Jean Jacques Rousseau CritiqueThis print version free essay Jean Jacques Rousseau Critique.
Autor: reviewessays 17 November 2010
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau's philosophy of education known as "negative education" (Entwistle in Bayley, 89) describes many valid concepts which are still applied in today's educational system. Although his philosophy is reasonable in terms of its ideas, his contradictions make it such that it would be difficult to apply realistically as pedagogy. Rousseau was a French philosopher of the eighteenth century, he argued that children should not be told what to learn, instead they should learn for themselves through experiences and his pedagogies of "negative education", "the discipline of natural consequences", and "the discipline of lost opportunities" (Entwistle in Bayley, 89). He believed that anything man-made was corrupt and that children should be taught by nature. Rousseau believed in order to preserve a child's original nature, the type of education received depended on the child's age.
I. Rousseau's Concept of "Negative Education"
As defined by Rousseau, "negative education" is the act of educating children using a method other than the typical educational system. Rousseau believed that we are inherently pure and good, but we become corrupted by the chains and limitations of our evil society. We are born pure, and that is our natural state because that is how God created us. He believed that humans become corrupt because of the chains and limitations that society put on humans. Rousseau argued that knowledge was provided by the growth of the person, and that what the teacher needed to do was to create opportunities for learning. Due to this, Rousseau believed that children should be kept from a typical educational system during their early stages of schooling so they can remain pure longer (Entwistle in Bayley, 90).
A significant part of Rousseau's "negative education" stresses that parents and teachers should focus on the present rather than on the future, because children are entitled to enjoy their childhood years (Entwistle in Bayley, 92). In Rousseau's time, people were at a higher risk of dying at a younger age compared to now; therefore Rousseau believed that if children focused their lives on preparing for the future that might not even come they could miss out on valuable moments in the present.
A central portion of Rousseau's "negative education" was his acknowledgement that children should be entitled to enjoy being children rather than being called adults, and due to this he was labeled the "discoverer of childhood" (Entwistle in Bayley, 91). Rousseau stated that for different stages in a child's life, different levels of education are appropriate. There were five different stages known as: infancy, boyhood, early adolescence, adolescence, and marriage. Rousseau said that childhood should be experienced to the fullest because children and adults are part of two completely different stages in life. He explained each of these stages using Emile, his imaginary student, as an example. The first three stages of Emile's life had no moral education involved, and he wasn't introduced to society until the age of fifteen. Another imaginary character, named Sophie, was the ideal woman and Emile wasn't introduced to her until he had reached the last stage where he was ready for marriage.
Although "negative education" is quite overstated and extreme, it has many applicable ideas that can be applied to current education, but due to this his ideas are not taken seriously. A successful idea that is still being used in present-day schooling is segregation of boys and girls in private schools, as well as his idea that the type of education a child receives should depend on his or her age and maturity. Like Emile and Sophie, the idea of using segregation causes the students to learn better without the opposite sex present. Schools today also reflect Rousseau's idea by having different grade levels. As each grade level progresses, the work gets more rigorous. Although there are some contradictions and exaggerations in his philosophy, the ideas behind "negative education" are valid. The Quebec schooling system today is different than from his time, but there are still schooling institutions using his philosophy today.
II. Moral Education: "The Discipline of Natural Consequences"
"The Discipline of Natural Consequences" emphasizes Rousseau's belief in learning rather than teaching. A more effective way of teaching principles to a child is through cause and effect. Children do not want to plainly be told what is right or wrong, what they can or cannot do all the time. If the child is put in situations where he or she will suffer the consequences of doing something wrong, the child will learn what is right. If the child learns from the consequences, he will realize that doing that action causes him pain and will want to stop doing the same mistake again. Rousseau believes that the tutor should not correct the child's mistake because nature will take its toll and teach him that lesson (Entwistle in Bayley, 93-94). Rousseau's example in the story of Emile shows that even when Emile breaks a window in his room, the tutor doesn't replace it, therefore leaving Emile to suffer the consequences of being cold throughout the evening, and later when the window is boarded Emile is left in the dark on his own. Emile then learns that breaking his window is a wrong move that causes him pain (Entwistle in Bayley, 94)
Even today, this way of educating children is found in our society. Although Emile's lesson may be a little extreme, the idea is quite useful. Parents have also adopted this way of teaching their children right from wrong in our society today. Therefore, this proves that this way of thinking is effective on children because they learn from the consequences what is right from wrong. Children do not like being told what to do or not do, so Rousseau's idea allows them to learn from their mistakes.
III. Intellectual Education: "The Discipline of Lost Opportunities"
The branch of knowledge known as lost opportunities is a section of Rousseau's theory of "negative education". This particular discipline is founded on the aim that the learning of children is focused more on the individual acquiring intellectual skills for the children themselves. From Rousseau's philosophy, it is understood that if the child is forced to learn to be literate and gain any other intellectual skills, the outcome will not be as successful as the child wanting to learn for himself. As a sample for this discipline, the tutor requires Emile to read an artificial invitation to a party or special event. Unfortunately for Emile, he is incapable of reading. Consequently, Emile misses out on the event, and is driven to learn how to read from his personal experience of lacking basic intellectual skills. This in turn will reduce and ease the need for lessons in reading. (Entwistle in Bayley, 94-95).
Instead of expecting children to learn on their own, they need to be lead and directed wisely by their educators in order to learn their intellectual skills and literacy skills. If children are left to learn on their own time, they will not feel driven to learn. Thus, in spite of the fact that Rousseau's "discipline of lost opportunities" has its imperfections and contradictions, the idea following it can be applied to education today. The strategy that children should feel the need to learn after dealing with the consequences of not having the basic skills for intellect and literacy is a positive example. Furthermore, the educator should push the student to feel the need to obtain these skills.
By accurate analysis along with critical review of the philosophy, "negative education", created by Rousseau, something that one may notice is that his ideals remain even to this day. His views are practical in the sense that modern-day education can make great use of them, even though they may be overstated and seemingly irrational. The stressed importance on letting the children learn through their own mistakes allows them to derive self confidence in the fact that they may learn at their own rate with little pressure other than that exhibited by their faults.