Some Thoughts Concerning Education

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University Press, 1902 - Education - 240 pages
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"Highly recommended for general readers or professionals seeking to understand the origins of many current educational theories and practices."--Choice This book, one of John Locke's major works, is primarily about moral education--its role in creating a responsible adult and the importance of virtue as a transmitter of culture. However, Locke's detailed and comprehensive guide also ranges over such practical topics as the effectiveness ofphysical punishment, how best to teach foreign languages, table manners, and varieties of crying.

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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.

About the author (1902)

John Locke's works of political and social philosophy, written in the 17th century, have strongly influenced intellectuals ever since - including the founders of the United States of America. Born in 1632 in Wrington, England, Locke studied at Christ Church, Oxford, where he earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in the late 1650's. He also studied medicine and earned a medical license. His studies led to an interest in contemporary philosophers influenced by science, such as Rene Descartes. Locke read widely among them while teaching at Christ Church over the next few years. In 1667, Locke became personal physician and adviser to Anthony Ashley Cooper, who later was appointed Earl of Shaftesbury. Through Shaftesbury's patronage, Locke earned some government posts and entered London's intellectual circles, all the while writing philosophy. He was one of the best-known European thinkers of his time when he died in 1704. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Locke established the philosophy of empiricism, which holds that the mind at birth is a blank tablet. Experience, Locke believed, would engrave itself upon the tablet as one grew. He felt humans should create theories according to experience and test them with experiments. This philosophy helped establish the scientific method. Locke codified the principals of liberalism in "Two Treatises of Government" (1690). He emphasized that the state must preserve its citizens' natural rights to life, liberty and property. When the state does not, Locke argued, citizens are justified in rebelling. His view of liberalism comprised limited government, featuring elected representation and legislative checks and balances. While a Christian, Locke believed in absolute separation of church and state, and he urged toleration of those whose religious views differed from the majorities.

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