Published: 10-10-2011, 15:06

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) - American Education

Swiss-born philosopher, author, political scientist,musicologist and one of the most influentialminds in the so-called Age of Enlightenment.In the field of education, his novel Emile, oul’Education (1762) was one of the most influentialdocuments in 18th- and 19th-century education,offering a new theory of educationbased on the principles of natural child developmentand the futility of attempting to treatchildren as small adults. In the novel, the boyEmile learns by experience and natural observation,using his senses to acquire new knowledgeand acquiring new skills as he becomesdevelopmentally ready.

In 1775, the pioneer Swiss educator JOHANNHEINRICH PESTALOZZI attempted to apply theeducational techniques of Emile on his estate,where he opened a school for poor children,who would ordinarily have gone uneducated.After five years of experimenting with “Emilian”educational methods, he closed the schoolfor lack of funds. Apparently he had enjoyedrelatively little progress in educating the children,but he later applied his methods successfullyin a well-endowed school he founded forwealthier children. Pestalozzian methods,derived in part from Rousseau’s Emile, becamethe foundation of modern elementary educationin Europe, England and the United States.Ironically, as insightful as Rousseau was to theeducational needs of his fictional Emile, heabandoned his own children, leaving them togrow up in orphanages.