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Jean Jacques Rousseau Critique

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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

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