Quick note on Jefferson and adolescence

Yesterday, on his Wallbuilders Live program, David Barton called adolescence a “progressive, liberal phenomenon.” He also said there was no adolescence during the founding era.

The term adolescence is derived from the Latin adolesco which means to grow up and mature. The concept and the term itself are not modern creations, although each age and culture develops different norms for teens.

Thomas Jefferson’s father died when Jefferson was 14. Did he identify that time of his life as in some way different than adulthood? He certainly appeared to in his 1808 letter to his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. In that letter, he spoke of that time in his life, and noted characteristics of adolescence.

When I recollect that at 14, the whole care & direction of myself was thrown on myself entirely, without a relation or friend qualified to advise or guide me, and recollect the various sorts of bad company with which I associated from time to time, I am astonished I did not turn off with some of them & become as worthless to society as they were.

Jefferson recognized that at 14, guidance of an adult was needed. He then credited his mentors, Randolph, Wythe and Small, for helping get through those times by their examples. And why did he need their example?

Knowing the even and dignified line they pursued, I could never doubt for a moment which of two courses would be in character for them. Whereas, seeking the same object through a process of moral reasoning, & with the jaundiced eye of youth, I should often have erred.

Curses on that “jaundiced eye of youth!” Jefferson recognized a formative period, call it youth or adolescence. His plans for public education took into account the intellectual and physical changes associated with youth and adolescence. Unless Barton would like now¬†to ¬†reverse course and consider Jefferson liberal and progressive, I can’t understand the point of taking on adolescence as some kind of liberal invention.

 

16 thoughts on “Quick note on Jefferson and adolescence”

  1. As a recovering fundamentalist it has been my experience that most fundamentalists, and that includes those attending fundamentalist college and in the ministry, do not fact check their leaders and preachers. They simply take them at their word; I don’t know if that is laziness or denial. Maybe a combination of both.

    It has also been my experience that when fundamentalists and evangelicals seriously start looking at things they often cease to be fundamentalist and/or evangelical. The sad part is that so many are totally walking wounded by that time that they turn from God and embrace an atheist viewpoint.

  2. Turning from god. You say that like it’s a bad thing. Embracing rationalism and atheism was the most exhilarating moment of my life. Gods are as small as the brains that made them. The universe may not be made for us, but that makes it, and our existence all the more wonderous and precious to me.

  3. David,

    I too am a recovering fundamentalist. I attended a fundamentalist church and school where we were taught not to question the Bible or our preachers as they were “divinely inspired”. My journey to elightenment began after graduating from an ELCA college, I was taught to read the Bible critically and I was taught the history of Christianity as well as the religions of the world and their similarities to each other.

    As my academic credentials increased so did my view of absolute evangelical doctrine. I feel that, just as the founders did, that religion is a very personal issue which should not be pushed on others. Bending history to fit an agenda,Christian or otherwise, is a sin among real historians. While in grad school, I read the works of some of the top historians in the field. It was at this point that I realized Barton was not telling the entire story. Fundamentalists have a habit of taking things out of context to support their point.

    Mark

    .

  4. It is entirely possible to believe in a “Supreme Creator” and sill utilize rational thought with religious values and principles to guide life decisions.

    The beauty of the USA is that we are free to embrace or reject monotheistic or polytheistic religion.

    Mark

  5. It is entirely possible to believe in a “Supreme Creator” and sill utilize rational thought with religious values and principles to guide life decisions.

    The beauty of the USA is that we are free to embrace or reject monotheistic or polytheistic religion.

    Mark

  6. There was a reason for apprenticeships in colonial America. (But we dare not say that, it sounds like organized labor, those Jesus hating socialists)

  7. There was a reason for apprenticeships in colonial America. (But we dare not say that, it sounds like organized labor, those Jesus hating socialists)

  8. Tom, the same question could be asked of the Founders’ requirement that 21 be the minimum voting age.

    It was the 26th Amendment. ratified in the 1970s, that lowered the minimum voting age to 18.

  9. Tom, the same question could be asked of the Founders’ requirement that 21 be the minimum voting age.

    It was the 26th Amendment. ratified in the 1970s, that lowered the minimum voting age to 18.

  10. Turning from gods made in one’s own image is certainly a very GOOD thing. One the great ironies of religious fundamentalism is its tendency to ‘tightly define’ God, according to texts written by humans and / or human dogma; inevitably, such an exercise leads to ‘gods in the image of [the worst aspects of] humans’.

    There is always a danger that any human construct can become a ‘god’ (‘money’ springs immediately to mind – now there’s a ‘human construct’ if ever there was one!), and – no disrespect to Pareidolius – this can be as true of rationalism and atheism as it for theism / religion. That said, the embrace of enquiry can be enormously rewarding, for both individuals and societies.

  11. Turning from gods made in one’s own image is certainly a very GOOD thing. One the great ironies of religious fundamentalism is its tendency to ‘tightly define’ God, according to texts written by humans and / or human dogma; inevitably, such an exercise leads to ‘gods in the image of [the worst aspects of] humans’.

    There is always a danger that any human construct can become a ‘god’ (‘money’ springs immediately to mind – now there’s a ‘human construct’ if ever there was one!), and – no disrespect to Pareidolius – this can be as true of rationalism and atheism as it for theism / religion. That said, the embrace of enquiry can be enormously rewarding, for both individuals and societies.

  12. Turning from god. You say that like it’s a bad thing. Embracing rationalism and atheism was the most exhilarating moment of my life. Gods are as small as the brains that made them. The universe may not be made for us, but that makes it, and our existence all the more wonderous and precious to me.

  13. If the founders didn’t believe in adolescence, why did they set the minimum age for Congressmen at 25?

  14. David,

    I too am a recovering fundamentalist. I attended a fundamentalist church and school where we were taught not to question the Bible or our preachers as they were “divinely inspired”. My journey to elightenment began after graduating from an ELCA college, I was taught to read the Bible critically and I was taught the history of Christianity as well as the religions of the world and their similarities to each other.

    As my academic credentials increased so did my view of absolute evangelical doctrine. I feel that, just as the founders did, that religion is a very personal issue which should not be pushed on others. Bending history to fit an agenda,Christian or otherwise, is a sin among real historians. While in grad school, I read the works of some of the top historians in the field. It was at this point that I realized Barton was not telling the entire story. Fundamentalists have a habit of taking things out of context to support their point.

    Mark

    .

  15. As a recovering fundamentalist it has been my experience that most fundamentalists, and that includes those attending fundamentalist college and in the ministry, do not fact check their leaders and preachers. They simply take them at their word; I don’t know if that is laziness or denial. Maybe a combination of both.

    It has also been my experience that when fundamentalists and evangelicals seriously start looking at things they often cease to be fundamentalist and/or evangelical. The sad part is that so many are totally walking wounded by that time that they turn from God and embrace an atheist viewpoint.

  16. If the founders didn’t believe in adolescence, why did they set the minimum age for Congressmen at 25?

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