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XXI. JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU.
There are few men who have exerted a greater influence upon education than the celebrated French author, Jean Jacques Rousseau. He was born in Geneva June 28, 1712, and died at Ermenonville, near Paris, July 2, 1778. As a child he was very fond of reading, a disposition that was encouraged by his father; and among other works, many of which were worthless, he early devoured Bossuet, Ovid, and Plutarch. “Thus began to be formed within me,” he says, “ that heart, at once so proud and so tender, that effeminate but yet indomitable character which, ever oscillating between weakness and courage, between indulgence and virtue, has to the last placed me in contradiction with myself, and has brought it to pass that abstinence and enjoyment, pleasure and wisdom, have alike eluded me." In these few words Rousseau has admirably sketched the main features of his character.
It is not worth while to follow him through the unimportant events of his life. His boyhood was characterized by a singular waywardness; and in his “ Confessions," a work written with the utmost frankness, he does not attempt to conceal lying and theft. He ran away from an engraver to whom he had been apprenticed, and during the remainder of his life he was a wanderer who enjoyed but temporary seasons of repose. His life was a singular paradox. “ Full of enthusiasm for the beautiful and the good,” says a French writer," he defended with invincible logic and passionate PAINTER PED. Ess.--21
eloquence the eternal principles of justice and morality, and he committed the most shameful and culpable acts. This man, who wrote admirable pages upon domestic affection, friendship, and gratitude, chose a companion unworthy of him, placed his children in a foundling hospital, and showed himself unjust and harsh toward his friends, and ungrateful toward his benefactors."
Rousseau has exerted his influence upon educational development through a single work, half treatise and half romance, to which all subsequent educators — Basedow, Pestalozzi, Richter, Kant, and even Herbert Spencer — have been more or less indebted. It is, as he himself says, “a collection of thoughts and observations, without order and almost without connection.” It is entitled “ Émile, or concerning Education.” In many respects a radical book, it is flung defiantly in the face of prevalent usage.
“Go directly contrary to custom,” he says, “and you will nearly always be right.” The work was condemned by parliament, and to escape arrest, Rousseau fled to Switzerland. The work abounds in mingled truth and error, and needs to be read with great discrimination; but many of its truths are fundamental, and ever since their publication have been gradually forcing an entrance into educational practice. Not Rousseau's individual rules,” says the great German Richter,
many of which may be erroneous without injury to the whole, but the spirit of education which fills and animates the work, has shaken to their foundations and purified all the schoolrooms, and even the nurseries, in Europe. In no previous work on education was the ideal so richly and beautifully combined with actual observation as in his."
Rousseau was largely indebted to his predecessors, especially to Locke, whom he frequently quotes, but with whom he does not always agree. The two fundamental principles which have perhaps exerted the widest influence
are these: Nature is to be studied and followed. Education is an unbroken unity, extending from early childhood to maturity. It is true that both these principles had been advocated by Comenius, but it was through the charm of Rousseau's work that they made a deep impression upon the educational thinking of Europe. Along with positions wholly indefensible, he urges, in admirable style, many of the reforms that have become commonplaces in the education of to-day.
With the intention of following nature, Rousseau carries Émile, his hero, through five periods of development: the first embraces his infancy, the second extends to his twelfth year, the third to his fifteenth, the fourth to his twentieth, and the fifth includes his marriage. To each of these periods a book, sufficient for a small volume, is devoted, setting forth principles and methods in detail. The following extracts consist of such paragraphs from the different books as will give a clear and comprehensive view of Rousseau's system of pedagogy.
SELECTIONS FROM ROUSSEAU.
ÉMILE, OR CONCERNING EDUCATION.
I. We are born weak, we need strength; we are born destitute of all things, we need assistance; we are born stupid, we need judgment. All that we have not at our birth, and that we need when grown up, is given us by education.
This education comes to us from nature itself, or from other men, or from circumstances. The internal development of our faculties and of our organs is the education nature gives us; the use we are taught to make of this devel
opment is the education we get from other men; and what we learn, by our own experience, about things that interest us, is the education of circumstances.
In the natural order of things, all men being equal, the vocation common to all is the state of manhood; and whoever is well trained for that, cannot fulfil badly any vocation which depends upon it. Whether my pupil be destined for the army, the church, or the bar, matters little to me. Before he can think of adopting the vocation of his parents, nature calls upon him to be a man. How to live is the business I wish to teach him. On leaving my hands he will not, I admit, be a magistrate, a soldier, or a priest; first of all he will be a man. All that a man ought to be he can be, at need, as well as any one else can. Fortune will in vain alter his position, for he will always occupy his own. Our real study is that of the state of man. He
among us who best knows how to bear the good and evil fortunes of this life is, in my opinion, the best educated; whence it follows that true education consists less in precept than in practice. We begin to instruct ourselves when we begin to live; our education commences with the commencement of our life; our first teacher is our nurse. For this reason the word “education ” had among the ancients another meaning which we no longer attach to it; it signified nutriment.
To live is not merely to breathe, it is to act. It is to make use of our organs, of our senses, of our faculties, of all the powers which bear witness to us of our own existence. He who has lived most is not he who has numbered the most years, but he who has been most truly conscious of what life is. A man may have himself buried at the age of a hundred years, who died from the hour of his birth. He would have gained something by going to his grave in youth, if up to that time he had only lived.
3. But let mothers only vouchsafe to nourish their chil
dren, and our manners will reform themselves; the feelings of nature will re-awaken in all hearts. The State will be repeopled; this chief thing, this one thing will bring all the rest into order again. The attractions of home life present the best antidote to bad morals. The bustling life of little children, considered so tiresome, becomes pleasant; it makes the father and the mother more necessary to one another, more dear to one another; it draws closer between them the conjugal tie. When the family is sprightly and animated, domestic cares form the dearest occupation of the wife and the sweetest recreation of the husband. Thus the correction of this one abuse would soon result in a general reform; nature would resume all her rights. When women are once more true mothers, men will become true fathers and husbands.
4. A father, when he brings his children into existence and supports them, has, in so doing, fulfilled only a third part of his task. To the human race he owes men; to society, men fitted for society; to the State, citizens. Every man who can pay this triple debt, and does not pay it is a guilty man; and if he pays it by halves, he is perhaps more guilty still. He who cannot fulfil the duties of a father has no right to be a father. Not poverty, nor severe labor, nor human respect can release him from the duty of supporting his children and of educating them himself. Readers, you may believe my words. I prophesy to any one who has natural feeling and neglects these sacred duties, – that he will long shed bitter tears over this fault, and that for those tears he will find no consolation.
5. The qualifications of a good tutor are very freely discussed. The first qualification I should require in him, and this one presupposes many others, is, that he shall not be capable of selling himself. There are employments so noble that we cannot fulfil them for money without showing our