© 2020

Jefferson’s Revolutionary Theory and the Reconstruction of Educational Purpose


Part of the The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education book series (CSFE)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Kerry T. Burch
    Pages 1-10
  3. Promise: Revolutionary Rhetoric for a Democratic America

  4. Declension: Betrayal of Founding Principles

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 87-89
    2. Kerry T. Burch
      Pages 91-107
    3. Kerry T. Burch
      Pages 109-123
    4. Kerry T. Burch
      Pages 125-139
  5. Renewal: Reconstructing Educational Purpose

  6. Back Matter
    Pages 191-201

About this book


This book newly interprets the educational implications of Thomas Jefferson’s revolutionary thought. In an age where American democracy is imperilled and the civic purposes of schooling eviscerated, Burch turns to Jefferson to help bring to life the values and principles that must be recovered in order for Americans to transcend the narrow purposes of education prescribed by today’s neoliberal paradigm. The author argues that critical engagement with the most radical dimensions of Jefferson’s educational philosophy can establish a rational basis upon which to re-establish the civic purposes of public education. Bracketing the defining features of Jefferson's theory throughout each of the chapters, the author illuminates the deficiencies of the dominant educational paradigm, and charts a new path forward for its progressive renewal.


Thomas Jefferson US educational history revolutionary theory democratic education curricular reform critical pedagogy

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.College of EducationNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

About the authors

Kerry T. Burch is Professor of Philosophy of Education at Northern Illinois University, USA. He is the author of Democratic Transformations: Eight Conflicts in the Negotiation of American Identity (recipient of the 2014 Society of Professors of Education Book Award) and Eros as the Educational Principle of Democracy (2000). In his teaching and research, he is committed to a vision of democratic moral education anchored in the need to keep the enlightenment-oriented spirit of education alive.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Jefferson’s Revolutionary Theory and the Reconstruction of Educational Purpose
  • Authors Kerry T. Burch
  • Series Title The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education
  • Series Abbreviated Title The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG, part of Springer Nature 2020
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Education Education (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-45762-4
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-45765-5
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-45763-1
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages VIII, 201
  • Number of Illustrations 1 b/w illustrations, 1 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Educational Philosophy
    History of Education
    US History
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


​“In this book, Kerry Burch offers a reading of Thomas Jefferson that treats him as the founding father of a radical democratic tradition picked up later by John Dewey and others. Jefferson emerges as a moral voice that speaks to the needs of democratic education today. Through Jefferson, Burch seeks to revive not just schools but America’s democratic spirit.”
Johann N. Neem, Professor, Western Washington University, USA, and author of Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America (2017)

“Burch intriguingly brings Jefferson to bear on significant struggles in American life today. Emphasizing Jefferson’s call to cultivating the critical and experimental dimensions of active citizenship, Burch offers helpful curricular suggestions that cultivate democratic habits, call students to inquiry, and ignite their openness to change. Burch crafts an imaginative space that encourages all of us to reconstruct American democracy and our lives as citizens.”
Sarah M. Stitzlein, Professor of Education and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, USA, and author of Learning How to Hope: Reviving Democracy Through Our Schools and Civil Society (2019)

“Democratic education in the United States is endangered. Maybe it is time for a revolution. Kerry Burch reminds us of the insurgent spirit endemic to our nation by returning us to Thomas Jefferson’s educational philosophy and the democratic-revolutionary tradition initiated by the American Revolution.”
Jim Garrison, Professor in the Foundations of Education Program, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA