Reflection on Rousseau's Emile Books I-III

Reflection on Rousseau's Emile (Books I-III)

Rousseau drives me into schizophrenic madness. At first, his ideals of education and childhood are insane, unthinkable. Upon reflection, they are ideals and worthy of examination. But still, these abstract notions of nature and the assumptions grounding what is considered natural make me quite nervous. It seems to me that nature can be constituted as just about whatever someone says it is. The way this distinction of nature and natural then gets imported into everyday use is dangerous. From the depressive to the manic: Who can argue against a childhood whose nature is happiness? Connecting to my own experiences as a learner and as a teacher I know the power of self-discovery, the enormous influence of the learned-as-necessity. Rousseau’s ruminations and prescriptions of the bodily senses in Book II are eerily prominent in current dialogues concerning embodiment. Depressive. How can we withhold reading? Reason? Could this even accomplished? Can I, as a literate semi-adult who was a literate four-year-old wrap my mind around what it might mean for a child to not read until 10 or 11 or 12? Manic. To be free to learn what is of most use at present, to walk daily through my (unbeknownst to me) lessons, to experience natural consequences. Depressive. Can we engage children in this trickery until the age of 12? Surely Rousseau’s comments on lying can be applied to the many dramatic lessons used to teach Emile (in quite a roundabout way) this thing or that custom - that which is natural. Individualism and country life. Nature and gender. Self-guided and no habit. Natural ignorance. Desire and any method will work. Nature.

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