Rousseau i våre hjerter
This essay broaches pedagogical key themes in Rousseau’s writings, primarily sourced from Émile, a book that 250 years after its first publication offers up a strikingly relevant critique of the current neo-liberal politics of schooling in the Western world. Rousseau was a keen observer of human folly, a sharp critic of Enlightenment culture, and an imaginative author with an acute sense of the vagaries of mind and feeling. I recount how he treats feelings, particularly the inner voice of conscience, as a core element in education. His idea of “negative pedagogy” is a lasting contribution to educational thinking in general and highly relevant for our discussion today about self-regulation and discipline in education. Rousseau’s idea about authenticity leads directly to the question of individual character and the relation between self-love and amour-propre. Here we are presented to a positive pedagogy, which is to foster the first and to foil the second. After having touched the conflict between theory and practice in Rousseau’s own life, I observe that the woman in Émile’s life, Sophie, comes forth as naturally healthy person, fit to face society’s temptations, while Émile in comparison must be protected from its harms by his well-meaning tutor until he turns 15. In a longer section I present the pedagogical paradox, which says that you cannot force a child to be independent. Rousseau interestingly disregards the paradox, which seems to cast doubt on his reputation as a radical reformer of modern pedagogy.
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