After discovering what the 3 kinds of education were, and their purpose, it is necessary to identify the principles that will make an education the best way to raise a child.
To understand why education up to now is not up to the mark and is not beneficial to men, it is immediately to identify what it is necessary to do to produce a good education, to help the development of the child.
And in an almost paradoxical way, Rousseau affirms in education the benefits of laissez-faire against the damage of constraint and of all that is inculcated in the child, at least at the beginning of childhood – Rousseau speaks in particular from birth until the age of 12.
Why from the beginning men have been badly educated
→ There has never been and there never will be democracy! – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, man has never known how to educate children properly. Let’s insist on the word never:“since we have been involved in bringing up children“, that is, since this education has been institutionalized in some way, since man has made it his mission to educate children, since he has been aware of this educational practice.
Rousseau starts from the principle that at birth, the heart of a child is pure. However, in order to inculcate principles, to educate, adults have taken the habit of soliciting and giving birth to bad habits in the child. We can think here of the competition, of the punishment promised if the child does not obtain sufficient results, or even the reward that is dangled in the event of good results.
This education is therefore a relentless attack on the child. This is why Rousseau recommends stopping: the child must be left alone. His heart is pure, and this pure heart must be preserved.
It is very strange that, since one has been involved in bringing up children, one has not imagined any other instrument to lead them than emulation, jealousy, envy, vanity, greed, vile fear, all the most dangerous passions, the quickest to ferment, and the most likely to corrupt the soul, even before the body is formed. With each early instruction that we want to put into their heads, we plant a vice in the bottom of their hearts; foolish teachers think they are doing wonders by making them evil in order to teach them what goodness is; and then they gravely say to us: Such is the man, Yes, such is the man that you have made.
All instruments have been tried, except one, the only one that can succeed: well-regulated freedom (…) Do not give your pupil any kind of verbal lesson; he must receive it only from experience: do not inflict any kind of punishment on him, for he does not know what it is to be at fault: never make him ask for forgiveness, for he cannot offend you. Devoid of all morality in his actions, he can do nothing morally wrong that deserves neither punishment nor reprimand. (…)
Let us posit as an incontestable maxim that the first movements of nature are always upright: there is no original perversity in the human heart; there is not a single vice in it of which we cannot say how and by which it entered. The only passion natural to man is self-love, or self-love taken in an extended sense. This self-love in itself or in relation to us is good and useful; and, as it has no necessary relation to others, it is in this respect naturally indifferent; it becomes good or bad only by the application we make of it and the relations we give it. Until the guide of self-love, which is reason, can be born, it is therefore important that a child does nothing because it is seen or heard, nothing in a word in relation to others, but only what nature requires of it; and then it will do nothing but good.
Let the children break the furniture
→ Summary of the 1st book of Rousseau’s Social Contract
This provocative formula, let the children break the furniture, nevertheless corresponds to the necessity mentioned above: let your child with his pure heart, let him experiment, do not blame him.
Certainly if you can save some furniture, for example by not displaying it, by changing the precious objects by uninteresting objects, so that your child will not break them: do it. But if it turns out that your child breaks the furniture you cared so much about, if he breaks the windows of your apartment, do not punish him. Take it out on yourself for not being careful enough, because this pure-hearted child doesn’t know what he’s done, he just followed his nature.
I do not mean that he will never do any damage, that he will not hurt himself, that he will not break a piece of valuable furniture if he finds it within his reach. He could do a lot of harm without doing any harm, because the bad action depends on the intention to harm, and he will never have this intention. If he had it just once, all would be lost; he would be wicked almost without resource.
Such a thing is wrong in the eyes of avarice, which is not wrong in the eyes of reason. If you leave children free to exercise their absent-mindedness, you should keep away from them everything that could make it costly, and leave nothing fragile or precious within their reach. (…)
If, in spite of your precautions, the child makes a mess or breaks a useful piece of furniture, do not punish him for your negligence, do not scold him; do not let him hear a word of reproach; do not even let him know that he has given you grief; act exactly as if the piece of furniture had broken of its own accord; in short, believe that you have done a great deal if you are able to say nothing.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau –
Wasting time: the most important of all rules
→ The best legislation in the world? The French motto! – Rousseau
For Rousseau, the time of idleness, the time of harmless experience, the time of carelessness is essential to the construction, the development, and therefore the education of a man. This is why it is important to preserve this sacred period for the child. Let your child breathe, do what he wants, let nature act in him, invites Rousseau.
The risk is to want to direct, guide and constrain the child too early, without even knowing what his nature is pushing him towards. This behavior would be harmful, and would waste even more time to make up for the damage. On the contrary, it is necessary to give the child time to discover his personal inclinations, to find out how he blossoms, what he is really called to do. Only in this way can he be encouraged in this way, and given a good education.
It is also interesting to note that Rousseau mentions the age of 12 as the point up to which this good education must be guaranteed and the innocent heart of the child preserved.
Dare I state here the greatest, the most important, the most useful rule of all education? it is not to gain time, it is to lose time. Vulgar readers, forgive me for my paradoxes: it is necessary to make them when one reflects; and, whatever you may say, I prefer to be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices. The most dangerous interval in human life is that from birth to the age of twelve. This is the time when errors and vices germinate, without any instrument yet being available to destroy them; and when the instrument comes, the roots are so deep that it is no longer time to pull them out. If children suddenly jumped from the womb to the age of reason, the education we give them might suit them; but, according to natural progress, they need a completely opposite one. It would be necessary that they do not weave anything into their soul until it had all its faculties; for it is impossible for it to see the torch that you present to it while it is blind, and for it to follow, in the immense plain of ideas, a road that reason still traces so lightly for the best eyes.
The first education must therefore be purely negative. It consists, not in teaching virtue or truth, but in guaranteeing the heart from vice and the mind from error.
Exercise his body, his organs, his senses, his strength, but keep his soul idle as long as possible. Beware of all feelings prior to the judgment that appreciates them. Hold back, stop foreign impressions: and, to prevent evil from arising, do not hurry to do good; for it is never such as when reason illuminates it. Look upon all delays as advantages: it is a great gain to advance towards the end without losing anything; let childhood mature in children. Finally, if they need to learn something, don’t teach it today, if you can postpone it until tomorrow without danger.
Another consideration which confirms the usefulness of this method is that of the particular genius of the child, which must be well known in order to know what moral regime is suitable for him. Each mind has its own form, according to which it needs to be governed (…)
So do not be like the miser who loses much in order to lose nothing. Sacrifice in the first age a time that you will regain with wear and tear in a more advanced age. The wise physician does not give prescriptions carelessly at first sight, but first studies the temperament of the patient before prescribing anything; he starts treating him late, but he cures him, while the doctor who is in too much of a hurry kills him.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau –
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