Topic: Rousseau on Education. While the focus will be on Rousseau’s Emile or On Education, this course will also act as a sufficiently robust survey of educational views in philosophy’s modern period. We will spend the first week and a half on Rousseau’s predecessor, John Locke, and his work, Some Thoughts Concerning Education. The next six to seven weeks will be dedicated to reading and understanding Emile, and the final week and a half to the consideration of Rousseau’s influence on the views presented in (the posthumously edited volume of) Immanuel Kant’s, Lectures on Education.
On a more general level, this is a “philosophy of education” course. In short, the philosophy of education is an investigation of the goals of education, the most prominent goals being the production of good human beings and societies. Thus, we’ll be studying, among other things, what good human beings and societies are and how it is that the marshalling of teaching techniques (pedagogy) and subject matters (curriculum) produce them.
I also hazard the suggestion that this is a political philosophy course. I want to explore on the periphery of the class the idea, which is most germane to studies of Plato’s Republic, a work which greatly influenced Rousseau's Emile, that “real” political philosophy is an enterprise that foregrounds the role of education in the achievement of political goals like the good life for “each individual and all in common.” To put it boldly, the impetus to this exploration is the (perhaps hasty) conclusion I’ve drawn that much of “recent” political philosophy operates largely outside of the realm of educational concerns, and much to its detriment.
As far as format and assignments are concerned, this is a discussion class. There will be manageable writing assignments for each class that will prepare us to discuss the material. I will try to keep the reading under or around 60 pages per week. The daily writing assignments are also intended to prepare us to write the more sizable essays the shape of which will be determined by the themes which arise in our discussions and also by a collective decision-making process.
TEXT: Emile or on Education, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author, Allan Bloom, translator.