I’m reading Liars For Jesus, The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History, by Chris Rodda, a marvelous refutation of the outrageous claims of David Barton and others on the right concerning original intents of the founders on church/state issues. I will do a review when I finish, but I can tell you now, the book is well worth having for the insightful history alone. The following is a summary of an incident from the chapter she devotes to Thomas Jefferson’s establishment of the University of Virginia, and his involvement with public education as a whole.
Jefferson began establishing the University by having himself appointed as a director of a not-yet-built but chartered small college in Charlottesville, Virginia called Albemarle Academy. In a series of measured, careful steps over the next several years, he transformed this small idea into what had always been his dream, a totally secular public institution called The University of Virginia.
One of the interim steps involved developing a “plan” for the trustees to approve, part of which listed the various departments and professorships envisioned for the college. Although Jefferson had no intension of ever having a school of Theology, one was included in the first plan as it was necessary, at this stage, in order to obtain the approvals necessary to proceed.
Jefferson sent a copy of the plan to Dr. Thomas Cooper, a respected professor whom Jefferson hoped to add to his faculty when the University was approved. Dr. Cooper wrote back to Jefferson objecting to the presence of the Theology school, and expressed his surprise that Jefferson had included it. Jefferson wrote the following reply to Cooper’s comments:
“I agree with yours of the 22nd, that a professorship of Theology should have no place in our institution. But we cannot always do what is absolutely best. Those with whom we act, entertaining different views, have the power and the right of carrying them into practice. Truth advances, and error recedes step by step only; and to do to our fellow men the most good in our power, we must lead where we can, follow where we cannot, and still go with them, watching always the favorable moment for helping them to another step.” (Emphasis mine)
At least sixty Democrats in the house have pledged to kill any bill that does not include a strong public option. I am all for the public option, but I am afraid that this tactic could well backfire on the Democratic Party, for if we do not get a bill passed in this congress, our chances of getting a global warming measure and EFCA passed become even more remote. Not to mention what failure to pass health care would do to our chances in 2010!
The administration has made some serious tactical errors, in my view, so far in this struggle, and although I’m not against trying to get the best bill we can, we should not take an “all or nothing” approach to health care reform. Social Security was not passed like that, nor was Medicare. Both were done in increments, and there is no reason why health care reform cannot be done the same way, especially when it will be years before whatever is passed takes effect.
Like Jefferson, we have to take what we can get, given the circumstances, and maintain our forward momentum, because that’s what will win in the long run. If you like football metaphors, you have to take what the defense will give you!