Education has always been regarded an advancement of knowledge, regardless of the time period and location. However, factors such as poverty, slavery, and racism have always limited access towards education, restricting opportunities and pursuits for victims of such elements. History depicts how the influence of education can positively impact a society, for current culture continues to acknowledge the teachings and studies of exemplum such as Socrates and Isaac Newtown. Francis Bacon and Thomas Jefferson, in his work The New Atlantis and in his letters to John Adams, respectively, are also two historical models who have each emphasized his similar but different attitude over how the significance of education can affect society, for Bacon depicts a society where the pursuit for knowledge stems from a religious inspiration while Jefferson firmly argues that a proper education system should emphasize upon separation between church and state.
Established upon a history based on a religious phenomenon, Bensalem, the society described in Bacon’s work, The New Atlantis, shows the significant influence of religion upon education, for it defines God as the fundamental motivation and reason who allows for their advancement of knowledge. As a result, the religious stimulation fashions methods that shed “light . . . , [a] growth of all parts of the world” (Bacon 254), upon Bensalem’s customs and lifestyle. As a result, the inhabitants bestow “praise and thanks to God for . . . imploring his aid” (247) upon each succession of their expeditions around the world, as it has “[given] us knowledge of the affairs and state of those countries” (254).
However, they not only collect information concerning “especially of the sciences, arts, manufactures, and inventions of all the world” (254) but also incorporate their new knowledge into their own purposes. Their integration of self-learned and gathered education has allowed them to “make predictions of diseases . . . comets, temperature of the year, and diverse other things”, which permits them to prosper, despite being a mere island, as advanced as other prominent societies. With God’s “aid and blessing for the illumination of our labors and the turning of them into good and holy uses” (268), the pupils of Bensalem depict their miracles of success through a reasoning of how God “never workest miracles but to a divine and excellent end” (248) and how God has created enlightenment in their ability to learn from and interpret knowledge under their own influence.
As a society established under the belief of God’s will and authority, Bacon’s imaginary society seems “rather [more] angelical than magical” (Bacon 249) , but nevertheless has earned its values and through its pursuits for knowledge. Bacon depicts that the power of knowledge has enabled Bensalem to uphold its uncommon yet efficient way of life, ultimately defining it as a utopia since “we [are able to] maintain a trade, not for gold, silver, or jewels . . . but only for God’s first creature, which was Light” (254). However, Thomas Jefferson writes in his letters to John Adams of the importance between separation between church and state, in an attempt to prevent any religious influence upon the exploration of knowledge in a young America’s growing education system.
As one of the Founding Fathers who has influenced, to a great degree, the foundation of the United States, Thomas Jefferson advocated for an education system that would bring enlightenment of knowledge in a non-religious way by enforcing a freedom of religion within the government. Jefferson sought for and supported a conceptual idea of how knowledge could be dispersed throughout the youth of American society with the establishment of “a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic” (Jefferson 390). Whether one had a background of aristocracy or one of farmers, Jefferson advocated for the betterment of the common people through education not in an attempt to over through those who were at advantage through wealth and respectable histories but instead to bring “respectability necessary to their own safety” (390). Jefferson seeks for a future of society that will allow people to live a life earned of prudence and wisdom through education. As a result, the proposal that the public may “receive at the public expense a higher degree of education” (390), to Jefferson, serves as his own aspiration to bring education to the public youth through methods of religious freedom.
Education, to Jefferson, allowed the mind to analyze concepts through subjects, such as sciences and literature, in order to allow one to make one’s own judgments regarding one’s matters instead of following in blind agreement as many do, according to him, through religion. Jefferson writes to Adams that the “whole history of [the Gospels] is so defective” (421), in an attempt to explains that religious followers who practice their belief without a mindset bolstered by an advancement of knowledge follow a faith blindly. The messages and morality provided by religion, to Jefferson, have been distorted through time, for its followers engage in practices that do not enable them to see that “such tricks have been played with their text” (421), providing evidence, once again, of the lack of independent judgments. Jefferson promotes that rational thinking that education can provide in the right mindset will allow the American society to consider and realize “that we have a right . . . to entertain much doubt what parts of [the texts in the Gospels] are genuine” (421). Furthermore, the law for religious freedom acts to “put down the aristocracy of the clergy”, which allows the common people access to education, and “[restores] to the citizen the freedom of the mind”, allowing the individual to think in an unreligious mindset but rather a scientific and logical mindset. In conclusion, Jefferson makes a statement that education “[raises] the mass of the people to the high ground of moral respectability necessary to their own safety”, which in turn will create, ideally, a democratic based government where the people will be able to give thoughtful and smart feedback.
The influence of both Bacon’s and Jefferson’s views of education continue to bring an advancement of knowledge in society, as individuals, regardless of age, gender, or race share their knowledge with others, creating motivation to upgrade and modify everyday thoughts. Inspiration no longer needs to be demanded at extreme options, for factors, such as the Internet, mobilize research and data within seconds from across the world. Education has brought enlightenment to individuals, regardless of whether one discovers and earns knowledge through religious teachings or non-religious instructions. However, the there are still regions that still lie within the shadows and create an environment of not only bring closure but also blind acceptance, and only an equal opportunity for education throughout the world would bring, ideally, both rationality and wisdom merited from knowledge throughout all of mankind.