Saturday, November 20, 2010

Layer 382 . . . Denmark, Civilization, Education, Rousseau, Emile, Racism and Inequality


Oxzen has decided to visit Denmark for the first time, and would appreciate Danish readers suggesting places to visit and places to stay in Denmark. Having said many positive things about Danish schools and Danish teachers in these blogs, Oxzen would also like to meet some teachers and visit some schools.

Oxzen reckons that Denmark is probably one of the most civilised places in Europe, and it's time to get out there and enjoy some of that civilisation.

Denmark, with a mixed market capitalist economy and a large welfare state, ranks as having the world's highest level of income equality. Denmark has the best business climate in the world, according to the U.S. business magazine Forbes. From 2006 to 2008, surveys ranked Denmark as "the happiest place in the world", based on standards of health, welfare and education. The 2009 Global Peace Index survey ranks Denmark as the second most peaceful country in the world, after New Zealand. In 2009, Denmark was ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking second only to New Zealand. In 2010, Transparency International ranked it as least corrupt country in the world, in a three-way tie with New Zealand and Singapore. - Wikipedia


Moving on from the previous Layer's focus on Montaigne and his ideas on education, it's time to take a look at one of his fellow countrymen, who had some very similar ideas on education and pedagogy.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a major Genevois philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy heavily influenced the French Revolution, as well as the American Revolution and the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought. - Wikipedia
One of the great things about France is its national maxim - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

One of the worst things about France is its current adherence to a system of formal and didactic education, with a rigid national curriculum. Very similar to the UK, the USA, etc.

Rousseau's novel, Emile: or, On Education, which he considered his most important work, is a seminal treatise on the education of the whole person for citizenship. - Wikipedia

In Rousseau's philosophy, society's negative influence on men centers on its transformation of amour de soi, a positive self-love, into amour-propre, or pride. Amour de soi represents the instinctive human desire for self-preservation, combined with the human power of reason. In contrast, amour-propre is artificial and encourages man to compare himself to others, thus creating unwarranted fear and allowing men to take pleasure in the pain or weakness of others.

In Discourse on the Arts and Sciences Rousseau argues that the arts and sciences have not been beneficial to humankind, because they arose not from authentic human needs but rather as a result of pride and vanity. Moreover, the opportunities they create for idleness and luxury have contributed to the corruption of man. He proposed that the progress of knowledge had made governments more powerful and had crushed individual liberty; and he concluded that material progress had actually undermined the possibility of true friendship by replacing it with jealousy, fear, and suspicion.

Perhaps Rousseau's most important work is The Social Contract, which outlines the basis for a legitimate political order within a framework of classical republicanism. Published in 1762, it became one of the most influential works of political philosophy in the Western tradition. It developed some of the ideas mentioned in an earlier work, the article Economie Politique (Discourse on Political Economy), featured in Diderot's Encyclopédie. The treatise begins with the dramatic opening lines, "Man is or was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they."

Rousseau claimed that the state of nature was a primitive condition without law or morality, which human beings left for the benefits and necessity of cooperation. As society developed, division of labor and private property required the human race to adopt institutions of law. In the degenerate phase of society, man is prone to be in frequent competition with his fellow men while also becoming increasingly dependent on them. This double pressure threatens both his survival and his freedom. According to Rousseau, by joining together into civil society through the social contract and abandoning their claims of natural right, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free. This is because submission to the authority of the general will of the people as a whole guarantees individuals against being subordinated to the wills of others and also ensures that they obey themselves because they are, collectively, the authors of the law.

Education and child rearing

Main article: Emile: or, On Education

“ ‘The noblest work in education is to make a reasoning man, and we expect to train a young child by making him reason! This beginning at the end; this is making an instrument of a result. If children understood how to reason they would not need to be educated.” –Rousseau, Emile. ”

Rousseau’s philosophy of education is not concerned with particular techniques of imparting information and concepts, but rather with developing the pupil’s character and moral sense, so that he may learn to practice self-mastery and remain virtuous even in the unnatural and imperfect society in which he will have to live. The hypothetical boy, Émile, is to be raised in the countryside, which, Rousseau believes, is a more natural and healthy environment than the city, under the guardianship of a tutor who will guide him through various learning experiences arranged by the tutor. Today we would call this the disciplinary method of "natural consequences" since, like modern psychologists, Rousseau felt that children learn right and wrong through experiencing the consequences of their acts rather than through physical punishment. The tutor will make sure that no harm results to Émile through his learning experiences.

Rousseau was one of the first to advocate developmentally appropriate education; and his description of the stages of child development mirrors his conception of the evolution of culture. He divides childhood into stages: the first is to the age of about 12, when children are guided by their emotions and impulses. During the second stage, from 12 to about 16, reason starts to develop; and finally the third stage, from the age of 16 onwards, when the child develops into an adult. Rousseau recommends that the young adult learn a manual skill such as carpentry, which requires creativity and thought . . .

Rousseau's detractors have blamed him for everything they do not like in what they call modern "child-centered" education. John Darling's 1994 book Child-Centered Education and its Critics argues that the history of modern educational theory is a series of footnotes to Rousseau, a development he regards as bad.

Good or bad, the theories of educators such as Rousseau's near contemporaries Pestalozzi, Mme de Genlis, and later, Maria Montessori, and John Dewey, which have directly influenced modern educational practices do have significant points in common with those of Rousseau.

Common also were attacks by defenders of social hierarchy on Rousseau's "romantic" belief in equality. In 1860, shortly after the Sepoy Rebellion in India, two British white supremacists, John Crawfurd and James Hunt, mounted a defense of British imperialism based on “scientific racism". Crawfurd, in alliance with Hunt, took over the presidency of the British Anthropological Society, which had been founded with the mission to defend indigenous peoples against slavery and colonial exploitation. Invoking "science" and "realism", the two men derided their "philanthropic" predecessors for believing in human equality and for not recognizing that mankind was divided into superior and inferior races. Crawfurd, who opposed Darwinian evolution, "denied any unity to mankind, insisting on immutable, hereditary, and timeless differences in racial character, principal amongst which was the 'very great' difference in 'intellectual capacity.'" For Crawfurd, the races had been created separately and were different species. Since Crawfurd was Scottish, he thought the Scottish "race" superior and all others inferior; whilst Hunt, on the other hand, believed in the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon "race". Crawfurd and Hunt routinely accused those who disagreed with them of believing in "Rousseau’s Noble Savage". (The pair ultimately quarreled because Hunt believed in slavery and Crawfurd did not). "As Ter Ellinson demonstrates, Crawfurd was responsible for re-introducing the Pre-Rousseauian concept of 'the Noble Savage' to modern anthropology, attributing it wrongly and quite deliberately to Rousseau.”
In 1919 Irving Babbitt, founder of a movement called the "New Humanism", wrote a critique of what he called "sentimental humanitarianism", for which he blamed Rousseau. Babbitt's depiction of Rousseau was countered in a celebrated and much reprinted essay by A. O. Lovejoy in 1923. In France, fascist theorist and anti-Semite Charles Maurras, founder of Action Française, “had no compunctions in laying the blame for both Romantisme et Révolution firmly on Rousseau in 1922." - Wikipedia

Wow! "Scientific Racism", eh? Who knew?

In the news today - a report on the activities and effects of the English Defence League:

English Defence League demos 'feed Islamic extremism'

Right wing groups like the English Defence League are turning parts of Britain into recruiting grounds for Islamic extremists, police have said. The EDL emerged last year and has held demonstrations in a number of towns and cities against radicalisation. But the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit has told BBC Radio 5 live there is evidence EDL events can encourage extremists.

Immigration: Far-right fringe exploits European coalitions
In the first of a series on the politics of immigration in Europe, Ian Traynor reveals how mainstream European parties appear paralysed by populism, unable to halt the rise of the far right


Ministers accused of 'not caring' about equality

The government does not believe it has a responsibility to create a "fairer society", Labour has claimed following Home Secretary Theresa May's decision to scrap part of the Equality Act 2010.
On 18 November 2010, shadow equalities minister Fiona Mactaggart condemned the decision and claimed the government "just doesn't care about socio-economic inequality".

Not that New Labour showed a fat lot of caring, either. It was only thanks to Harriet Harman that the Equality Act belatedly saw the light of day.


Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality  [This Land Is Your Land]

“ The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody. ”

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, 1754

Rousseau argues that "another principle which has escaped Hobbes" is man's compassion. This quality of man also motivates him to interact. Finally, man possesses the quality of "perfectibility," which allows him to improve his own physical condition/environmental situation and develop ever more sophisticated survival tactics. The increasing regularity and convention of man's contact with other men transfigures his basic capacity for reason and reflection, his natural or naive love of self (amour de soi meme) into a corrupting dependency on the perceptions and favor of others. Natural, non-destructive love of self advances gradually yet qualitatively into a state of amour propre, a love of self now driven by pride and jealousy rather than merely elemental self-preservation. This accession to amour propre has four consequences: (1) competition, (2) self-comparison with others, (3) hatred, and (4) urge for power. These all lead to Rousseau's cynical civil society. But amour de soi meme also suggests a significant step out of the state of nature. - Wikipedia

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