Rousseau’s Theory about Education

“The neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore.”-Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Rousseau and Wollstonecraft believed that children should be allowed to grow freely and learn to use their education practically. Children would then grow up to be free thinking adults that would keep soceity from becoming materialistic and oppressing. Nonetheless, they vehemently disagreed on who should receive such an education. Rousseau thought that only males, because they are stronger should receive such and education. Wollstonecraft believed everyone, no matter what sex, should be able to be educated to reform and better society as a whole. Though both their works were considered extreme, they are both apparent in the public education system of today.
Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and Rousseau (1712-1778) both agreed that society oppressed human kind, but Wollstonecraft felt that men were oppressing women. They both believed that education should mean letting children grow freely and placing little restrictions. They should protect them from immediate dangers and provide food and shelter. They should not, however, force books and controlled learning upon the children. He thought that children should also develop common sense and each child would choose whatever interests him to study in greater detail. He thought that this method of education would produce a well balanced, free thinking child. Therefore this would lead to a natural society rather than a materialistic one.
Rousseau”s theory of natural education was not intended for all children. He felt that girls should be limited motherhood, and how to be a wife. To Rousseau, women exist in order to serve man, because they are weaker. Wollstonecraft stated that women should be taught medicine in order to take care of parents, infants, and husbands properly. She endorsed equal education for all children no matter what the sex. They should not only be taught the same things, but should be taught together, to learn social interaction they would encounter as adults. Girls and boys would attend day school together and then boys would be sent to their apprenticeships and girls would learn how to sew and other skills. Wollstonecraft tried to prove that by denying a woman”s education you are denying her the ability to raise children adequately. Therefore it would benefit both sexes if women were properly educated.

Rousseau was applauded for advocating human rights and natural education but when it concerned women he broke no new ground. He actually promoted women”s role as a wife and mother present to serve her husband. He stated that because women were weaker physically that their minds were as well. Wollstonecraft upheld his philosophy of natural education to encourage individual freedom to benefit society. However, she detested his treatment of women.
She advised that women and men should both be educated, and educated together. Both of Emile and The Vindication of the Right”s of Women were considered radical, they were both revolutionaries. Emile impacted practical applications, and the exploration of natural curiosity in education. Wollstonecraft”s radical idea of educating boys and girls equally, and together are applied on public education today.

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