|After reading the chapter pertaining to John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theories on childhood development and educational philosophy, I was left with the feeling that overall, they had a lot of similar viewpoints on the method of education but their views on development were different in many ways.
While Rousseau has broken down his theory of development into stages, both he and Locke agree that ideas are not innate in a child but that they are learned from their environment and that they experience the world directly through their senses. Rousseau takes it a step further though and states that infants begin to acquire language and that they do this almost entirely on their own. He believed that they develop a grammar that is more perfect than our own and that they follow the rules of grammar much better than adults.
At this point they seem to go off in different directions. Locke believes that children develop thoughts and feelings though associations. Locke believes that when two ideas occur together regularly, it cannot be helped that when one idea is thought of the other is automatically thought of as well. Locke also goes on to describe the different types of associations like repetition, imitation, and rewards and punishment. This theory of development is vastly different from Rousseau’s, as it seems that he ties in development with reasoning and cognitive thinking from the ages of 2 to 15. From the book, it seems like Rousseau’s theory is depicting these ages as sort of “simple thinkers” and that all they are capable of doing or accomplishing is farming, plowing the fields or doing the work of adults. He goes on to say that at this stage, the children are limited in their verbal and theoretical matters. By the time of adulthood, Locke eludes to the fact that through associations and the environment in which they are brought up in, these children will have reached their full potential. Rousseau believes that once the child reaches adolescence, they have developed cognitively and that they are able to deal with abstract concepts and take an interest in science and morals.
As different as their theories of development seem to me, their educational methods seem to be on a much similar level. Rousseau developed his educational method using an imaginary pupil named Emile. As Rousseau goes on to explain how Emile would be educated, I instantly saw the similarities between his ideas and Locke’s. Locke believes that parents should never reward children when they desire things they do not need and Rousseau explains that if Emile wished to inspect an object he would only be given it when Emile had a genuine need to learn about it, never when Emile simply desired it. Locke also had a “small step” theory of education that was basically a concern that children would acquire fear if coddled too much by their parents. Rousseau also felt the same way when he explained that Emile would learn to walk and talk on his own and that Rousseau would never push or correct his pupil. He did not want Emile to become timid or anxious. Locke and Rousseau also agreed that children should have plenty of physical exercise and that it was crucial to their health and learning that they received plenty of exercise all year long. Locke and Rousseau also agreed that a child should not be stuck in a classroom all day long sitting at their desk. Both believed that children should be using their senses and should be encouraged to act upon their natural curiosity to discover the answers to questions. They do differ a bit here though because while Locke believes in guidance from the teacher, Rousseau believes that Emile should not be corrected when he has makes a mistake and that he should be free to figure out what went wrong, how ever long it takes. Another problem with Rousseau’s theory of development is that Emile is a made up little boy. He isn’t real, with any of the real problems that boys have while growing up. Rousseau also doesn’t have a reward and punishment system in place like Locke does which I believe is very important in teaching.
Overall, I believe that my theories of teaching are most similar to John Locke’s theories of development and education. I believe that children learn from associations as well and that repetition and imitation are some of the core teaching methods of adults today, even if they don’t realize it. I believe children imitate and repeat almost everything that their parents do and that is why you will hear a father say about his son “he is a tiny version of me”. I believe this is because the child, even as young as a year old, can imitate and mirror a parent into acting and sounding just like them. I also believe strongly in the reward and punishment system and while I believe in a few minor aspects of Rousseau’s theories, it is Locke’s theories that I most strongly related to. I believe his theory of academic instruction had a lot of points that are similar to the way I believe children should be taught. I believe, especially for younger children, that learning things like numbers and letters can be made fun and more enjoyable for the child when paired with a game and that reading can be made more enjoyable when the child is stimulated with an exciting story, not just a standard textbook. I am a firm believer in hands on when it comes to teaching and I am also a big advocate in peer interaction and peer tutoring which I believe Locke would also agree with.
While Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke had differences of opinion when it came to development and educational theories, I do believe that both men were right when they stated that children learn from their environment and that they are not born with their knowledge. I believe that the environment in which children are raised and the stimulation that they receive is a key factor in their future in the education system.