Rousseau was against any kind of curricular teaching or learning upto twelfth year of life. He was against any kind of verbal lesson on history, geography, or even language. He was also against teaching of morality.
This was his concept of negative education which suggested that child’s mind should not be stuffed with information of different kinds. So he objected to the use of any text-books for education of the young child.
Giving to the child a chance to learn everything through direct experience and observation is what was stressed by him by way of child’s curriculum. Even morality was to be learnt by the child through natural consequences of his own action.
Thus, upto the childhood stage no curriculum of any kind was needed. Formal curriculum consisting of education in natural science, language, mathematics, woodwork, music, painting, social life, and some kind of professional training was suggested to be introduced at the adolescence stage. Rousseau, however, said that books do not give knowledge; they only train one to talk.
So he emphasized that curriculum for adolescence should be based on active work than on books. The youth should, however, by taught history, mythological stories and religious stories with stress on moral and religious education.
Spencer also, like Rousseau prescribed the formula of returning to nature as the basis of all learning. Providing an environment, to him, was enough of the curriculum. Learning by consequences was considered enough, although he said that in case of dangerous consequences the child should be fore-warmed.
In order to realize the aim of complete living Herbert Spencer prescribed physical education which was considered necessary for good health. In the words of Monroe Rousseau was the first person who proclaimed that “education finds its purpose, its process, its means wholly within the child life and the child experiences”.
Views of Rousseau on Method of Teaching
Rousseau was against the oral and theoretical methods of teaching which was pursued in his time. Instead he recommended play way method of teaching learning. Real education to him was self-education acquired through experience and observation.
Two great principles of teaching which he stressed were (i) learning through self-experience and (ii) learning by doing, naturalism, thus, stands for a kind of teaching which is not dependent much on schools and books, as on the “manipulation of the actual life of the educand”. Its watchword is “Back to Nature”. Herbert Spencer was the naturalist who enunciated several principles of teaching such as:
(i) Proceeding from easy to difficult situations and experiences.
(ii) Proceeding from indefinite (vague) to definite (clear) meaning; thereby that the teacher should make child’s knowledge which is vague, clear and definite.
(ii) Proceeding from known to unknown which means the new experience to be given should follow the one which the child has already undergone.
(iv) Conforming to the stages of development which means that the method of teaching should be suitable from the point of view of the characteristics of child’s development. For very young children play way is the most suitable method.
(v) Proceeding from concrete to abstract which means concrete things and experiences should be presented first and abstract ones after them.
(vi) Proceeding from experimental to rational knowledge. It means that the child should, first, be allowed to experiment with things around. This will prepare him to acquire and retain rational knowledge given in books.
(vii) Create interest in learning by using audio-visual aids, charts, diagrams etc., in order to concretize knowledge.
Thus, play way; experience and experimentation are the most desirable characteristics of teaching method according to naturalists.
Views of Rousseau on the Place of the Child in Education
In Naturalist child is the measure of all things, the centre around which revolves every aspect of education. Naturalists’ view of the child is very close to that of Wordsworth who said ‘child comes from heaven trailing clouds of glory’. They are interested in the child as he is rather than as he will be.
To them adult standards of behaviour are not at all important for being followed by the child. They conceive of childhood as something desirable for its own sake and expect children to be children before they become men and women.
Hence, they abhor all kinds of restrictions to be imposed on children in schools. They recommend that the nature powers and inclinations of the child should be allowed to develop freely with a minimum of guidance. The naturalistic educators allow the child to follow the lines of his natural interests and to have free choice of activities with no interference or thwarting.
No knowledge, no development of any kind (social, moral or religious) should be forced on the child. “These the child will forgo for himself. He knows better what he should learn, when and how he should learn it” (James S. Ross). Rousseau’s negative education advised to leave the child largely to himself.
Views of Rousseau on Discipline
Discipline, according to Rousseau, is learnt by the child as a consequence of his actions. It cannot be imposed on him by the teacher. Naturalists did not support the idea of punishing the child for ensuring discipline.
Rousseau said that consequence of child’s action was enough and natural punishment. Oral teaching of morality through lectures and preaching’s was against the naturalistic philosophy.
Left to him the child will learn better discipline. This was their belief. Rousseau and Spencer both had the same views. In fact Rousseau’s conception of education was it is “the process of development into an enjoyable, rational, harmoniously balanced, useful and hence natural life”.