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emile—confucius

emile—confucius - Yihong Shi Religious...

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Yihong Shi Religious Belief Comparison between Rousseau and Confucius The ideal education process described in Rousseau’s Emile definitely has had a profound influence on western education systems. Nowadays, many teaching principles described by Rousseau can still be readily found in American universities. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Earth, the education system in China for thousands of years has been affected by an even greater power: Confucianism. The founder of this religion, Confucius, was one of the greatest educators and politicians of his time, and of all time. After experiencing seventeen years of education in China and three years of education in the United States, I find it astonishing to see both the parallels and the differences between the two ideal education models set respectively by Rousseau and Confucius. The purpose of education, how nature fits into education and the methods of teaching are the major aspects where the differences and similarities between Rousseau and Confucius are most clearly illustrated. The purpose of Rousseau’s education system is to raise a respectful man, who is close to his natural status, is an “absolute whole” and “accountable only to himself” (2). According to Rousseau, “you must choose between making a man and making a citizen”, while the “citizen” is “born, lives, and dies in slavery” (2-3). He also claimed that for a virtuous man, “Public opinion is the grave” (Rousseau 12). Although the education in United States never explicitly agrees with an indifferent attitude towards others, the society, or the country, Americans are still using the same idea, which described by Rousseau as “accountable only to himself” (2). One of the best examples is that The United States rated the highest in the world for Individualism in the Hofstede Model, a most used tool of measuring people’s culturally affected behaviors. The word “Individualism” here refers to a person’s willingness to act solely for himself rather than as a part of a group. Interestingly, also in the Hofstede Model, China is rated the highest in Collectivism, which is largely related to its Confucius influence.
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The purpose of education, according to Confucius, is to become a virtuous and superior man, who will serve society. This idea is expressed clearly in his quote “he who excels in study can follow an official career.” Rousseau might argue that Confucius’ superior man is a civil man, who is therefore the slave of a higher power. However, the quality Rousseau might despise is among the most important virtues in China. Children in China are taught that the purpose of studying is supposed to be something lofty, such as to repay society. They are also taught that one person’s well-being is not nearly as important as the society’s well-being. Furthermore, Confucius obviously did not think that being a civil man means “you will say continually, ‘We want,’ and you will continually do what others want” (Rousseau 7). Confucius believed that “The commander of the
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