As mentioned in my previous post, I will be responding to a blog dedicated to explaining why the author of that blog does not Thomas Jefferson Educate his children.

An overarching theme I have noticed in my disagreement with J.L.L. is that we share a life on the same planet but have different worlds.  We use the same words but those words have different meanings to us.  That sort of disconnect makes it difficult for a productive discussion to occur and oftentimes there is more agreement between the parties than they may admit or realize.

Thomas Jefferson Education is not for everyone.  It simply is not for everyone.  Some people should be in public school and others should be homeschooled, and some may follow a leadership education and others may not.  It is not indispensable for leadership education in order to have a leader, but the odds of a leader coming from that kind of background are fairly high.

J.L.L. asserts that “Classics and Mentors Have Not Been Key Elements in Developing Most Great Leaders“.  Where my opinion diverges from J.L.L.’s opinion is probably in the definition of “Classics” and “Mentors”.

J.L.L. uses dictionary definitions for Classics and Mentors.  His discussion of what makes a classic reminds me of an essay from a certain movie.  It is not useful so have such a rigid definition of a classic.  My own definition of what I consider to be a classic is something that is educational and has enduring positive value.  There are art classics in sculpture, oil paintings, water colors, and other media.  There are musical classics, math classics, science classics, and in many, many ways there are value classics.  Stories where someone does a difficult thing under great amounts of pressure is a good example of values we seek to uphold and to emulate.  Fiddler on the Roof is a modern classic.  It teaches family values and sacrificing for your religious faith.  Many biographies are classics because studying great people will teach you about great things.  At the risk of sounding redundant, great people do great things and reading about those great people and their great acts will tend to teach you about greatness.

People can be classics.  Reading a biography is a way of studying a classic person at a distance.  Especially if they are already dead.  The point of reading or studying a classic is to gain either knowledge or to gain a value.  There are a great many values that can be learned from stuying classics be they movies, books, art, living people, or some other media.

To only use the dictionary definition of a classic shortchanges and distorts the point of a leadership education in the Thomas Jefferson Model.  Using my definition of classics, the Thomas Jefferson Education Model is right on.

The discussion on mentors is limited by J.L.L. because he seems to only take a formalistic approach to identifying who mentors are.  It is not explicitly mentioned by J.L.L, but he is only looking at education in a more formal setting and point of view.  Mentors can help in all walks of life.  I have friends/mentors that help me with pretty much any aspect of my life.  I have mentors for parenting, car repair, spirituality, legal education, classical education, and others.  There is nothing formal about our relationship but I learn from them anyway.

Perhaps my definition of classics and mentors is rather expansive, but it sure works for me.  When I am looking to gain a better knowledge of a particular matter, I will seek out someone I know and trust who is of a high moral character to guide me in my quest for knowledge.

So, with these foundational concepts of what exactly is a classic and what a mentor is or does, J.L.L.’s examples of historic leaders all studied classics and had mentors.

For me, the biggest failing of J.L.L.’s critique of the Classics and Mentors model is that he claims Joseph  Smith Jr. did not have access to Classics or Mentors.  The story of the First Vision is an example of how this may work for a real person.

Joseph Smith studied the Central Classic of the United States as a boy, a book known to many as the Holy Bible.  In his studies he worked with several local ministers and reverends and in particular James Chapter 1 verse 5.  He then decided to act and then prayed and had the First Vision.  After that event, Joseph Smith is reported to have had visions too numerous to comprehensively document.  Joseph Smith learned from the Savior, Moroni, Adam, Seth, Paul, and many other dear departed prophets and apostles.  He continued to read from the Bible (a classic), the Book of Mormon (a classic), and from other works common to his day including things like Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.  At the very least, Joseph Smith was Mentored by the Almighty in visions and revelations.

Many of the other people that J.L.L. claims did not have any study with Classics and Mentors all had opportunities to study classics in their fields of choice whether they were philosophy, war making, military leadership, or any other field of endeavor, they were able to enjoy more personalized education by working with individuals of great knowledge and experience instead of merely learning from books.

It is rather telling that J.L.L. only allows for classics of western thought when he somewhat dismissively states that Ghandi “ended up renouncing western ideas anyway”.  I wonder if he meant that Ghandi renounced western ideas of home rule, self-determination, or representative democracy.  These were things that Ghandi actually worked for in his pursuit of Independence for India.  These are somewhat universal desires and not necessarily limited to western thought however.

It seems that perhaps the rigid definitions of classics employed by J.L.L. and the perhaps lack of a complete history of great leaders is the source of his disagreement about the importance of Classics and Mentors.

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