A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF J.J. ROUSSEAU’S CONCEPT OF EDUCATION
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The idea “EDUCATION” is one kind of honourific and desirable to everyone, particularly, a nation as its role in the development can hardly be over emphasized. Considering the universal connotation of the concept, could there be any kind of education that is so sacrosanct and admissible, and if there is, what is it?
In trying to decipher what ‘education’ is, the concept apparently and unavoidably need to be clarified. Education hitherto, that is, in the early phase of man’s existence on earth was perceived as a way of life. It is a way of life in the sense of its power and role in cultural preservation, promotion and sometimes the selective modification of society’s cherished values of old. Thus, education is used as an instrument for social change, political socialization, national integration and development.
One of the erroneous views about what education is to limit it to a form of schooling. Education in the real sense of it is much more than mere schooling. On the one hand, schooling is an aspect of education which is formal in nature but do not in anyway incorporate other aspect or informal of it. In other words, if schooling is one sided, education is wholistic and total in nature. How then should this education be pattern? To what goal or aim should it be geared towards? Should educants be passive or active in the process of education? To what extent can educational expectations be actualize? These are some of the fundamental questions that have disturbed various educational philosophers of different ages. From the time of Confucius to john Deney these questions received at great attention.
Like other great minds, Jean-Jacygues Rousseau on whose this work is centered, posited a brand of education which in all ramification is individualistic in orientation.
Rousseau educational philosophy as contained in his book entitled: Emile or a Treatise of Education is a naturalistic in nature. Naturalistic in the sense that he sees nature alone as the source of knowledge. In other words, man should be left to what ‘nature’ wants him to be1. Rousseau’s concept of education attacks the traditional view of transmitting of old traditional subject matter to the educants. He however clamours for the ‘nature’ as arbiter and sole process in education of man.
Rousseau believes that man is innately good. And to him how could such man retain his natural virtue alls for man to be trained in a natural way. The evil nature as commonly experience in him is due to corruption of society or civilization. According to him,
“Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Authors of nature; but everything degenerates in the hand of man”2.
With the above view in mind, Rousseau claimed that man must return to nature as a remedy to all ills that befalls him as a result of his departure from nature.
Rousseau’s educational philosophy tackles fundamental political and philosophical questions about the nature of man. For him man is inherently good. Thus idea is an off-shore of his political writing. He claimed that man in the state of nature is perfectly good, but have his nature dented by the ‘snake’ he calls property3.
With this view in mind, Rousseau advocated that a child ought to be separated form a society because it corrupts his nature and he needs to be taking to countryside where a private tutor will keep watch over him. There he would learn from his own experience and the role of tutor in his education should be minimized. However, because of differences between the physical and moral composition of both men and women, Rousseau reiterated that women ought to be given a special education different from that of man4.
Of what essence is education? Rousseau claims that education is a ‘man-making’ enterprise and not of making citizen as many precursors of educational philosophers before him upheld. As he observed,
“…it matters little to me, whether any people be designed for the army, the bar or the pulpits’. Nature was designed us to the offices of human life… let him first be a man, he will on occasion as soon become anything else, that man ought to be, as any other person whatsoever…”5
Rousseau however latter attested to the fact that education should be public in nature. Education must shape pupils’ minds in the national mould, and it must direct all their tastes and their opinions as to being patristic by indignation. He also advocated that state should take control of all, that is, appoint, dismiss and change at will all principals and hearts of colleges. Individual freedom in thus find of education is not guaranteed. This later idea of education by Rousseau is expressed in his book entitled Considerations on the Government of Poland. This position absolutely contradicts the views expressed by Rousseau in “Enule’ that education should be free from interference. These two points of view were never fully reconciled in Rousseau’s though6. Let us now turn to the statement of the problem.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Rousseau’s concept of education like other philosophical theories is one which is susceptible to attack. His concept of education creates a problem of misconception about human nature which could inadvertently mislead people on the true nature of education. Hence, creating a kind of education devoid of habit formation.
Another problem Rousseau’s concept of education creates was that of individualism. If we would agreed with Aristotle and as evidence in our experiences that man is a social animal, then Rousseau’s point or attempt in separating him from society to the countryside to be tutored further alienate man from his social nature and social instinct. He is an island to himself alone.
Finally, Rousseau’s concept of education raises the problem of inequality, his educational theory tends to see women as subhuman, inferior and lower in rank to men. Rousseau’s idea raises the fundamental question of “personsion”. His claims of disparity are not clear enough to sustain this inequality. Having stated the problem of this study, let us proceed to the scope of our study.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study shall mainly centered on the education as expounded by Jean-Jacfies Rousseau. In keeping to his we shall succinctly have retrospective ideas on some theories of education as handed down before Rousseau. With this we would be able to have a comprehensive view of the influences and significance of Rousseau’s notion.
However, our concentration on Rousseau’s concept of education does not mean we would not make reference to his other philosophical writings, especially, his political philosophy. This educational philosophy seeks to describe a system of education that would enable the ‘natural man’ he identifies in the Social Contract (1962) to survive corrupt society. Hence, his political philosophy serves as ontological base of his educational thesis. As a result, this work we at least espoused some of his political philosophy.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The significance of this study cannot be over emphasized most importantly as it stands the chance of not only clarifying the true position of what education is but also the possibly of a synthesis both Plato’s conception of education as well as that of Rousseau to fashion a new form of education with an honourfic and valuable significance.
This research study shall afford us the opportunity of retrospecting into theories of education, most especially that of Rousseau with a view to point out lacunas as well as correcting the erroneous news and championing a new course.
As the title of this study we require of us, we shall be using a critical, we mean a careful and systematic judgment or evaluative which will be devoid of any obvious form of prejudices or bias. The systematic nature of the method will afford the researcher to be open minded to the issue before him. Conceptual method, on the hand, will help in clarification and simplification of terms used so as to remove ambiguity and wrong use of language. Lastly, historical method shall enable the audience to have at least a clue of what education is before Rousseau and thus will help in understanding the basis of educational philosophy.
However, as a practical research work, this study shall employ the library research method, where both primary and secondary sources shall be fully employed.
1.6PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
This study is primarily aimed at situating education where it belongs by examining Rousseau’s concept of education in relation to other theorists before him and ultimately fashioning a way out. It is not the purpose of this study to engage education as a pure discipline rather it is an attempt to use philosophical instruments, apparatus and argument to champion what the essence of education should look like.
The study shall identify Rousseau’s take on education and thereafter critically examining and evaluating his position. In this case, those fundamental and indispensable position would be retained and those stale elements in Rousseau’s position shall be exterminated and where possible introduce new ones for incorporation.
There are some materials which are of immerse significance used in course of this study, although most of which are books will be reviewed. They were be no small measure in terms of contribution to this work. These books are going to be reviewed one after the others as follows:
The first book here is the book written by J.J Rousseau himself entitled Emile or a Treasure of Education published in 1762 alongside with his famous book on social political philosophy: The Social Contract. ‘Enule’ has been labeled as the most great book ever on education after Plato’s classic book-The Republic. It is a discourse on education that addressed the parents with sense of dignity and their parental role. Enule is an attack on the traditional form of education which admitted accumulation of worked out information of the paste7. In it, therefore, Rousseau put forward how education should be pattered so as to address the misnomers that characterized traditional form of education and possibly rescued it.
The second book we shall review here is a classical book of Plato entitled: The Republic. It is noted that this book addresses the problem and notion of justice. The book’s focal point is on how society should be organized. It also addresses the notion of education. In it, Plato argues that the primary aim of education is to develop men as a good citizen.
Moreso, another book that we shall reviewed here is entitled: Three Thousand Years of Educational Wisdom first published in 1947 and written by Robert Ulich. This book is a compendium on education philosophy and philosophers both in the waste and the East. It tries to help in reminding us the cost contact with the past by giving us an extract of educational writings of ‘great minds’ such as Plato in the West down to John Dewey as well as educational theories of the Asia and Judaic tradition8.
John Locke’s educational writing entitled: Some Thoughts Concerning Education published in 1693 is another significant book that we shall reviewed. The book was initially a letter to Edward Clarke, whom the printed copy was dedicated to advising him on how to raise up youth under various circumstances, which is the worthy mean to produce a virtuous, useful and relevant men for the society.
The fifth book we shall review here is a book written by American pragmatist, John Dewey entitled: Democracy and Education. The book is of 378 pages addressing some relevant educational theories in attempt to rescue democratic society from its numerous challenges that confront it. In other words, its connects the growth of idea society with it level of education.
Furthermore, the book written by both S.J Curtis and M.E.A Bentwood 1956 entitled: A Short History of Educational Idea shall serve as our next in literature review. The book is about the educational ideas from the earliest time to the present day. Both authors adopted a kind of biographical approach to make the audience or reader conversant with the dangers of over-generalization in educational thinking. The book affords the reader a generous opportunity to learn something about the ideas of the great tinkers of the past.
Finally, the last book we shall review here is a book authored by Peter King entitled: One Hundred Philosophers published in 2004. The work was an expository of the life and work of the world’s greatest thinkers from the ancient with Thales of Miletos to the twentieth century having Peter Singer as Philosopher to be considered case. The book is an overview of philosophy of philosophers from West and East as well as Africa.