Rousseau And Education Essay, Research Paper
Rousseau’s profound insight can be found in almost every trace of modern philosophy today. Somewhat complicated and ambiguous, Rousseau’s general philosophy tried to grasp an emotional and passionate side of man which he felt was left out of most previous philosophical thinking.
In his early writing, Rousseau contended that man is essentially good, a “noble savage” when in the state of nature (the state of all the other animals, and the condition man was in before the creation of civilization and society), and that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as “artificial” and “corrupt” and that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man.
Rousseau’s essay, “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences”, argued that the advancement of art and science had not been beneficial to mankind. He proposed that the progress of knowledge had made governments more powerful, and crushed individual liberty. He concluded that material progress had actually undermined the possibility of sincere friendship, replacing it with jealousy, fear and suspicion.
One of the primary principles of Rousseau’s political philosophy is that politics and morality should not be separated. When a state fails to act in a moral fashion, it ceases to function in the proper manner and ceases to exert genuine authority over the individual. The second important principle is freedom, which the state is created to preserve.
Rousseau’s ideas about education have profoundly influenced modern educational theory. He minimizes the importance of book learning, and recommends that a child’s emotions should be educated before his reason. He placed a special emphasis on learning by experience.
His educational model is a 5 stage learning process which hinges on the previously mentioned ideals of living and learning. The first stage is infancy, from birth to about two years. Infancy ends with the weaning of the child. During this stage he is given more liberty but less power. What this means is that the child is now able to only do what he can do for himself without the assistance of others. He therefore does not have the power to do all things, but the freedom to do that which he can.
The second stage, from two to ten or twelve, is ‘the age of Nature’. During this time, the child receives only a ‘negative education’: no moral instruction, no verbal learning. He is secluded from the negative influences of society and learns only from nature.
Stage 3, or the preadolescent stage ranges from age 12 until age 15 and is based on the idea that at this point the child can understand some reason and learned facts. He is then taught using books and other outside resources but still without much interference from societal prejudices.
By the time a student is 15, Rousseau believes his reason will be well developed, and he will then be able to deal with he sees as the dangerous emotions of adolescence, and with moral issues and religion. This stage of puberty is seen as the birth into manhood. As before, he still wants to hold back societal pressures and influences so that the natural tendencies of the person may emerge without corruption. During this stage there is a gradual entry into community life.
In the final stage of adulthood, ages 20-25, the student is introduced to his ideal partner. He learns about love, and is ready to return to society, proof, Rousseau hopes, after such a lengthy preparation, against its corrupting influences. The final task of the tutor is to instruct the young couple in their marital rights and duties.
Rousseau does not believe this form of education should be used for both female and male students. While male students are taught first by the physical and then by the mental, females are only taught by the physical. Women are merely to cultivate their subtility and beauty. Their training for womanhood up to the age of ten involves physical training for grace; the dressing of dolls leading to drawing, writing, counting and reading; and the prevention of idleness and indocility. After the age of ten there is a concern with adornment, the arts of pleasing, and religion.
Rousseau bases his view of life and education on one main principle the principle of autonomy. He believes that people should govern themselves both physically and mentally with self-cultivated reason and without the influence of society. His educational process reflects this ideal, however he is quite hypocritical as Wollstonecraft points out. Rousseau s belief that men and women are different and should therefore me educated different is based on the influence of society. Rousseau only believes men should be autonomous and not women.
In conclusion, Rousseau built part of the foundation of our educational process today and also gave a starting point for many women s rights activists such was Wollstonecraft. While I may not agree with his educational model, I do agree with his intentions of making good autonomous citizens. He is both a philosopher to be admired and questioned.