Sunday, August 13, 2023

On the importance of literacy...................

     Not surprisingly, given Jefferson's years of being taught by Douglas and Small, two Scots, his views would come to reflect Scottish thinkers of the time. . . .

 Scotland's influence on American history was profound and remains underappreciated.  The story of this development is fascinating.  In the early eighteenth century, Scotland was a poor country, isolated in the northwestern corner of Europe.  Yet in the subsequent decades it achieved a high literacy rate and enjoyed an intellectual explosion, with a noted above, Scots more or less inventing the fields of modern economics and geology, as well as eventually setting off the Industrial Revolution with the steam engine.

     The Scottish divergence from English thinking had its roots in changes that began two hundred years earlier, when the Scottish church, long independent of the English one, underwent a Calvinist reformation from which the Presbyterian Church emerged.  This new church placed a strong emphasis on literacy, because it believed the people should be able to read their Bibles.  In 1661, it became church policy that every Scottish town should have a schoolmaster educated in Latin, while rural parishes should have a minister capable of giving basic instruction to country youth.

     Within a few generations, the effect of this policy could be seen across Scotland.  By 1750, according to some estimates, 75 percent of Scots could read, compared to 53 percent in England.

-Thomas E. Ricks, First Principles: What America's Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country

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