Rousseau and Experience in Education
Rousseau strongly believed that the best method for raising children is to allow them to learn by themselves through experience in nature. “He among us who best knows how to bear the goods and the ills of this life is to my taste the best raised: from which it follows that the true education consists less in precept than in practice. We begin to instruct ourselves when we begin to live.” By creating an imaginary child, Emile, Rousseau is able to show us the effect of this type of education and the benefits of allowing a child to learn from experience. Emile learns nature with his hands and his senses, not from a book on biology. He feels the bumpy warts on the toad that would normally appear as flat two-dimensional designs in a textbook. Rousseau did not believe in conventional ways of teaching that we are familiar with today. “The text’s pedagogy reflects Rousseau’s fundamental belief that, if an experience—including the act of reading—is to be genuinely educational, then it must engage both an individual’s intellect and sentiments.” Rousseau believed that the only way a child will truly develop is by being true to their nature, and allowing the child to remain young and learn through experience. This could be used in today’s classrooms by providing students with more hands on activities. Activities where the children are made responsible for something from nature so as to keep both their “intellect” and “sentiments” engaged. I do not believe there is a way of completely implementing Rousseau’s teachings into today’s education system, but we can begin to take some of the major ideas, like allowing children to learn through experience and apply it in the classroom. The only way we as human beings learn is through experience, “The man who has lived the most is not he who has counted the most years but he who has most felt life.” If we as teachers just continue to force facts, dates, and formulas from textbooks to our...
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