March 30 1816: Educating Jefferson’s Grandson

The PastNow blog has a very interesting approach to history, presenting events and often first-person writings from dates exactly 200 years in the past. I thought this was a fascinating piece showing a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to his son-in-law, with a prescient message about the importance of language education. So many people today are enraged when they hear “Press 1 for English” on a telephone menu, so I wonder what they would think to read this letter from one of our founding fathers.

pastnow

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On March 30 1816, Thomas Jefferson writes to his son-in-law  John Wayles Eppes. The letter concerns the education of his grandson, Francis Wayles Eppes VII. Francis is fourteen years old. Jefferson thinks that he should learn Spanish. “It is a language,” he writes, “which will be very important to an American; as we shall have great intercourse with Spanish America within his day”.

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