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.