Southern Education


Cicero and the South

William Byrd II of Westover on the James River in Colonial Virginia lived a full generation before Thomas Jefferson, but they are comparable in their intellectual pursuits. Byrd had perhaps the largest library in the colonies, certainly below the Potomac River, and he began each day by reading, usually ancient authors, Greek or Roman, in the original languages. Private diaries…

Jefferson on “Nation Building”

On July 19, 1823, Adamantios Koraïs—preeminent Greek scholar (1748–1833), philosopher of education, polyglot (Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Dutch, French, and English), and revolutionist—writes to Thomas Jefferson for “help from men truly free.” Circumstances in Greece are parlous. Greeks, under Turkic yoke since the middle of the fifteenth century, are in the midst of a revolution, begun in 1821, and Greeks…
M. Andrew Holowchak
April 5, 2024

Mr. H

When I was in school, many of my teachers were from North Carolina, one of them Miss M., a large and rather loud woman with steel-grey hair.  We liked her much better than her predecessor, the Chicagoan with the prominent nose who mocked our country speech.  We also liked our North Carolinian physical education teacher, a right pleasant person.  And…
J.L. Bennett
February 2, 2024

The University of Virginia

Circumstantially Southern, Scientifically American (A Story Told in the Present Tense) When Thomas Jefferson retires from the presidency after his second term and following the example of George Washington, he cannot merely withdraw to his residence at Monticello and oversee his plantation. Retirement and withdrawal are not in his DNA, as it were. He does what he can do, while…
M. Andrew Holowchak
March 15, 2023

The Death of Bully

Oh to be here. Alabama College in the middle of January with the Christmas dances rested up from and the Valentine’s dance at Mississippi State yet to come. A joy. The girls down the hall bragging about their dates but a better one to shut them down. Charles. Tall, dark, and handsome even if he is not six foot three.…
Sarah B. Guest Perry
January 27, 2023

Pete Hegseth’s Hopeful War on “Education”

Pete Hegseth has a book out, Battle for the American Mind, which among other promotions and revelations has taken on the chore (however “Johnny-come-lately”) of denigrating the general process of education in this country. First, and foremost I would say, hooray for Mr, Hegseth. And to his efforts, I say, good hunting, Sir.  And when you finally tree this coon,…
Paul H. Yarbrough
June 28, 2022

Thomas Roderick Dew

Editor's note: The author of this piece won the Bennett History Medal in 1908 for this essay, and was published in the June 1909 volume of the John P. Branch Historical Papers. The Bennett prize is still awarded annually by Randolph Macon College to the best undergraduate history paper. This particular essay displays a depth of understanding even contemporary graduate…
D. Ralph Midyette, Jr.
December 2, 2021

The Uneducated Antebellum South?

Conditions and Limitations of Southern Educational Efforts. In the discussion of educational interests and educational work in the various parts of the Union, from the colonial period to 1861 and later, a proper account has not usually been taken of the conditions and limitations which controlled educational effort in the various sections. The states at large are, by the facts,…
Robert Burwell Fulton
September 16, 2021

Faust and the Devil–Teachers, Histrionic Historians

Why bother with opening the schools, if all that you’ll have is the same uneducated blowhards filling the minds of children with the same monstrous mush that is conjured by these same blowhards who want to be paid for sitting on their butts in the first place? Teachers go on vacation while telling students to “zoom’’ in on their “home”…
Paul H. Yarbrough
May 27, 2021

Robert E. Lee: The Educator

Continued from Part 3.  “And of all the officers or men whom I ever knew he came (save one other alone) the nearest in likeness to that classical ideal Chevalier Bayard…And if these, our modern, commercial, mechanical, utilitarian ages, ever did develop a few of these types of male chivalric virtues, which we attribute solely to those 'ages of faith,' Robert E. Lee was…
Earl Starbuck
May 12, 2021

Robert E. Lee: Educator and Conciliator

Robert E. Lee considered reconciliation and education to be his highest duties after the War. While many other Confederate leaders left the United States, Lee remained in Virginia and worked to heal the wounds of the War. He turned down political positions and refused to capitalize on his name, and instead accepted a position as President of Washington College to…
Philip Leigh
April 21, 2021

An Interview with Clyde Wilson, Part II

I hope you all enjoyed Part 1 of my interview with Dr. Clyde Wilson. In this installment, the Carolina lion talks about his years in Chapel Hill, decimates modern higher “education,” explains his journalistic background, discusses his seminal academic work, gives Calhoun his due, and even offers some advice to today’s students. DM: Was your bachelor’s degree in journalism? And…
Dissident Mama
June 8, 2020

Education and the South

Theories of education in any land are never easily divorced from the prevailing ideas regarding civics and economics. Education's function, particularly toward the young, will become merely to render them fit to partake in the civic and economic institutions of a nation. Thus its methods and goals will be shaped by these spheres. The end result is a reciprocal relationship…
Robert Hoyle
January 15, 2020

The Culture of Thomas Jefferson

To the student of the Classics the most interesting thing in the Library of Congress at Washington is the considerable remnant of the library of Thomas Jefferson. On October 6, 1820, Jefferson wrote to his young grandson, Francis Eppes, "I consider you as having made such proficiency in Latin and Greek that on your arrival at Columbia you may at…
Fred Irland
April 12, 2019

On Remaining Humble in Modern Academia

After reading Richard Weaver’s monumental work Ideas Have Consequences last semester I was struck with one characterization of the “ideal man” that has since been shaping the way I look at my own academic future. For a young seminary student like myself pursuing “Christ-likeness” was a given, but my eyes were never fully open to what that meant in relation…
Jonathan Harris
May 18, 2018

A College Boy’s Observation of General Lee

A few years after General Lee accepted the presidency of the then Washington College, I was sent to be entered in the preparatory department, along with an older brother who was to enter college. The morning after we reached Lexington we repaired to the office of General Lee, situated in the college building, for the purpose of matriculation and receiving…
John B. Collyar
January 18, 2018
Review Posts

My Son, Get Wisdom, Get Understanding

Address delivered to the graduates of the South Carolina College, December 1821. Gentlemen, YOU are now about to quit the precincts of the College, and to enter upon the commerce of the world. Your education is supposed to be finished; in reality it is about to commence. The roads that lead to knowledge useful and ornamental, have been pointed out…
Thomas Cooper
June 17, 2016
Review Posts

European Influences in the South

This essay is a chapter from The South in the Building of the Nation series, History of the Social Life. The solidarity of public opinion in the South has been so often commented upon that it is difficult to realize the heterogeneous elements employed in making her population. The "solid South" is not only a political but in many respects…
Edwin Mims
February 2, 2016

What’s Holding Alabama Back?

As I watched my local Montgomery, Alabama news station this morning, I saw that question pop up on the screen. What’s holding Alabama back? Wait, what? What do you mean by “holding back?” In the segment, the news station sent out a roving reporter on the streets of Montgomery to ask random citizens to tell him what they believe is…
Tom Daniel
February 1, 2016

Old South Education before the War to Destroy Southern Civilization

In the Old South, only those children whose parents thought they needed education, attended school; many did not.  Of those who did not, many were taught at home to read or to read and write.  A higher percentage of Southerners than Northerners attended college, though students in Southern colleges were more interested in making and enjoying social contacts than in…
George Crockett
January 29, 2016

Lee the Philosopher

This essay was originally published in The Georgia Review, Vol. II, No. 3 (Fall 1948), 297-303. As the Civil War assumes increasingly the role of an American Iliad, a tendency sets in for its heroes to take on Fixed characterizations. Epithets of praise and blame begin to recur, and a single virtue usurps the right to personify the individual. In…
Richard M. Weaver
January 22, 2016
Clyde Wilson Library

Hanging with the Snarks: An Academic Memoir

There seemed to be little interest among audience members in whether the ideas I had presented were true, only whether their application would bring about results they liked. I used to have a running argument with a colleague, a great scholar now gathered to his fathers, during late afternoon seminars catered by the good folks at Jack Daniels. The argument…
Clyde Wilson
March 25, 2015
Clyde Wilson Library

Origins of the Educational Nightmare

John Chodes, Destroying the Republic: Jabez Curry and the Re-Education of the Old South. New York: Algora Publishing. 332 pp. $29.95 (quality paperback) Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry of Alabama (1825–1903) was one of those fairly numerous 19th century Americans whose lives of astounding talent and energy put to shame the diminished leaders of the U.S. in the 21st century. Or…
Clyde Wilson
January 29, 2015

The Runnin’ Black Bears? No.

“Defeat has not made ‘all our sacred things profane.’ The war has left the South its own memories, its own heroes, its own tears, its own dead. Under these traditions, sons will grow to manhood, and lessons sink deep that are learned from the lips of widowed mothers. It would be immeasurably the worst consequence of defeat in this war…
James Rutledge Roesch
September 29, 2014

A Black Armband for Southern Education

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in an effort to combat the “dark Federalist mills of the North” and keep Virginians home for their higher education. He was not alone in this endeavor. It had been customary for Southerners to travel north or to Europe for their advanced degrees, but by the middle of the nineteenth century, several institutions…
Brion McClanahan
July 11, 2014

Clyde N. Wilson

Most people don't know, but today (June 11) is Clyde Wilson's birthday. I had the honor of being Clyde's last doctoral student. I first met Clyde in the Spring of 1997 as a senior in college trying to decide where to attend graduate school. My top choices were South Carolina and Alabama, Clyde Wilson or Forrest McDonald. My advisor as…
Brion McClanahan
June 11, 2014
Review Posts

The Eighteenth Century to the Twentieth

Judged by the quality of the men it brought to power the eighteenth-century Virginia way of selecting political leadership was extremely good; but judged by modem standards of political excellence, it was defective at nearly every point. As for voting qualifications, there was discrimination against women, poor men, and Negroes. There was no secrecy in voting, and polling places—only one…
Charles S. Sydnor
April 23, 2014
Review Posts

‘Counsellors That Feelingly Persuade Me What I Am:’ Jefferson and Fletcher on Education

In an age such as ours—beset by the conceit that the noblest political act is individual self-actualization—any philosophic discussion of education will be tenuous and fragile. True, our time has witnessed heated debates over educational policy—over the processes through which public schools are funded, over the criteria by which educators’ performance is evaluated, over the students injured by our current…
Jefferson Viridi
April 15, 2014

BBQ and the Hillbilly Homeboy

February 2014 saw the passing of Maurice Bessinger and Tim Wilson, two Southerners who represented different elements of Southern culture: barbeque and comedy respectively. No one cooks like Southerners. This dates to the colonial period. It used to be said that Southerners dined, Yankees just ate. David Hackett Fischer noted in his significant work Albion's Seed that colonial Virginians enjoyed…
Brion McClanahan
April 10, 2014