Music Composers

Rousseau-Part 3


This remarkable book is the story of an imaginary youth, Emile, with a detailed account of his education as Rousseau would have planned it. In this eloquent and absorbingly interesting book the author discusses almost every conceivable problem of education. Emile's student life is divided into three parts, from infancy to twelve years of age, from the twelfth to the fifteenth year, and from the fifteenth to the twentieth. During the first period Emile had no formal instruction, and no introduction to books. He was kept in the country, far away from the institutional life of men, and taught to use his senses, to measure distances with the eye, to listen intelligently to nature's music, to distinguish things rather than words. Especial attention was given to his physical training, and the utmost liberty was accorded him. The author's chief desire is that Emile shall not learn anything during these first twelve years that he will need to unlearn later. "The most important, the most useful rule in all education, is not to gain time, but to lose it," says Rousseau. He had no patience with the desire to produce infant prodigies. Above all, he said, "let a child have all possible freedom. Encourage its sports, its pleasures, and its instinct for happiness. Why fill with bitterness and sorrow those first years so quickly passing which will no more return to them than they can return to you?"

During the second period, from twelve the fifteen, Emile was taught to physical sciences, and geography by travel, and allowed to read Robinson Crusoe. It was an extremely narrow curriculum. But Rousseau sharply protested against the custom of teaching boys history, and foreign languages, before the age of fifteen. He would prescribe few studies and require the greatest thoroughness in such subjects as the boy could really understand. He would fiercely attack the method that would permit the student to run from one subject to another without rhyme or reason, as so many students of music do in our day.

At fifteen Emile learned to trade and entered upon his higher education. Rousseau's contention is precisely the opposite of that of Aristotle. The French writer believed in specialization. He would have all the young man's studies selected with reference to their bearing upon his chosen pursuit.

The Etude Magazine November 1912





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