07 May 2008

Can your honor student do this?

Dear Sir,

I love to receive letters very well, much better than I love to write them. I make but a poor figure at composition; my head is much too fickle. My thoughts are running after birds’-eggs, play and trifles, till I get vexed with myself. Mamma has a troublesome task to keep me steady, and I own I am ashamed of myself. I have but just entered the third volume of Smollett, though I had designed to have got half through it by this time. I have determined this week to be more diligent, as Mr. Thaxter will be absent at court, and I can not pursue my other studies.

I have set myself a stint, and determine to read the third volume half out. If I can but keep my resolution I will write again at the end of the week, and give a better account of myself. I wish, sir, you would give me some instructions with regard to my time, and advise me how to proportion my studies and my play, in writing, and I will keep them by me and endeavor to follow them. I am, dear sir, with a present determination of growing better….

[…]

P.S.— Sir, if you will be so good as to favor me with a blank-book I will transcribe the most remarkable occurrences I meet with in my reading, which will serve to fix them upon my mind.

The writer of that letter, was John Quincy Adams, age 10. The recipient was his father.

Yesterday I was viewing one of the many websites devoted to debunking Creationism. The proprietor of this particular site blames creationism for the amount of ignorance in the U.S. He may be right. But frankly, I think the problem is not so much what is taught (which is very little, even – or especially – in public schools) but how it is taught. I suspect there were more “creationists” in John Quincy Adams’ day than there are now. They do not give the impression of having been ignorant for it.

I mean, bear in mind that The Federalist Papers were written to be read by farmers.

I live in one of those areas where it seems every one who has a child in school has an honor child in school. I often think to myself how much I’d like to read a letter such as they might write to their parents. But when I recall the samplings I've received from high school graduates (graduates of high schools where evolution is taught, by the way) I'm afraid. Very, very, afraid.

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James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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