Emile or on education

By Jean Jacques Rousseau

This is not a review.

Those who have read the confessions or a little about him know he gave his children out to be raised by others. As such, we could easily dismiss him to be unqualified in telling us how to raise children. But since I didn’t dismiss him, I can say a few things about his lessons.

On practicality in this day, almost impossible. You would need to be  homeschooling and doing nothing else.

Some of the ideas I fully agree with. Don’t introduce religion until they have arrived at the age of reason. Wherever possible use demonstration and not empty words. Expose them to the less fortunate, just enough for them to learn pity but not too much to make them indifferent. Keep them, if possible, away from bad influence. Encourage them to be confident in their teacher, that way they are free to be themselves and not learn early to deceive.

His sentiments about women on the other hand deserve criticism. For example he writes

Unless a beautiful woman is an angel, her husband is the most miserable of men; and even if she were an angel he would still be the centre of a hostile crowd and she could not prevent it.

He continues to write

But ugliness which is actually repulsive is the worst misfortune; repulsion increases rather than diminishes, and it turns to hatred. Such a union is a hell upon earth; better death than such a marriage.

Elsewhere he writes

Your honour is in your keeping, hers depends on others.

The last example I will provide, and there are many more where he tells us the duties of women are tied up with their husbands or fathers. He writes for example

Her honour is to be unknown; her glory is the respect of her husband her joys the happiness of her family.

He asks his readers who between a woman busy with household chores or an author of poems and books will you address with most respect?