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Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Theory of Education

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a revolutionary French philosopher who in addition held his position in society as an eloquent writer of the Enlightenment Age. Much of Rousseau’s thoughts and theories illuminated through his writings, and his works reflected his disdain for contemporary society in which he assured to undermine the freedom of men. At a young age, Rousseau attended a school in the rural village of Bossey where he acquired the love for nature. However, Rousseau ended his period of formal education when the school punished him for a boyish offense. It was in Bossey, Rousseau claimed to have evolved his theory that emphasized on the significance of sensibility to nature as the course to achieve freedom. Rousseau believed that discipline, restraint of impulses,and departure from nature caused humanity to be corrupted by civilization (Monteiro). According to Rousseau, eighteenth-century conventional education was hierarchical and authoritative, and it functioned to disrupt the connection between human and nature.

Educators dictated learning and suppressed students’ freedom of expression and will with regulations and disciplines; this systematic practice educated the nature out of children and violated their natural self preservation. Children became insensible to their natural selves because their learning and development were structured by the standpoints of adults. Society cultivated education to civilize and socialize children into “good citizens” with predictable and acceptable forms of behavior that fit the societal standards of orderly conduct and manner (Peckover). Nonetheless, children’s decisions and judgements became dependent upon the judgements of others because the education system hindered free thinking individuals which subsequently led to the corruption of young minds (Monteiro).Discussions on philosophical obtainment of freedom ushered Rousseau to speak upon educational reforms in society by issuing his own theory on education.

In his work Emile, Rousseau outlined his philosophical theory on education from infancy to adulthood. In the book, Rousseau is the private tutor to his fictitious pupil Emile. Contrary to intellectual education, Rousseau introduces natural education in which focuses upon cultivating the development of children with regards to their natural instincts and behaviors as humans in order to preserve natural goodness and retain freedom. Moreover, Rousseau asserts the proper learning environment should be in the suburbs because it minimizes the hindrance of societal influence (Peckover). With the proposition of a naturalistic education, Rousseau emphasizes upon the understanding of various stages of life and the development of different forms of individualized education that appropriately suit each life stage; this is Rousseau’s guiding principle that directs his teaching method established him Emile.

Children are not little adults that should conform to societal customs.They are innocent and vulnerable and must be entitled to freedom and happiness (Infed). Rousseau raises the notion of liberating Emile, like all children, from an early age. During infancy, a newborn should be free and naked; the child should not be swaddled because swaddling is an unnatural custom that causes discomfort and restricts the baby from stretching and moving its limbs. Rousseau emphasizes that movement allows an infant to know the extension of the environment and foster the child senses and experiences (Emile 15-16). The infant must be raised as natural as possible; thus, the instinctual practices such as breastfeeding must also be implemented. As Emile transitions into a toddler, he develops an understanding and practice of liberty. Rousseau proposes parents should “accustom the child to depend on circumstances …[and] not give him anything because he asks for it, but because he needs it.

When he acts, do not let him know that it is from obedience: and when another acts for him, let him not feel that he is exercising authority” (Emile 45). The maxim teaches him to confine his wishes within the limits of his power,so he will scarcely feel the want of anything not in his power (Infed). Emile will understand that he does not exert power over people and he does not follow the authority of anyone because everything he does or is given him will be from necessity and liberty. Moreover, Rousseau asserts, “ do not give your pupil any sort of lesson verbally: he ought to receive none except from experience… for he does not know what being in fault means ” (Emile 56).

The toddler must begin to learn from his experiences and become his own master and follow the dictates of his own will. This will preserve natural goodness and freedom at this stage of life. Furthermore, from the ages of five to twelve, the child must be governed by purely negative education where the mind is to be undisturbed until its faculties have developed before actual knowledge and instructional education are directed into the child are subjected. The mind of the child within this current stage has no capacity to memorize lessons,learn things or use reason because the Rousseau assures the brain cannot retain the ideas( Emile 78). This proposed education does not teach virtues or truths, but it protects from vice and error to the premature mind.

This natural stage constitutes to the focus on developing the physical qualities and strengthening senses of the child with activities that concerns with the practicalities of life such as playing sports and agricultural employment which strengthens the body and health.These activities will lead Emile to count, measure, learn to observe and to draw up observations that concern with the necessity to the natural self. At this point, the child does not have any real sense of duty, but Rousseau believes this path will lead him to truth and goodness when he reaches the age of reason to understand and recognize it (Montiero). The age of reason emerges between the ages of twelve and fifteen when the mind’s faculties are fully developed and where the strength of the youth augments external needs because now the child possesses the urge for activity in the mental form and his attention has a greater capacity to be sustained (Infed). This strength is not only fostered by puberty, but from movement,physical experiences and emotions.

Reason becomes awake in order to furnish guidance, for which is the function of rational life. His reasons will enable him to deal with what he sees as dangerous emotions of adolescence, and with moral issues religion in terms of the natural religion of the human heart (Infed). Concurrently, his reason will constitute the beginning of instructional education and to foster creativity and curiosity. The curriculum for Emile will first comprise of studies that can be taught through nature and from there it will the study will expand. Rousseau will also Emile in situations in order to cultivate Emile’s thinking self to achieve conclusions and judgement. (Monteiro) Rousseau asserts that a child who has been educated by Nature will be self reliant and use reason to guide his action. The child will allow his mind and body to work together to enhance his understanding of his world. Through natural form of education , the child will develop his own ideas and be govern by his own will, not the will of others. (Peckover)

The true work of education is the inner emergence, growth, exercise and the integration of feelings, sentiments and the passion. It is things that philosophy art, morality and duty dawns when the Emile steps into society and begin to understand relations with other man. However he will remain incorrupt for he will already know what it right to his nature. Some may argue that such education practice is impractical and and to an extent inapplicable within American’s educational system in the twenty first century because of the fast paced lifestyle of many Americans and the current challenges within the system such as achievement gaps in urban communities. It is nearly impossible for a students to all receive an education in the surban when most of the UNited States is urbanization. Also with the current values and expectations of families and communities, students can not afford to start receiving an education late.

Although the strategies of Rousseau may present futility, however the ideologies of the natural education can be intertwined in the education realm and pedagogy of teachers. In Emile, Rousseau explicates upon having a specific education methods with accordance to the stages of development and that it is individual to fit the specifc needs of the child. This idea can translate to a student center learning method that the educator can promote where educators can target students become succeed by focusing and trageting teh differnt styles of learning of students . SImilar to the differnt stages of lifes there are different types of learners without age groups. so education can be a natural process. This way the educator will have control of the established learning environement.

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