In 1779, John Adams wrote the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Today, it is the oldest constitution still in continuous use.
Although this document served as a model for all of the constitutions to come, it places a unique emphasis on education that is not reflected in its more famous successor, the U.S. Constitution. For John Adams, the success of democracy depends on the general education of the populace. In the fifth chapter, he singles out Harvard College as one of the key institutions of the Commonwealth, just as necessary to good government as the legislature or the judiciary.
In addition to traditional subjects such as arts, sciences, commerce, and agriculture, part of the educational mandate is to “…countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.”
Most importantly, our constitution does not limit responsibility for education to the government and schools. All public and private institutions are asked to participate in the task of shaping an electorate that is wise, knowledgeable and virtuous. It seems that the ultimate mandate for Tech Networks’ corporate social responsibility program lies in these words written by John Adams over 200 years ago:
Chapter V, Section II.
The Encouragement of Literature, etc.
Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.
This blog post was inspired by David McCullough’s 2003 Jefferson Lecture, The Course of Human Events.