Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Jean Jacques Rousseau
by [?]

The book furnished Froebel with the fund of ideas for his experiments with children which resulted in the Kindergarten, an institution that has profoundly influenced the educational methods of every enlightened country in the world.

Without a doubt this man who abandoned his own children became one of the great instructors of the age.

But a fair understanding of the situation demands that we should realize that things for which we blame him most occured before he was thirty-eight years old. And the writings of his that really influenced humanity were not written until after he was thirty-eight. To confound the reasoning of the mature man, by pointing to what he did at twenty-two, is, I submit, irrelevant, immaterial, inconsequent, unrelated and uncalled for. When a critic has nothing to say of a man’s work, but calls attention to the errors of the author’s youth, he is running short of material.

That Rousseau revised his mode of living and reformed his reasoning in his later years, viewing his early life with bitter regret, should be put forward to his credit and not be used for his condemnation. The facts, however, are all that his harshest critics state. But fact and truth are often totally different things. Untruth enters when we reason wrongly from our facts.

We have been told by both the friends and the enemies of Rousseau that to him the French Revolution traces a direct lineage. For this his friends give him credit, and his enemies blame. The truth is, that revolutions are things that require long time and many factors to evolve. A revolution is the culmination of a long train of evils. Rousseau saw the evils and called attention to them, but he did not exactly cause them–bless me! His little love-affairs with elderly ladies, and grateful, should not be confused with the atrocious cruelties and inhumanities that existed in France and had existed for a hundred years and more.

A wise man of the East was once eating his dinner of dried figs, and at the same time explaining to an admiring group the beauty and healthfulness of a purely vegetable diet.

“Look at your figs through this,” said a scientist present, handing the man a microscope. The pundit looked and saw his precious figs were covered with crawling microbes.

He handed the microscope back and said, “Friend, keep your glass–the bugs no longer exist.”

Jean Jacques handed the peasantry of France a reading-glass; Voltaire did as much for the nobility.

* * * * *

Jean Jacques Rousseau was born in Switzerland, which land, as all folks know, has produced her full quota and more of reformers. The father of Jean Jacques, quite naturally, was a watchmaker, with mainspring ill-adjusted and dial askew, according to the report of the son, who claimed to be full-jeweled, but was not perfectly adjusted to position and temperature. Jean Jacques tells us that his first misfortune was his birth, and this cost his mother her life. He was adopted by Time and Chance and fed by Fate. When the lad was ten the father fled from Geneva to escape the penalty of a foolish brawl, and never again saw the son who was to rescue the family-name from oblivion.

Kinsmen of the mother gave the boy into the hands of a retired clergyman who levied polite blackmail on his former constituents by asking them to place children, their own and others, in his hands that they might be taught the way of life–and that the clergyman might live, which, according to Whistlerian philosophy, was unnecessary.

That the boy was clever, shrewd, quick to learn, secretive as castaway children ever are, can well be understood. He became a secretary, an engineer, a valet, a waiter, working life’s gamut backward, thus proving that in human service there is no high nor low degree, only this: he, at this time, knew nothing about human service–he was fighting for existence.