Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools

By Peter W. Cookson; Caroline Hodges Persell | Go to book overview

2
Rousseau's Children: Total Educational Environments

THE ORIGINATOR of the boarding school idea was not a proper Bostonian, an English gentleman, or even a right-thinking clergyman, but the radical philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau ( 1712-1778). He was among the first critical thinkers to identify adolescence as a special period between childhood and adulthood. Rousseau's conception of adolescent malleability predated Erik Erikson's description of adolescent turmoil by almost two hundred years, but they are nonetheless similar. Both Rousseau and Erikson make much of the adolescent identity crisis and the need for a "moratorium" period. Much like the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau, who believed that war was too important to leave to the generals, Rousseau believed that adolescent development was too important to leave to mothers and fathers.

In Emile, Rousseau sketched out what he believed would constitute an ideal education. The young student should be plucked from his parents

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