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THE AUTONOMOUS THINKER IN ROUSSEAU And its implications for Montessori and Homeschool Education.

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Presentation on theme: "THE AUTONOMOUS THINKER IN ROUSSEAU And its implications for Montessori and Homeschool Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE AUTONOMOUS THINKER IN ROUSSEAU And its implications for Montessori and Homeschool Education

2 Jean-Jacques Rousseau: An Introduction   Mother died in childbirth/ R. ran away at 16  Taken in by the Baronne de Warans- educated in her house and became her lover  Wrote on music in Diderot’s Encyclopedie  A Discourse on The Sciences and The Arts  wrote an opera which received much acclaim  Published The Emile in produced outrage and R. fled to Switzerland  invalid marriage to Therese Levasseur- 5 children abandoned to orphanages

3 Basis of His Educational Philosophy  Posits “a division within man’s soul resulting from his spiritual and physical dependence on other men which ruptures his unity and wholeness.”  Man was born good, free, self-sufficient and solitary and that the invention of the arts and sciences served to enslave him, corrupting his morals and robbing him of his happiness.  Goal of education is the creation of the autonomous man, free both morally and intellectually  Avoidance of amour-propre

4 Early Instruction  The senses and the survival mechanism= the motivation for learning  “Give the child no commandments or corrections, that he may never come into contact with derivatives of the arbitrary will of others.”  direct contact with nature (necessity), without the intermediary of books

5 Social Education  Property Rights- The bean example  Compassion  The equality of man’s vulnerability to suffering  Sexual education-conflating desire with the desire for the good and the beautiful  Travels and the evaluation of different social contracts

6 Important Ambiguities and Tensions  What is compassion?  Not a feeling, rather a reasoned decision of how to make the object of pity stronger or more autonomous  A form of self affirmation, limited to a social rather than moral good

7 Let’s Define Our Terms  Autonomy/self-sufficiency- wanting only what you can do and doing what you please, so you never need depend on another (this also means not extending the scope of your desire past what is immediately necessary to your flourishing (food, shelter etc.)  Compassion- active concern for welfare of others ultimately based on the equality of all men in their common susceptibility to suffering  Moral Freedom- freedom from enslavement to one’s own artificial needs (fostered by modern society and including friends, entertainment, luxury etc.) and from the domination of other man  Intellectual Freedom- approaching realms of class distinctions, division of labor, passions, morals, politics etc. in an evaluative manner, tested against one’s own authentic and personal experiences.

8 My Question  To what extent is Rousseau’s vision of education- particularly his ideas on freedom, autonomy, compassion, self-sufficiency and the role of the tutor- embedded in a homeschooling environment and/or a Montessori education?  My objective was initially to determine whether Rousseau’s call to shield children from any external, arbitrary will, or practically speaking to allow them to do as their inclinations bids within an ordered realm governed by necessity and self-preservation, successfully facilitates internalization of the sciences and secondly; to determine whether social boundaries and compassion can spring organically from a child’s own experience of his will and susceptibility to suffering.

9 My Thesis  By never having to take abstract knowledge on faith from adults and instead engaging in a continual testing of his own powers against the natural world, the child will have the necessary feedback to correct himself and in developing his powers will have a confidence in them of a much surer quality than the pupil who merely memorizes facts with no tie to his practical concerns. Under Rousseau’s tutelage, education becomes the optimal experience (incorporating mental, physical and spiritual struggle and feedback) so critical to authentic formation (by which I mean internally created rather than dependent on the esteem of others) of the human self.  As for the emergence of the social virtues, I am not yet convinced that the experience of common vulnerability is enough to promote compassion as such. I think it is enough to promote a respect for boundaries and property but to go further and pose an actual humanitarian concern is I think excessive

10 My Procedure  A questionnaire sent via to a montessori instructor, a homeschool instructor, and a former homeschooled student

11 Responses- A Visual Representation

12 A Summary of Answers  Moderately to very controlled curriculum  Teacher very responsive/observant to needs of pupil  Obedience required  Periodic to rare intervention/help  Moderate, variable interest but high motivation to problem solve independently  Very respectful and concerned for others  Certain of knowledge in the sense of performance, not objective validity  Asked questions periodically/ often

13 Insights  On the Question of Relevance  “As each child is individually planned for, their existing knowledge is a key factor in what is planned for that child. What skills that would benefit that child individually are very much taken into account.”  “All focus and knowledge when learning can be related to me personally, even when it should appear otherwise.”  On the Question of Certainty  “We always worked toward mastery rather than covering a certain volume of material.”  “The children become very certain and confident in the information learned because once an activity has been introduced they can work on it as much as they wish and gradually become increasingly confident in it, if they are struggling, they will be given more help so that they can become confident in the activity and their abilities.”  “I need to make a distinction between being confidant that one has learned the information well and confidant in the objective validity of that information which has been well learned. As a student, I was very certain and confident in the former (that I had learned the information well and would be highly capable of testing or acting on that subject matter), but depending on the information, I may or may not have been blindly confident in the former (the unquestioned truth of what was presented).”

14 Insights cont.  On the Question of Compassion  “I have always been a people-oriented person. It is both a great strength and a great weakness to this day how much I will drop anything and everything when the well-being of my friends (or even strangers) is at stake. Nothing is more important to me, and I know this is a result of both nature and nurture, because my parents (and therefore teachers) are the same way.”  “Each child is different, some are very concerned about others and try to take care of them, others are more individually orientated. I would say that there are more of the former than the latter though.”  “Most children are very respectful of the possessions of others as they each take a work rug or table mat to work on so they have their own individual work space, the other children know that this is not theirs and do not touch it. Personal possessions are usually well respected too, they know to ask the permission of the child who owns it to touch or play with it.”  On the Question of Reliance  “An intriguing consequence of home schooling is the knowledge that if you want to learn something, you can. If that something is astrophysics, it may be in your best interest to seek out an academic expert to clarify some things for you, but for the most part, you become aware that in the Information Age you can pick up a book or an instructional video and put your mind to it and learn to know or do almost anything. It’s often overwhelming. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond all measure. We are not held back by the things we can’t do, but by the vast sea of what we can do.”

15 Conclusions  For a purist, certain elements of Rousseau’s theory are decidedly absent from montessori/homeschool education; namely, his radical notion of self- sufficiency. Students are not governed by necessity but by conventional standards regarding what should be taught. Students must rely on external, unverified “experts” instead of on personal experience. That said, the role of the tutor was largely in accordance with Rousseau’s ideas of responsiveness and observation.

16 My Regrets (a Melodramatic and Overstated Title)  Larger pool of subjects  More specific questions  Study the “unschooled” homeschoolers/instructors and observe the finished products in person

17 New Questions  Is a pure conception of self-sufficiency even viable within the confines of society?  Would such autonomy act as a hindrance for an individual wishing to integrate himself into society?  Would such autonomy lead to extremism instead of the tolerance which comes with intellectual distance?


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