Drink up the cup of knowledge


(…) Democracy, liberty of conscience and knowledge were the three great ideals for which Jefferson fought all his life. The creation of the University of Virginia in 1825 near his Monticello farm in Charlottesville was the endeavor that occupied him once his presidential mandate was over. He did not want the families of the South to have to send their sons to Northern colleges to develop a world-view adjusted to the reality they would have to live and administrate. He also did not want the University of Virginia to be a mere copy of Harvard, but rather a center for innovation. The model study plan Jefferson designed for the University of Virginia, based on the student’s ability to choose their own courses and the emphasis on practical sciences, would be exported to other American universities at the hands of his closest collaborators. “Attendance was essential – unlike at other schools – because professors were required to lecture, not just read from textbooks, an innovative method of teaching in America.” (Bowman & Santos, 2013, 71) 

The boldness of Jefferson’s idea for the university can be surmised in the design of the campus: in the central place the universities reserved for the chapel, Jefferson placed the library. The building of the rotunda, inspired by the Greek Parthenon was designed to represent “the authority of nature and power of reason”; reaffirming Jefferson’s daring bet on the separation of church and state that inspired his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786. (…)



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