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HD 104: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on Childhood

Q. Rousseau gives us the first truly child-centered educational programme by spelling out the significance of nature in the early years. Discuss this statement with particular attention to the first two books of Emile.

From my reading of Emile, I have come to the conclusion that it is in fact Rousseau who gives us the first child-centered educational programme by showing us the importance of nature in the early years. I will discuss this statement with reference to the first two books of Emile.

Rousseau considered Emile as “his greatest and best work” and it took him a total of twenty three years to complete it (Rousseau J.J, 1979; 1761). In this book Rousseau talked a lot about children and he believed that children should be allowed to grow up according to their own nature (Rousseau J.J, 1979; 1761). This view is very different to those of others such as the views of the Spartans who raised their young boys to be soldiers and they raised the girls to be the mothers of these soldiers (Sommerville, 1990). These children were shaped from very young ages and they were made to think and do certain things such as eating every type of food without complaint and they had no chance to explore the world or discover things for themselves(Sommerville, 1990). When we compare the teachings of the Spartans against those that Rousseau puts forward in Emile, it is very easy to see that Rousseau creates a child-centered educational programme through the significance he places on nature in the early years.

Rousseau discusses many of his views in Emile and we can clearly see from the books that he believed that childhood was a sacred time for children. He wishes for children to be given freedom and we see that he was against children learning everything from books “What is to be thought of that cruel education which sacrifices the present to an uncertain future, that burdens the child with all sorts of...
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