Quote about building prisons or schools
August 4, 2009 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Quotefilter: "If given the choice between prison and schools, Americans will always choose prisons." Who said it?

I'm trying to find the source of this quote, as many states now spend more money on jails than colleges. Page 18 of this report says it's a line from Thomas Jefferson, but I have seen no evidence that he actually said it. The closest I've found is this:

“If the children are untaught, their ignorance and vices will in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences than it would have done in their correction by a good education.”

Doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well. Do you know who originally said this statement, or if anyone might have said something similar?
posted by eflange to Education (6 answers total)
Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog.

-Mark Twain, speech, November 23, 1900

posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 12:49 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The modern prison system is an invention of the 19th century. Not likely something that Jefferson would have been involved with.

It could either be that the quote is off (maybe it was "gallows") or the person/era is off.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:54 PM on August 4, 2009

Clay Yeager
posted by bashos_frog at 1:13 PM on August 4, 2009

(See page 18)
posted by bashos_frog at 1:13 PM on August 4, 2009

oops. nevermind. Google excerpts can be misleading, especially if you don't read far enough past the quote.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:14 PM on August 4, 2009

Twain actually partly attributes the sentiment to a farmer at a town meeting:

“When I was a boy on the Mississippi River there was a proposition in a township there to discontinue public schools because they were too expensive. An old farmer spoke up and said if they stopped building the schools they would not save anything, because every time a school was closed a jail had to be built.”It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog.

Google books link

I have no idea about the veracity of the Jefferson quote
posted by Jakey at 3:26 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

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