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I've been reading a lot about Jean-Jacques Rousseau lately, although of course I haven't had enough time to read everything of his or think about it in too much depth. One thing that really intrigues me is his novel Emile, which imagines the "perfect" education for a child by following his life in narrative. There's a full copy of it online here if you're interested. It's, like, 500 pages though, be forewarned.

It's just such an interesting idea and I wonder what it would look like if someone did that today. For all I rail against the modern education system I'm not sure what my concept of the perfect education would be. Perhaps it's impossible to do a modern-day Emile. Perhaps we have too much appreciation for the vastly different needs of different people. Perhaps you'd have to write about a thousand Emiles.

I also have been reading Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society, where he suggests abolishing the school and making discrimination based on level of schooling as illegal as discriminating based on sex or race. He supports a focus on skills as opposed to broad certifications, which I like, but at the same time, I think this approach might make interdisciplinary and critical thinking harder... but how much harder can critical thinking be than in a totalizing institution?

Anyway, what do you think? What would an "ideal" education look like? What things are most important in education?


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November 2009

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