In 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau published Emilio or Of Education. This treatise, completely new for the time, found great success, revolutionizing pedagogy and served as a starting point for the theories of all the great educators of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is an educational novel that tells the education of a noble and rich orphan, Emilio, from his birth until his marriage.
Faithful to his principle, according to which man is born naturally good, Rousseau believes that it is necessary to start from the child’s natural instincts to develop them. Negative education (the one proposed by the philosopher), in which the role of the preceptor (teacher) is, above all, to preserve the child, should replace the positive education that forms intelligence prematurely and thoughtlessly. The complete cycle of this new education comprises four periods:
1. The first period goes from 0 to 5 (zero to five) years, corresponding to a purely physical life, capable of strengthening the body without forcing it; spontaneous and guided period thanks, notably, to breastfeeding;
2. The second period runs from 5 to 12 (five to twelve) years and is the one in which the child develops his body and character in contact with natural realities, without active intervention from his preceptor;
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3. The preceptor intervenes more directly in the third period, which runs from 12 to 15 (twelve to fifteen) years, a period in which the young person begins, essentially through experience, geography and physics, at the same time as learning a manual profession or craft;
4. From 15 to 20 (fifteen to twenty) years old is the fourth period in which man flourishes in moral, religious and social life.
This is, therefore, the basic model of education proposed by Rousseau to replace traditional education which, in the name of civilization and progress, forces men to develop in children the formation of only the intellect to the detriment of physical education, moral character and of each individual’s own nature.
By João Francisco P. Cabral
Graduated in Philosophy from the Federal University of Uberlândia – UFU
Master’s student in Philosophy at the State University of Campinas – UNICAMP