“Learning is not to be attained by chance, it must be sought with ardor and attended to with diligence,” wrote Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, second President of the United States and mother of John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States. Abigail wrote many letters throughout her lifetime, and many of them contain wisdom that has withstood time.
Abigail was correct. We must put in the effort to be informed. We must also teach our children how to seek out facts and not let them be led into thinking that all the facts they need will be presented to them free of bias.
Yes, there are many warnings about misinformation being spread these days, but often those that are issuing the warnings are the ones spreading the misinformation. How can we find the truth? How can we teach our children to find the truth?
Today it’s easier than ever to find information, however, the source of information is not always given the scrutiny it deserves. Just because something is printed in a reputable newspaper or is spoken by a respected expert, that doesn’t mean it’s true.
Thomas Jefferson understood the value of questioning everything. In 1787 he wrote, “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
These days whenever a Founding Father’s quote or thought is put forward, there is an immediate attack on the Founding Father. The content of what was said is derailed from the conversation. That is sad because this makes all the conversations the same. The conversation becomes one about whether or not the Founding Fathers are worthy of being acknowledged. That is a convenient way to dispose of the initial point.
We have to start pushing back on that tactic and concede that, yes, the Founding Father had faults, and those faults can be discussed another time. We then should insist that the focus of the conversation get back to the quote or thought first cited.
If the person cannot continue the conversation about something, someone they find fault with said, that is telling. To me, that means they do not want to talk about the topic but instead want to switch gears and denounce the Founding Father. That will most likely morph into a conversation about how horrible America is.
Perhaps that is a good time to ask whether they believe that people they find fault with ever say anything worth discussing. We need more discussion about issues and ideology and less about the personalities or wrong-doing of the individual.
Now, with that out of the way… let’s get back to the point that Jefferson was making, which was the importance of asking questions. Jefferson was encouraging fact-finding and then using reason to come to conclusions. Blindfolded fear is to be avoided.
So, let’s go forward on our journey seeking to learn as Abigail Adams suggested and keep these words of her husband John Adams in mind…
“The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”
More worthy words from John Adams to end with are…
“Always stand on principle….even if you stand alone.”
Diana Erbio is a freelance writer and author of “Coming to America: A Girl Struggles to Find her Way in a New World.” Read her Blog Series “Statues: The People They Salute” by clicking Table of Contents.
She’s now also at Substack.
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