than an address on the importance of doing well in school.