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We're next examining three thinkers who have been at the very center of bourgeois revolutions: John Milton, an active participant in the English revolution in the camp of Independents; J.J. Rousseau, whose writing on education was fundamental to the movement of Enlightenment, which preceded the French revolution; and Condorcet, who has participated in the French Revolution as the mind of the Girondin party.

1. John Milton (1606-1674)

Letter on Education

John Milton - Project Gutenberg eText 13619

According to Milton, the goal of learning is to know God, to love him, and imitate him, principally in virtue. Hence, the goal of education is to instruct in the ways to live a good life. The method of learning should be going from easy (that which is most obvious to senses and most repetitive) to hard (that which is perceived with the mind and occurs rarely). To start on the right path, we need to find an appropriate house where 150 or so may be housed. All the students should be under a direction of one who is knowledgeable in many disciplines, and is able to direct their efforts. The day should be divided into 3 parts: learning, exercising, and eating. The students should exercise about an hour and a half each day, which is a preparation for military fatigue. Everybody should eat together in one place, and the food should be plain and moderate. Milton offers an interesting passage on learning foreign languages: "we are chiefly taught the Languages of those people who have at any time been most industrious after Wisdom; so that Language is but the Instrument conveying to us things useful to be known. And though a Linguist should pride himself to have all the Tongues that Babel cleft the world into, yet, if he have not studied the solid things in them as well as the Words & Lexicons, he were nothing so much to be esteem'd a learned man, as any Yeoman or Tradesman competently wise in his Mother Dialect only". Hence, we should learn languages principally for the sake of that culture which is expressed through these languages. Just knowing grammar and pronunciation of words (which is what is understood today as "knowing a language") means simply being a parrot.  Travelling should supplement theoretical education.  Milton in his other works indicates that he sees the society of the future as one principally devoted to education of every human being. In this society he sees more people as being engaged in writing, thinking, working out all sorts of intellectual problems than being engaged in other productive tasks.

2. J.J. Rousseau (1712-1778)

"Emile, or on education"

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (painted portrait)

1. It is always a practical necessity that forces us to think about something. To think means to search for ways of resolving our practical problems, and at the same time to reflect upon that which we're doing. Thinking on education can be triggered by the necessity to raise a child, or by the practical necessity of teaching a class, or by the need to understand "knowledge" as a category of modern social revolution.

2. The principal thing that must be taught is the desire to learn. For this, students must have a present, immediate interest in a subject, which will act as their motive force. But in addition to that, they must experience exhilaration from the experience of learning. They must like the very process of whatever it is they are doing. Only a teacher who likes the learning process, who experiences a certain "high" from the process, can teach. Thus, a teacher must be a student.

3. The goal of an educator is not to teach a special subject, but to teach life itself. An educator may teach a special subject - computers or English - but through the subject, s/he imparts upon the students the mental set that is typical for the educator. Rousseau writes: "before daring to undertake forming a man one must be a man himself. One must find within oneself the example that one must propose". Can you see the teachers of today proposing themselves as examples to the young generation? 4. For Rousseau, the greatest good is freedom. He sees the value of education and all experience in relation to this criteria. If it promotes freedom, it is good; if it doesn't promote freedom, it is bad. Freedom he understands as ability to do as one pleases without relying upon others; i.e. it is synonymous with self-reliance.  5. The goal of education is to shape a person which won't belong to any one social class, but will be equally at home in all of them. In a sense, such a person represents a negation of the class structure of industrial society. Rousseau writes: "to attain one day what is generally considered incompatible and which most great men have achieved -- strength of body and strength of mind, the reason of a wise man and the vigor of an athlete". Rousseau writes about his pupil: "He must work like a peasant and think like a philosopher if he is not to be as idle as a savage. The great secret of education is to use the exercises of the body and those of the mind as relaxations of each other".

In a class-divided society, education is a class education. In other words, it prepares you to take up the same social position which your parents occupied. However, preparing for a Revolution, Rousseau suggests giving a child universal education which will allow him/her to survive in any social position or in any geographic location. He writes: "People think only of preserving their child's life; this is not enough. He must be taught to preserve himself as a man, to bear the blows of fate, to brave wealth and poverty, to live if necessary among the snows of Iceland or on the scorching rocks of Malta".

6. We should start the process of education with a study of those whom we plan to educate. We should try to understand the level of cultural development of the audience. Hence, we should be able to figure the next step.

7. The process of education or upbringing is similar to growing the plants. Both the students and the plants must be cultivated. Hence, it is not an accident that many women like to grow plants, for (in our society) their primary task is to bring up children, and they feel the parallel between these two processes. Both of these require patience and time. We must carefully observe the soil in which we find the plant, the atmosphere surrounding it, how much sunshine does it need, the nourishment that we provide for it, etc.

8. An educator is someone who can not be bought. You can pay money to a teacher who will teach you, or your child, to ape this or that trick. But to teach how to live ... it is necessary to live with the child. 

9. A tutor should be slightly older than the pupils, for on the one hand s/he must lead them, and on the other hand, s/he must be able to share their concerns. What happens when a teacher has grown older, has passed beyond the stage where the interests of the students are interesting to him as well? That teacher is not able to share the illusions of these students. This teacher is not fit to educate these students, but must find for himself a more appropriate audience.

10. A teacher is really inseparable from the students. Rousseau says to a teacher: "This is your time, these are your cares, your affections; it is yourself that you must give". The process of learning is really a very intimate one because a teacher touches the mind of a person, which is really the most intimate place. To prove that, imagine that we were able to read the thoughts of the people around you. Can anything be more revealing or intimate? A relationship between a teacher and a student may pass into a relationship of love or hate. This is because their minds establish a contact and a feeling for the path they both are travelling.

11. Blending of teachers and students is really impossible in the society of the present. An immature attempt to bridge the chasm between the students and a teacher can lead to all kinds of explosions and disasters. 

12. Let's discuss how one may obtain the education desired, the road to be traveled viewed in the most general outline. Education of a person should repeat, in miniature, the stages of development of mankind. Hence, an educator should be acquainted with the history of our civilization. Rousseau recommends as one book of instruction "Robinson Crusoe". This book unfolds before us the entire progress of civilization, from hunting and gathering stage up to cultivation of land and even beginnings of industry and social interaction between people of various material culture levels. 13. Like pre-historic people living in the caves, children should be allowed to draw on the walls of the dwelling they live in. Moreover, we should encourage them to make objects necessary for everyday life by themselves. Photographs can be made regularly taken of the objects drawn and constructed by children, and in this way their progress is mapped. In parallel, this will provide material for the study of development of the human species as a whole.

14. Young children should not be brought up in the cities, but rather out in the country, or at sea. This is because they should: 1) have fresh air; 2) lead physically active life, 3) get used to rough treatment and overcoming difficulties; 4) get used to plain food. Also, since we want the cycle of education to repeat the development of mankind, we should observe that humans initially were wanderers, nomads, before settling down. Hence, frequent nature trips (such as to famous mountains, beautiful lakes, forests, and oceans), and being constantly on the move, are most helpful. Only as teenagers and young adults the children should be brought into cities, where they can lead a settled, "civilized" life for a while.

15. Similarly to Plato, Rousseau says we must choose carefully which fables we tell our children, for these fables form the child's system of ethics. Hence, first of all we should become clear for ourselves which moral values we would like to instill in our children. The process of education - of babies, of teeenagers, of adults - should be a self-conscious process, where we constantly go back to examining the values we instill through the "fables" we present. 

16. As to the manner of clothing, Rousseau says the following: "The limbs of a growing child should be free to move easily in his clothing. Nothing should cramp their growth or movement; there should be nothing tight, nothing fitting closely to the body, no belts of any kind. The French style of dress, uncomfortable and unhealthy for a man, is especially bad for children". Think about the high heels and the dresses the women are wearing today! Think about the ties and the suits the men are wearing! What a nonsense! A person is supposed come to the place of work feeling cramped. Sports and casual clothing are better suited for creative minds. A person should travel to work on a bike or rollerblades. All kinds of make up and perfumes should be dumped into one big lake of poison. Haircuts should be simple, like those of the soldiers or the sportsmen. 

17. With children, as with human species in general, reason develops slowly and is perhaps the latest product of education. So first children should be taught all that develops their emotional side, like art and music and poems, in parallel with exercises of the body.

18. Children should be taught to trust their intuition and follow their emotions. Rousseau puts it like this: "Let us lay it down as an incontestable maxim that the first movements of nature are always right. There is no original perversity in the human heart ..." If something feels good - it is good! You must enjoy that which you're doing, or else it is not worth doing at all. A musician must enjoy the piece s/he is playing, for the performance to be good. A writer must enjoy that which s/he is writing, for the piece of writing to be good. A teacher must enjoy that which s/he is teaching, or else s/he is at the wrong task.

19. Teenagers, and for that matter everybody, are curious about the world. Rousseau writes: "You wish to teach this child geography and you provide him with globes, spheres, and maps. What a lot of machines! Why all these symbols? Why not begin by showing him the object itself so that he may at least know what you are talking about". We need to take children on the trip around the world! And is there a better way to do it than sailing a ship they have built themselves, under a skillful supervision? They will learn useful things along the way: working with hand tools, working with sails and ropes, working with machines, with a radio and a computer. In addition, they will learn the value of a friendship and they will become stronger. 

20. Pupils can prepare for a voyage around the world by first learning about rowing boats, then about small sailing ships (like a wooden yawl), then gradually proceeding to the larger ships. In addition, they should learn about various regions and cultures they plan to visit. We should especially emphasize languages, history of society and government. This will be a kind of vaccine against a child becoming a philistine. The long-term goal is to prepare the adolescents for the tasks of space exploration. A view of the vastness and power of the oceans should provide them with a respect for the Universe.

Actually, Rousseau advocated traveling on foot as a way of exploring the world. Following are his words (in Book V of "Emile"): "So we [i.e. the pupil and the tutor] do not travel like couriers but like explorers. We do not merely consider the beginning and the end, but the space between. The journey itself is a delight. We do not travel sitting, dismally imprisoned, so to speak, in a tightly closed cage. We do not travel with the ease and comfort of ladies. We do not deprive ourselves of the fresh air, nor the sight of the things about us, nor the opportunity of examining them at our pleasure. Emile will never enter an enclosed carriage, nor will he ride fast unless in a great hurry. But what cause has Emile for haste? None but the joy of life. Shall I add to this the desire to do good when he can? No, for that is itself one of the joys of life. I can only think of one way of traveling pleasanter than traveling on horseback, and that is to travel on foot. You start at your own time, you stop when you will, you do as much or as little as you choose. You see the country, you turn off to the right or left; you examine anything which interests you, you stop to admire every view. If I see a stream, I wander by its banks; a leafy wood, I seek its shade; a cave, I enter it; a quarry, I study its geology. If I like a place, I stop there. As soon as I am weary of it, I go on. I am independent of horses and postillions; I need not stick to regular routes or good roads; I go anywhere where a man can go; I see all that a man can see: and since I am quite independent of everybody, I enjoy all the freedom man can enjoy. If I am stopped by bad weather and find myself getting bored, then I take horses. If I am tired -- but Emile is hardly ever tired; he is strong; why should he get tired? There is no hurry. If he stops, why should he be bored? He always finds some amusement. He works at a trade; he uses his arms to rest his feet. To travel on foot is to travel in the fashion of Thales, Plato and Pythagoras. I find it hard to understand how a philosopher can bring himself to travel in any other way, how he can tear himself from the study of the wealth which lies before his eyes and beneath his feet".


3. Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794)

"Outlines of a historical view of progress of the human mind" , 1795

Marquis de Condorcet
Condorcet is the first one to divide the whole of human development into periods of development of knowledge. In this he is sharply different from people like Hegel, who has divided the whole into states of development of "the Spirit". And he is different from Soviet writers in 1920's, who basing themselves on the postulate that "matter determines consciousness", divided the whole of human development into stages of development of material culture. It was Condorcet who has first seen knowledge as being the determining factor in history.

The following are the periods in the development of "human reason" according to Condorcet:

In the first epoch: mankind joins into tribes, first tools of production are invented. One of the first tools was making use of fire.  In the second epoch, pastoral tribes appear. In this period productivity of labor rises, so that the labor of one person is now visibly more than is necessary to replace the value that s/he consumes (in the form of food, clothing, etc.) Hence, the custom of killing and eating the captives is no longer practiced, but rather slavery is introduced. In the third epoch, people start working the land and invent writing. In this way, it becomes possible first to transmit messages, and then to transmit experience of one generation onto the next. Learning profits from this.

The fourth epoch, according to Condorcet, coincides with the flowering of the ancient Greek civilization, and culminates in differentiation of sciences. 

In the fifth epoch, we observe a development of separate sciences, up to their decline with the coming of the Middle Ages. This is the epoch of the flowering of the Roman empire and appearance of Christian religion as the dominant form of consciousness.

In the sixth epoch, according to Condorcet, we observe a decline in knowledge, until learning starts to be reborn with the Crusades. However, he ignores learning that was flowering at the time among the Arabs. This includes such things as invention of Algebra. The seventh period spans from the first progress of sciences at the close of the Middle Ages (like the works of Roger Bacon in XIII century) up to invention of book printing in Europe, in XV century. This period we call Renaissance, and it is marked mostly by inventions and literary works of Italian artists and writers (Dante in poetry, Bocaccio in literature, Leonardo da Vinci as a universal genius, etc.)

The eighth epoch, according to Condorcet, spans from development of printing until arts and sciences start to question the authorities. Most important movement of the period is Reformation of Christian religion, headed by Luther (although started earlier by more simple and honest monks such as John Ball). The ninth epoch spans over the period of Enlightenment. It starts with Bacon and Descartes and ends in the First French Republic. This period is similar to the present, when Internet appeared. In the words of one person: "Without the cultural mechanisms to translate information into knowledge, knowledge as cultural capital or emancipation or utility or progress, then the information technologies will continue to obey the kid-in-the-toystore logic of "look what we can do now" without taking the next important step, first asking, then gradually answering the question, why? Trivial pursuit is an interesting game only up to a certain point. The cultural mechanisms necessary to transform information into knowledge concern rational-critical engagement with an eye toward competing and negotiating utopian ideals of community. The absurdity of reintroducing utopian thinking in our most cynical of times is precisely the point. The current situation calls to mind Diderot and d'Alembert's ambitious project, over two hundred and fifty years old: the Encyclopedie". I also think that a new sort of Encyclopedia, mapping all knowledge, is necessary. Just like development of printing has led to the polemical Encyclopedia of Diderot, so development of information technologies today may lead to the flowering of new type of Enlightenment, with a new type of Encyclopedia appearing. This encyclopedia should organize human knowledge, and may serve aa a universal study guide. 

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