What is the Rousseau’s Theory of ‘Negative Education?

In modern times, we make use of a number of progressive methods of teaching and a variety of audio-visual aids, to make classroom teaching effective and attractive. But upto the seventeenth century, there was no systematic organization or arrangement for imparting education to children.

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Schools in those days were very few and those that existed were the terror of pupils and the slaughter­houses of mind. They followed no methods and used no aids. Every teacher had his own methods to follow.

Severe punishments were given to pupils and all types of rods, canes and sticks were used for this purpose. The early educators, if any, “had confined their education to the training of the governing classes of the community and until the time of Comenius, it was only idealistic.


There were many who could hazard the suggestion that all in their childhood be instructed in learning, in their own native tongue.” During the seventeenth, eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries a number of educationists were born who, in fact, revolutionized education; Rousseau, Froebel, Montessori and Dewey are the most prominent among these.

Rousseau (1712-1778), was the great educator of the 18th century and one who belonged to the new school of education. Rousseau’s life was greatly influenced by the prevailing atmosphere of society in France, his native country. In the beginning of the 18th century, the privileged classes in France flourished at the cost of the poor and the helpless.

Hypocrisy, artificiality, cruelty and despotism of the privileged classes, led to discontentment among the common people. However, in the latter half of the 18th century a new era of ‘Equality, Liberty, and Fraternity,’ began in France which revolutionized the entire French society.

Rousseau and Voltaire were the pioneers of this new era. It was a result of these new ideas that in the sphere of education also many new changes found their way. Children began to be treated well, properly understood and humanly educated.

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