Education develops through time. It once was created as guidance to pass through harsh primitive life. As time goes by, this guidance was developed and taught to all of their descendants. Over times, education changes its function as a tool that not only functioned to survive but also to bring morality and human enlightenment.
Discussion in this paper will engage with enlightenment thinkers ideas such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant on the education in their time. It will compare how they perceive the basic idea of ideal education. Locke, for instance, focuses more on the mental development and character building of children, while Rousseau focuses on human nature. The emphasize on moral education then was come out in Immanuel Kant’s idea of the important part of educating children.
Enlightenment in general means to illuminate or to perceive something. This term is also used to signify a period of history, during the early seventieth century until the eightieth century, which is characterized by the raising of critical thinking towards sciences and the stimulation of revolution ideas. During the age of enlightenment, the criticism is one of tool to excavate the people freedom of being a civil society.
Through a slow transition, this new phase had born influential thinkers who started the changes. One of the early enlightenment thinkers was Newton who initiated the propagation of knowledge in the sixteenth century. The following major thinkers were then inspired by his ideas, such as John Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and much more. Majorly, these thinkers criticized the governmental or monarch systems that they believed do not satisfy the needs of people. Some thinkers also stimulated people to shift from their conventional culture to more rational and modern ones.
The idea of enlightenment is often linked with education. Education was also believed as a tool to eliminate the conflict in society. Through that, it would allow the society to build the stronger idea of freedom and morality. Lack of attention in the education system, especially the institution, during late middle ages was seen by the inequality. Only those who were from high-class young men would be taught about lay and rationalistic while the rest of people would be taught about religion which was managed by the churches.
The pioneer thinkers on education during the enlightenment era are John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. Emphasizing on different ideas of education, these three philosophers had successfully influenced the development of epistemology. John Locke, English physician, philosopher, and polymath was born in Wrington, Somerset, England on 29 August 1632. He was raised in a discipline and loving puritan family. As a brilliant student, in 1647, young Locke was awarded a scholarship by the King and elected for a Studentship in Christ Church in Oxford. After finishing his medical study in Oxford, he continued to learn philosophy. His idea of education was elaborated in his book, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693). His view on children development was first inspired by his elite friend, Clarke, in 1684 who found some troublesome in behaving his son. As he consulted his stories to Locke, there were some suggestions of the idea for education triggered by the problems of misbehaving of Clarke’s son. He also targeted his methods of parenting and education to aristocrats ways in raising their children during that age.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland, on 28 June 1712. He was raised in the strong Calvinist background and encouraged to read by his father. Raised in Geneva, in his 20’s, he managed to move to Paris and married his wife. His most influential work about education is Èmile (1762). This book elaborates some suggestion on dealing with children education during his period. The half part of the book consists of the story of Èmile, a fictional young man that Rousseau used as a model of education development. He divided the book into five chapters which consist of the elaborative discussion of development stages.
Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg, Prussia (now it is Kaliningrad, Russia), on April 22, 1724. As a polymath and ambivalent thinkers, Kant published several criticisms mostly on the normative aspects and his remarkable work on education is Kant on Education (1803). Throughout his explanation, the idea of education, as he emphasized, should be based on moral development. This paper will be divided into two parts where the first part will compare the idea of children development. The following part will expose their different perspectives on the ideal method of education.
The concept of education coined by people in middle ages would obviously different from people nowadays. The disparity of gender role, for instance, was one of the most important aspects on who are allowed to learn and train. During the enlightenment years, these three influential thinkers had successfully created a new perspective on proper education method which should be applied to their children.
Locke’s main idea of education was character building and learning through experiences. He emphasized the term of Tabula Rasa which means that all human comes with a blank mind and their mind has great power to apply the principles. Slightly different from Locke, Rousseau’s main idea on education highlights on natural education. Parents or education have to understand the nature of development and its phases. In mid eightieth century, Kant came out with the idea that education should be based to moral. Good education, both practical and physical education, should refer and support to moral development.
Each thinker has their own perspective on the development of children. Locke’s Tabula Rasa defines that human born without carrying any knowledge. This idea was supported in Rousseau perspective of newborn human: “… we are born totally unprovided, we need aid; we are born stupid, we need judgment.” Rousseau idea was developed by the explanation of how the infant and early age childhood should be educated. As they will grow their physical nature, children should have freedom in their physical development which will help them to grow their physical sense. The support of the idea also came from Kant who in his book mentioned that to humanize a man it should be through education.
The ideas of childhood development are shown in their books. As Locke and Rousseau agreed that education should be cultivated in their early age, as that is the crucial part and it will determine the future of children. Locke’s idea of education majorly highlighted the phase childhood education in his book: how body development and health should be treated, character building, and academic curriculum. It is supported by Rousseau’s idea of his description of the discipline habits for children. He drew the similarity between man and plants. Both man and plant should have their freedom to grow, but if the growing process is neglected without being educated or shaped, it will grow into unwanted direction. This concept is also supported by Kant in his perception about education. He described that education will form man through four aspects of education: discipline, culture, discretion, and moral training.
The concept of liberty in children development, according to Locke, is to give children their freedom of mind. This freedom means that they are free to show their actions and let them enjoy their childhood:“liberty alone which gives the true relish and delight to their ordinary play-games” However, the presence of parents or educator in this liberty should be obvious. They are demanded to assess and guide their children.This idea is similar to Rousseau’s concept of liberty in his first chapter. He mentioned that children need to use their physical senses to encounter the nature of their life. Another similar idea also comes from Kant, mentioning that child should be bestowed with the liberty. However, the liberty should be taught to respect other people’s freedom.
Beside the development of children that had become the most important part in the idea of education, method of delivering lessons and values also become the spotlight in the works about education. Parents, described as the most important actors in this process, have several difficult tasks. Some other concerns about education methods come from the content of the teaching itself.
Locke argued that parents presence in children’s daily lives will allow them to determine good and bad habits or what to do and to avoid. The role of parents as a role model since children will imitate what parents do. He also emphasized the nurture of children through academic aspect. As a polymath, Locke might have experienced some discontents with the learning system in formal education: numerous of unnecessary disciplines, for instance. This was what make him suggesting some advice on curriculum. He argued that reading should be taught as when the children were able to talk while other lessons such as writing, languages, and arithmetic could be taught in advanced ages.
Some advice on moral education is emphasized in the characters building. Locke saw that to grow moral values or good habits, parents are allowed to use three methods: punishment, reward, and imitation. Punishment might be given to children with correct proportion, the burden of punishment depends on the mistakes. The reward is only given to children with esteem, thus it will make a habit for them to achieve the reward. By imitating their parents, children will create memories which will stick to them until they are mature.
There are three sources of education according to Rousseau: nature, man, and things. This might mean that human should be educated from nature or human habit. In the phase of growing, children should be free to learn. There should be no verbal lessons because children will receive their own lesson through experiences. Therefore, Rousseau in his further explanation described that children should use their senses to find out their own lesson. Unlike Locke who emphasized the imitating method for teaching, Rousseau comes out with the idea of ‘negative education’. This method of education aims to create wise man. Without giving any verbal lesson, the children will determine by themselves their right and left hand.
Similar to Locke, method suggested by Kant to enhance the thinking and behaving process could be through physical education and practical education. Physical education is to look after the health and tending, while practical education or moral training is to focus on how to teach a man to be someone who is able to maintain and place themselves in the proper place in society. For Kant, education is the process of thinking and development of character, while training did not require thinking process. Kant argues that education requires a good memory and memory should be occupied only by important and useful things. Therefore, novel-reading might be the useless activity for children because it only entertains for such short period of time and it also weakens the memory.
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