Some Thoughts Concerning Education

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University Press, 1902 - Education - 240 pages
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As towering figures of the Enlightenment—a period of intellectualism that itself towers over other eras—John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau hold a very sacred place in the pantheon of Western thought. It was during the Enlightenment—due much in part to both Locke and Rousseau—that the tenets of modern pedagogy, educational philosophy and educational psychology were forged. The writings of Locke and Rousseau on education, compared, are not by any means flush; but to say that both philosophers hold certain concepts to be immutable is a great understatement. Like their Enlightenment counterparts, both Locke and Rousseau seek to wrestle intellectual agency out of the hands the remnants of the medieval scholastic establishment, and to place emphasis on a bold new epistemological based educational philosophy. Further, Locke and Rousseau challenge what they feel are the misguided assumptions of fellow Enlightenment thinkers; most notably René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes. Focusing on John Locke’s Some Thoughts on Education and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile, this essay shows the process of John Locke blazing a trail through the thickly wooded environs of seventeenth and eighteenth century scholastic and rational based education. This path is, opened by the blade of Locke’s own empirical and epistemological philosophies, allow Jean-Jacques Rousseau to follow through with his tour-de-force and pedogological doctrine Emile.
John Locke’s published Some Thoughts Concerning Education in 1693 at the request of friends Mr. and Mrs. Edward Clarke, who sought advice on raising their young son. In Education Locke reaffirms many of his previously established philosophical concepts, but further outlines a pedogological philosophy that incorporates his then burgeoning work on the origin and growth of knowledge (epistemology), the development of awareness (consciousness), the formation of character, virtue, and social responsibility. Although written for the small class of English gentlemen, Education was destined to have a profound influence upon children of all classes in societies throughout the Western world. This work comes to dominate educational philosophy until the mid-nineteenth century and lays the foundations of faculty psychology, child psychology, and modern experimental psychology.
This influential text cannot be understood without a survey of the significant meditations Locke references within; most essentially those on epistemology, empiricism, and psychology. The implications of Locke’s epistemology change the way that knowledge is pursued. Specifically, Locke’s empiricism encourages the collection of data as a prerequisite to making any conclusions. This shifts the emphasis away from studying/memorizing the, as Locke might argue, vague and undefined premises of many ecclesiastical interpretations that previous generations accepted. Regarding psychology, Locke’s “Tamquam Tabula Rasa” (like a blank slate) concept places a previously untold emphasis on the education of youth. Locke’s empirical challenge to the rationalist views marks the second round in what psychologists today call the nature vs. nurture debate. This debate involves analyzing man’s behavioral patterns with the goal of identifying either and innate or acquired explanation for specific categories of behavior.
Locke is immediately challenging the rationalist view. Empiricists and rationalists could not disagree more on the nature of epistemology. Whereas rationalists strongly supported the existence of innate ideas; the empiricists rejected this in favor of the concept of acquired ideas. For the rationalists reason is based on deductive logic (conclusion derived from a premise) but the empiricists instead value the inductive approach (whereby observations are used in effort to determine a premise). Also, whereas rationalist thought accepts revelation as valid, Locke and the empiricists emphasize reason as the acquisition of truth through the senses instead of deduction based on revelation.
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Page 1 - A sound mind in a. sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world ; he that has these two has little more to wish for ; and he that wants either of them will be but little the better for anything else.
Page lviii - I cannot think any parent or instructor justified in neglecting to put this little treatise into the hands of a boy about the time when the reasoning faculties become developed.
Page xlviii - We are all shortsighted, and very often see but one side of a matter ; our views are not extended to all that has a connection with it. From this defect I think no man is free. We see but in part, and we know but in part, and therefore it is no wonder we conclude not right from our partial views.
Page 29 - ... he that knows not how to resist the importunity of present pleasure or pain, for the sake of what reason tells him is fit to be done, wants the true principle of virtue and industry, and is in danger never to be good for any thing.
Page 165 - If any one among us have a facility or purity more than ordinary in his mother tongue, it is owing to chance, or his genius, or any thing, rather than to his education, or any care of his teacher.
Page 27 - Would you have your son obedient to you when past a child, be sure then to establish the authority of a father as soon as he is capable of submission, and can understand in whose power he is. If you would have him stand in awe of you, imprint it in his infancy ; and as he approaches more to a man, admit him nearer to your familiarity ; so shall you have him your obedient subject (as is fit) whilst he is a child, and your affectionate friend when he is a man.
Page 166 - I imagine we have none, and perhaps I may think I have reason to say we never shall be able to make a science of it. The works of nature are contrived by a wisdom, and operate by ways too far surpassing our faculties to discover or capacities to conceive, for us ever to be able to reduce them into a science.
Page 152 - ... him bid defiance to all other callings and business. Which is not yet the worst of the case ; for if he proves a successful rhymer, and...
Page 205 - ... that way, till at last he insensibly got a facility in it without perceiving how ; and that is attributed wholly to nature, which was much more the effect of use and practice. I do not deny that natural disposition may often give the first rise to it ; but that never carries a man far without use and exercise, and it is practice alone that brings the powers of the mind as well as those of the body to their perfection.
Page 152 - Poetry and gaming, which usually go together, are alike in this too, that they seldom bring any advantage, but to those who have nothing else to live on.

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