Quotations to live by, and my interpretations of them

First off, a random quote from a great patriot, Kurt Vonnegut:

Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.

Vonnegut seems to be criticizing the spiritual emptiness of materialistic consumerism.

The following quotes are all taken from a biology site:
http://diogenesii.wordpress.com/

There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.
— George Washington [address to Congress, 8 January 1790]

The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.
— Thomas Jefferson [author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence]

Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially for the lower classes of people, are so extremely wise and useful that to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.
— John Adams

The character and beliefs of George Washington deserve frequent contemplation. It is humbling to reflect that Ho Chi Minh was a great admirer of Washington. I am in general a minarchist – that is, I do not believe normal humans are capable of sustained anarchy, but I believe government is an evil that must be minimized. How can I square my desire for minimal government with the views of the Founders, who apparently favored public, tax-supported education? For the moment, I can only say that universities and schools must be reformed, because they are typically wasteful. Every scholar who consumes taxpayer money must feel himself to be a servant of the tax-payers.

I hope we shall… crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country.
— Thomas Jefferson [letter to George Logan dated 12 November 1816]

Jefferson was the original anti-corporatist. I should really get a color portrait of Jefferson, so that I can offer incense and sweetmeats before it every day.

It is, no doubt, a very laudable effort, in modern teaching, to render as much as possible of what the young are required to learn, easy and interesting to them. But when this principle is pushed to the length of not requiring them to learn anything but what has been made easy and interesting, one of the chief objects of education is sacrificed. I rejoice in the decline of the old brutal and tyrannical system of teaching, which however did succeed in enforcing habits of application; but the new, as it seems to me, is training up a race of men who will be incapable of anything which is disagreeable to them….A pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do, never does all he can.
— John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Autobiography

How is it that a lame man does not annoy us while a lame mind does? Because a lame man recognizes that we are walking straight while a lame mind says it is we who are limping. But for that we would feel pity and not anger.
— Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Pascal, to me, is obviously a shining star of wisdom, whereas Mill was merely a clever fellow who tried hard. To train the will by adversity is a perilous process; it often results in “lame minds.”

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