Rousseau Educational Philosophy




Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)


Introduction
Rousseau is the first man in the world who brought about a remarkable change in the social and political structures of many countries through his sound educational ideas. In fact, his thought-provoking ideas such as liberty, equality and fraternity caused the modification of political systems and the development of sociological tendency in education. 
As he has revolutionised our thinking in so many ways, he is considered as the father of civilization. He has introduced a new theory and practice of education through his writings on religion, society, marriage, education and government. 
He has highlighted the evils of society and wanted to reform it by modifying the process of education according to the needs and interests of individual and society. He is the pioneer of making education into practical process by introducing trade, business, leather work, and embroidery as livelihood. 
He is the chief exponent of naturalism which has a great impact on modern education. The introduction of new teaching techniques and giving importance to the study of natural sciences make him a distinguished philosopher and place his name in the top among the educationists. 

Life of Rousseau 
Jean Jacques Rousseau, the first man in the history of mankind to preach the gospel about common man, a great educator of the eighteenth century, the champion of modern education, the most important naturalistic philosopher, a powerful thinker, father of French Revolution and an apostle of individual liberty, was born in the small city of Geneva in 1712. He lost his mother soon after his birth and was brought up by his father. 

He received his early education at the hands of his father who was a poor watch maker and a private tutor. His father was quite ignorant of the art of bringing up his son. Therefore, Rousseau fell into bad habits for which he was generally, very severely, beaten in the school. As a result, by nature he became vehemently opposed to this inhuman practice. He developed a tendency of sentimentality and sensuality. He left the school at the age of twelve and tried different sorts of occupation, but he failed in all. He was wandering from one place to another and met different types of people, and learnt to sympathise with the poor. 

One day he became very tired and hungry because of his aimless wanderings. A priest Savoyard Vicar took him to his home and fed him. This incident shaped the life and character of Rousseau. He became familiar with the existing social and philosophical problems. The writings of Hobbes, Locke, Montaigne, Pascal, Fenelon Voltaire, Leibnitz, Descartes, Kepler, and Newton influenced him very deeply. 
His mind was occupied with problems concerning `education' and `government'. After a number of journeys, a desultory study of Catholicism, music, and a survey of all sciences, he tried his hands at various professions like those of a private tutor, music teacher, secretary, composer and dramatist. 
He settled in Paris in 1741 and became a writer. Rousseau was particularly influenced by the poverty and sufferings of the people. He hated the society for the evils and wanted to reform it. In his publications, he condemned the existing institutions and portrayed the oppression and corruption in the society. He declared, "Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the author of the nature, but everything degenerates in the hands of man". 

He bestowed the slogan, "Return to Nature" (Back to Nature or Follow Nature). He wrote, "Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains". His work Emile revolted against the canons of society. France and Switzerland banned this book and burnt it in many places. He earned the displeasure of the French authorities. As a consequence, Rousseau had to live in exile for many years. After 11 years, he returned from England to France and wrote his last book entitled Confessions. 

He was very much disgusted and disappointed by the political authorities of France and Switzerland. Rousseau, the most influential political as well as educational philosopher, died in 1778 due to a sudden attack of thrombosis which many believed to be a suicide. But his profound thoughts such as liberty, equality and fraternity inspired the French Revolution in 1789. The insurrection not only exalted the fame of Rousseau but also brought about a remarkable change in the socio-economic economic and political conditions of several countries. 

Philosophy of Rousseau 
The philosophy of Rousseau emerges as a revolt against the artificial and autocratic society. He advocates the idea that there should be a "Natural State", a "Natural Man", and a "Natural Civilization". According to him, cities are the graves of civilization. So, his philosophy is termed as Naturalism. He believes that "everything" is good as it comes from the hands of the author of nature, but everything degenerates in the hands of man". 

He further indicates that a child is essentially good but his contact with society makes him bad. In his book Social Contract, he writes, "Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains". He emphatically states that man himself is responsible for his miseries and sorrows. Therefore, the human society should give up the present artificial mode of life and go back to nature for forming a natural man, a natural state and a natural civilization in order to regain the old vitality and happiness. According to Rousseau the slogan, "Return to Nature" is the panacea for all evils. In the field of politics, he emphasises the concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity. 

He revolts against traditional education and raises his voice to free the child from the tyranny of strict discipline and the artificiality of school environment and stereotyped methods of teaching. He wants men to be free from the bondage of society by educating them, not for citizenship but for manhood. Thus, his philosophical ideas combine his political, social and educational ideologies. It is the outcome of three factors namely the state of time, extremely varied experiences of life, and his impulsive and emotional nature, which influence and shape the philosophy of Rousseau. 

Rousseau's Three Concepts of Nature
Rousseau is the most important naturalistic philosopher. So, he wants the people to live according to nature and follow the order of nature in education. According to him, `Nature' has several connotations, but he has stated three concepts of nature. 

(1) Nature as "endowment"-innate tendencies: 
According to Rousseau, education comes to us from nature, from men and from things. He regards nature as equivalent to endowment. He believes that the best learning takes place when the child is free to develop and grow according to his natural impulses. Nature is the spontaneous development of the innate disposition of the child. Rousseau says, "When I want to train a natural man, I do not want to make him a savage and to send him back to the woods, but living in the whirl of social life... he should not let himself be carried away by the passions and prejudices of man. Let him see with his eyes and feel with his hearts". So, education must start from the child's instinctive tendencies. 

(2) Nature-isolation from society: 
Rousseau believes that nature is good and everything; but society is negative which drags the child away from nature. According to him, society is an artificial and unnatural product which is full of evils. So, the child should be saved and isolated from the evil influences of society. He wants the child to be brought up in the lap of nature, that is, in contact with the beauties and wonders of nature, away from social influence. It means non-social education-a preventive education which is not based on traditions and formalities of society. Thus, nature is defined as "negative to society". 

(3) Natural phenomena-living according to nature:
Rousseau is of the opinion that the child must be given education in a natural environment. He wants the child to live according to nature in accordance with the rational principles of the universe. Since Rousseau is a great lover of nature, mountains, streams, ocean, sunrise, sunset, solitude and country life, he recommends contact with hills, streams, plants, birds, trees, animals, stones and physical forces of all kinds. He believes that one becomes a natural man automatically when he is brought up and taught in the natural environment. 

Rousseau's Philosophy of Education

(1) Education according to nature of child: 
Rousseau believes that education is the only remedy to shun the evil influences of society. He, therefore, advocates that the child is the centre of gravity. According to him, the nature of a child should determine the nature of teaching rather than a logical order of subject matters, which is suited only to the adult mind. He emphasises the dictum that the child should be treated as child not as an adult. Hence, the child should be provided with real, vital and concrete experiences. 

(2) Education according to different stages of child: 
Rousseau spells out how the child should be provided education. In his book Emile, he regards Emile as an imaginary male child, and divides his scheme of education according to his different stages of growth. According to him, childhood has its own way of seeing, thinking and feeling. There is time for every kind of teaching and we ought to recognise it. The different stages of child are infancy (0-5 years), childhood (5-12 years), Adolescence (12-15 years) and youth (15-18 years). Hence, the construction of curriculum and the methods of teaching should be in accordance with the different stages of the child. 

(3) Education from nature, man and things: 
According to Rousseau, the education of the child comes from nature, from man and from things. Education from nature means the internal development of our organs as a consequence of our relationship with our physical environment. Education from men means we are taught to make use of that development through our relationship with our social environment. Education from things is the acquisition made by our own experiences with the objects which surround us. Rousseau says that harmony in education is possible by subordinating the education of men and things to that of nature because we have no control over nature. So, we have to ensure cooperation of these three factors for imparting the ideal education. 

(4) Education a process of guidance: 
Rousseau believes that education is the process of guidance by the teacher, but it is not instruction by the teacher. According to him, the art of teaching consists in making the pupil wish to learn. His concern is to educate the child to live his life. 

(5) Negative education: 
Rousseau was the first man to stress on negative education. He states, "The most dangerous period in human life lies between birth and the age of twelve. Hence, education from five to twelve should be negative effort by the educator who should leave the child to learn how to use time wisely. Negative education is the preparation against the social condition in which the child lives. It consists not at all in teaching virtue. But it shields the child's heart from vices and his mind from errors. 

Rousseau's Concept of Education 
The educational views of Rousseau are considered to be new and modern. They are meant to relieve the child from strict discipline, artificial school, social environment, undue control, and rigid methods of teaching. According to Rousseau, education should aim at the fullest development of the child's innate potentialities and powers in a natural environment. He has defined education thus: "It is a process of development into an enjoyable, rational, harmoniously balanced useful and hence natural life". It means the natural development of organs and powers of the child. Education as such is a life-long long process. He states, "To live is not merely to breathe, it is to act, to make use of our organs, senses, our faculties and of all those parts of ourselves, which give us the feeling of an existence". 

Aim of Education
The aim of education is to help the child to remain alive. According to Rousseau, "Life is not merely to breathe but it is to act and to make use of our organs, senses and faculties which give us the feeling of our existence". In other words, life is to live, to work, to develop and to properly utilize the various parts of the body, the sense organs and the various other powers of the body to make the child a real human being. 

(1) Physical development: 
Rousseau feels that a strong physique is essential to develop the child into a healthy and wholesome personality. A feeble body makes a feeble mind. He says that we are born weak and we want strength. We are poor and we want help and so on. Thus, whatever we do not have is to be given by education. And, this is the ultimate aim of education. 

(2) Development of senses: 
Rousseau believes that senses are the gateways of knowledge. So, development or training of senses is the important task of education. It is education which helps the child to attain pleasure by using his organs and senses and by applying his strength. 

(3) Development of innate faculties: 
The aim of education is to help the child to develop his innate faculties in a natural way and in the natural environment. To establish harmony between man, objects and nature, a child's natural impulses and instincts must be particularly attended to. 

(4) Intellectual development: 
The aim of education is to develop the child to the fullest for his complete and happy living. So, Rousseau stresses on the importance of intellectual development during one's childhood. To achieve intellectual development, he has recommended physical sciences, language, mathematics, history and geography. 

(5) Learning trade: 
The aim of education is to prepare the child to live his life. For this purpose, the child must learn a trade, a mechanical art and manual labour. This can give him a living. 

(6) Development of social and moral values: 
The aim of education is to lead the child to become a member of the society and an ideal head of the family. Rousseau emphasises moral and spiritual education during youth in order to prepare the child to lead a good life. 

Aim of Education at Different Stages of Child
The aims of education, according to Rousseau, change at different stages of the child's development, because each stage has different tastes, interests, needs and stresses. Therefore, the aim of education should be changed in accordance with the growth of the child. 

(1) Infancy: 
Infancy begins at birth and continues upto five years. During this period, development and strengthening of every part of the body is essential so that the child can grow up healthy and strong. Rousseau held the opinion "All wickedness comes from weakness. The child should be made strong so that he will do nothing which is bad". So, he has suggested providing the infant full freedom to engage in playing and exercising his body. Thus, education aims at physical development during infancy. 

(2) Childhood: 
This stage lasts from five to twelve years. It is the period of development of the child's sense organs through experience and observation. Hence, the aim of education is to help the child to observe and experience various things in nature and develop his sense organs. 

(3) Adolescence: 
At this stage (12-15 years) education aims at developing adolescent personality through hard work, guidance and study of various subjects. Since the aim of education is intellectual development, Rousseau recommends subjects like, physical sciences, language, mathematics, history and geography. 

(4) Youth (15 to 18 or 20 years): 
The aim of education during this stage is the development of emotions and sentiments that is the training of the heart. The development of sentiments leads to the development of moral and social qualities in the youth. Rousseau reiterated that moral and religious education should be imparted to the youths so as to prepare them to lead a good life. Thus, education aims at preparing the youth to become a member of society and an ideal head of the family. 

Rousseau's Concept of Curriculum 
Rousseau divides his whole programme of education on the basis of the development stages of humans. In his book Emile, he divides his scheme of education (curriculum) into five stages. The curriculum for the first four stages is in accordance with the developmental stages of Emile and his felt needs. The fifth stage is meant for the education of Sophy-an imaginary girl to become an ideal wife of Emile. Rousseau has prescribed different subjects and activities on the basis of infancy, childhood, adolescence and youth of Emile and Sophy. 

(1) Education for infancy (0 to 5 years): 
Rousseau recommends negative education during infancy. At this stage instead of teaching subjects, attention should be given to the development of the child's body and his sense organs. His dress should be comfortable so that he does not have any difficulty in the free movement of his body organs. He should be allowed to play with whatever things he likes without any force from outside, and wander about freely in the countryside. His play things should be simple, natural like leaves, plants, flowers, fruits, stones etc. and not expensive toys. The child should be brought up by his mother and he should be given due protection. 

(2) Education for childhood (5 to 12 years): 
Rousseau opposes the use of any textbook for educating the child. The child should be given training to learn everything through observation and experience. Rousseau suggests various activities by way of training, for the development of the mind, and the power of reasoning through negative education. The child should be given full freedom to use his senses in the natural environment. His eyes should be trained to measure height, weight, distance, colour and size. Music educates his ears, flowers train his nose, weather educates his skin and so on. Rousseau's advice for this stage is, "Exercise the body, the organs, the senses and powers, and keep the soul lying fallow as long as you can". 
However, geometry maybe taught during this stage. Moral education should not be given as long as the child does not understand the meaning of "morality". But a little of moral education maybe given through activities. Rousseau opines that the child will learn his morality by the natural consequences of his own actions. 

(3) Education for adolescence (12 to 15 years): 
This is a good period of intellectual development during which the child should be taught various subjects and activities. It is a suitable time for work, instruction and enquiries. Rousseau prescribes a formal curriculum consisting of physical sciences, languages, mathematics, music, painting, woodwork and social sciences. He opines that the study of science will enhance the curiosity of the child his inclination towards research, invention and self-education. Painting helps the pupils to train the muscles and eyes. Handicrafts help to develop the ability to work. Rousseau wants to teach Emile industrial exchange and professional experience in banking and transportation to prepare him to earn his livelihood. He recommends for reading the book Robinson Crusoe, a study of life according to nature. 

(4) Education for youth (15 to 20 years): 
During this stage, the child is expected to grow emotionally, aesthetically, socially and morally to adapt himself to the conduct and interest of others. Rousseau wants Emile to get training in moral and religious education about his relations with his fellowmen and develop moral qualities such as benevolence, kindness, service and sympathy. He suggests that moral education should be given through activities and occupations and not through lectures on ethics. Travel through different countries is recommended for knowing the world, their languages and modes of life in the neighbouring countries. The youth should visit hospitals, prisons and orphanages in order to see the evils and miseries of the society directly and gain first hand knowledge. Sex instruction during youth consists of direct moral exhortation on chastity. 

(5) Education for women: 
Since men and women differ from each other, Rousseau prescribes a separate curriculum for the education of female, Sophy (imaginary girl of Rousseau). He mentions in his Emile that men should be strong and active; the women should be weak and passive. According to him, "Men are born to serve, women are born to please". Woman is simply supplementary to the nature of man. The aim of women's education is "To be pleasant in his sight to win his respect and love, to train him in childhood, to tend him in manhood, to counsel and console, to make his life pleasant and happy, these are the duties of women for which she should be taught while she is young". He remarks, "An illiterate woman is the plague of her husband, her children, her family her servant and everybody". So, he recommends to provide education in reading and writing to make them efficient to keep their body healthy and adorn themselves. In this respect, they should learn housekeeping, sewing, embroidery, weaving and get religious education too. They should also learn singing, dancing and other accomplishments.

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