Notes from the Curator

Education at the Hermitage

LadiesHermitage Association Board and Girl Scouts

Although President Andrew Jackson did not receive a formal education as a child, he learned the value of having an education at the Hermitage in his adulthood.  His personal library grew to nearly 750 titles over the course of his lifetime and he immersed himself in books and newspapers on various subjects and in different languages.  This passion for knowledge was evident in his eloquent speeches that resembled those of highly trained scholars.

As the caregiver to many children, including his grandchildren, President Jackson adamantly worked towards providing them with the best education.  The children and wards of The Hermitage attended prestigious boarding schools and colleges, including the United States Military Academy at West Point. In family letters, Jackson encouraged the children to excel and have a “good library.” Many of Jackson’s descendants became distinguished military officers, successful businessmen, and prominent politicians.

It is also important to note that both the male and female children were expected to excel academically.  President Jackson’s granddaughter attended the Belmont boarding school in Virginia and enrolled in courses such as Chemistry and French.  She regularly wrote letters to her parents reporting on her academic progress.  Female boarding schools, however, differed from their male counterparts as schools for girls heavily emphasized the importance of morality and homemaking.  While young ladies were groomed to be polished women in society, they also learned skills such as etiquette and sewing. 

In addition to the Jackson family, there is also evidence that certain members of the enslaved community on site had access to some form of education.  Archeological excavations conducted near the slave cabins uncovered several writing slates and slate “pencils.”  Letters written by the Jackson’s coachman, John Fulton Senior, to his family in the mid-1850s suggests Fulton could read and write.

The Hermitage continues President Jackson’s legacy through our hands-on-history programs.  With a visitation of 30,000 students annually, The Hermitage Education Department works with nearly 10,000 students per year. This department teaches classes on Jackson’s role in the Trail of Tears, The War of 1812, Slavery at The Hermitage, The Nullification Crisis, and so many more.  Our educators continually provide opportunities to explore and learn about the grounds through scavenger hunts, badge projects, and a Junior Docent program. 

Other avenues taken to reach even more students include web-conferencing and Traveling Classroom programs.  Web-conferencing at The Hermitage has taken our quality programming across the United States and even Europe. Our education staff even had the exciting opportunity to teach one of our programs to a group in Ireland, the home country of the Jackson clan.  The world of museum education has adopted this tool for those wanting to learn about Andrew Jackson but do not have the ability to physically visit the site.  Under our Traveling Classroom program, a museum educator travels to a hosting institution to present hands-on-history programs for students for schools who are unable to visit The Hermitage. This summer, as a result of a generous grant from the Joe C. Davis Foundation, we have extended the scope of our Traveling Classroom series to include a Community Classroom series.  This new program will reach various community organizations including Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, surrounding public libraries, and Room at the Inn in downtown Nashville. 

Keeping Jackson’s beliefs on education in mind, our site is proud to share his story with students of all ages around the world.  

By

Ashley Bouknight, Assistant Curator and Katie Yenna, Lead Educator

 

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