The Educational Theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau

By William Boyd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
ROUSSEAU'S PERMANENT CONTRIBUTION TO EDUCA
TIONAL THOUGHT: A CRITICAL ESTIMATE

1. Rousseau and his Age. --Now that we have completed our survey of the various factors contributing to the development of Rousseau's educational doctrine and have seen the form that it finally assumed, it is time to at tempt a critical estimate of its worth.

In beginning this part of our task, it may be necessary to remind ourselves of the difficulty of passing on Rousseau a simple judgment of approval or of disapproval, such as it is sometimes possible to pass on a contemporary thinker. Barely three half- centuries have elapsed since the Emile first appeared. But these three half centuries have been among the most momentous in the history of mankind. The violent breaking up of feudal government which took catastrophic expression in the French Revolution would in itself have been enough to change the current of human thought. But, added to the political upheaval, there was the greater economic upheaval which had its beginnings in what is sometimes called the Industrial Revolution, and which continues to affect profoundly the evolution of humanity. With these great changes operating in countless ways, the whole outlook on life is completely different from what it was in Rousseau's age. To us it is strange beyond comprehension that there ever was a time when his writings won the

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