The Sentimental Education

in 2

in 1Simplicity is very often the best way to express the complexity of a state of the soul and William Blake, somehow, was a master of simplicity. Innocence and Experience are the two simple, effective words, that better portrayed for him the two opposite states of human soul. The age of Innocence is that phase when you are a child and you see the world that surrounds you with the curious eyes of wonder and imagination. In that stage the soul is highly receptive and absorbs every external input, hence life seems a joyous, frantic carousel of emotions. Unfortunately “Innocence” is a transient state and as time goes by, we drift towards Experience, that is, the age when our eyes, now opened wide, are no longer dimmed by the enchanting powers of Imagination. The more we become aware and overwhelmed by loads of responsibilities, the more we grow pessimistic and distrustful towards our future. We should try not to lose sight of that little child , that “fanciullino” , as the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli called him, we used to be and retain a little room for him in our soul, but how? How can we fight the deteriorating effects of time over him?

ed 4Education was a possible answer or better a sentimental education. Many philosophers of the eighteenth century started to focus their attention on childhood, being that period of life when are we so responsive. John Locke warned that “the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences “, therefore education should work on those impressions to “open and dispose their (children) minds as may best make them capable of any, when they shall apply themselves to it.”  Furthermore, he maintained that the “associations of ideas” that one makes when young are more important than those made later, because they are the very foundation of the self.

in3Jean Jacque Rousseau wrote in his book Emile that all children are perfectly designed organisms, ready to learn from their surroundings so as to grow into virtuous adults. The instinctive goodness of a child is spoiled by society that for the French philosopher was malign and corrupted.That’s why he also advocated an educational method which consisted in removing the child from society, for example, to a country home, thus enabling him to live more in close contact with nature, which he regarded the only source of pure, uncontaminated values and emotions. He also maintained that child should grow up without any adult interference and that the child should be guided to suffer from the experience of the natural consequences of his own acts or behaviour. When he experiences the consequences of his own acts, he advises himself. A teacher, therefore, shouldn’t but encourage the natural curiosity of a child and guide him to experience the sensorial world, only once this world has been molded  – at about the age of 12 – the tutor is allowed to work to develop his mind.The associationist philosopher David Hartley focused his attention on childhood as well and  he assumed that also  “our moral character develops in that phase as a result of the pleasure and pains caused by physical experiences“. Therefore if a child is well guided to experience the world and learn from the emotions he receives, he will be able to grow a more rounded mad with firmer ethics and more inclined to find joy and positivity in life.

That was almost three centuries ago and I have to say, all this interest in childhood was just philosophy, as the majority of children left school at six and were regularly exploited at work. Nowadays children live a more pampered life, at least in the western world, therefore there should be a more fertile ground to impart the lesson of those philosophers, but how do we educate our children? Are we really paying the due attention to make them develop their sensorial, emotional world, considering that all this should frame their moral character once they become adults?



19 thoughts on “The Sentimental Education

  1. I guess the trick is about education within the home. If they find harmony at home, good values being practiced (not preached) and a supportive environment which encourages (not snub) curiosity, they would more likely evolve into better human beings. However, this needs a great deal of investment of time, which economic pressures on a family often do not permit.

    • Hi Sue, even ten, five years ago. If I think about the quality of the imputs these last generations ( my nephews, in particular) receive, I’ve got many doubts about the development of their moral character. Ready for Perù?? Hugs. Stefy.

      • We are still waiting for final confirmation for our trip to Peru as the tour needs 8 people and we are at 7. Fingers crossed it goes through. Off to San Francisco this weekend to see family so really happy about that.
        How are you and Mr. Run? Any holidays planned?

      • You wouldn’t believe it , but we are going back to Trentino Alto Adige ( as we hadn’t had enough last summer) to see the typical Christmas markets. It should be beautiful with the snow. Have a great weekend 🙂

  2. Interesting last question. I must admit though, I think the internet in marvelous for opening our minds to different cultures from around the word. The internet can be quite an emotionally intimate experience.

    • I totally agree on this point, that’s why we love blogging, after all :).But nowadays children are continuosly exposed to the influence of the media with little parenting control, and spend most of their childhood in solitude with the only company of videogames. Is that sound? Are these the emotions that will help them grow into better human beings?

      • I personally don’t play video games or watch hardly any TV, but I used to watch a lot of TV. I completely understand where you are coming from, and I would usually out and out agree, however, I personally have more open thinking than I used to. Being part of the asexual community nowadays, most of those lovely people are introverts and enjoy playing a lot of video games. Some of them are the most emotionally caring people I have met. I used to spend a lot of my time in solitude but being an extrovert with some introvert tendancies, it wasn’t good for me. Should we associate solitude with emotional strength and being a ‘better’ human being? I think it takes strength to live in solitude and not follow the crowd.

    • I have recently reached level 433 of ” Farm heroes saga”, just to tell you how I do like playing video games and I watch a lot of tv as well, but I am an adult . If the uncontrolled overexposure to media is a child’s main emotional nourishment , what kind of adult will he be? Children need guidance and care. 🙂

      • I totally agree that children need care. They also need ‘good’ guidance. Guidance in the fact that it’s okay to be their quirky selves. Open communication, open mindedness , to know it’s okay to safely express themselves. Different adults approach guidance in different ways, and will often guide their children in the ways that they believe are good for a child, without necessarily it being good for the child. Sometimes that is when children withdraw and spend more time in solitude. I don’t personally thinks it’s good that the media exposes us so much sex and violence. Especially as what we think, in our mindset, can often dictate our other thoughts and actions.

  3. As a parent I hope I had more positive than negative influence on our kids as they were growing up, but like many parents I was learning while on the job and made many mistakes.

    As a grandparent I now recognise that it is an adult’s job to role model good attitudes and behaviour — less exhortation, more example — because youngsters like many higher organisms grow from absorbing patterns of behaviour, what works, what feels right. Leaving a child to learn solely from, say, playing with fire is to abrogate responsibility. But it’s that tightrope, isn’t it, between constriction and absolute freedom that we, the innocent parents, have to learn by experience to walk when bringing up our young charges. Another thought-provoking post, Stefy.

    And I now need to dig out my facsimile copy if the Blake poems!

    • “Innocent parents” 🙂 very true and let me say ” innocent teachers” , we both learn by experience and make mistakes. I don’t think we have to seek for perfection, but just doing our honest job of educators with love and care. Thank you Chris. 🙂

  4. A very thought- provoking post… I mainly agree with Locke’s and Rousseau’s ideas…
    Also I found neat that you’ve chosen this title for your post as it is the same one than that great novel by Gustave Flaubert!. Best wishes to you and yours dear Stefy!, Aquileana 😀

  5. In my opinion, accompanying children’s imagination is important. All fantasies that you have at that age can’t miss; for example Santa Claus, the tooth mouse, ecc. Rousseau advocated an educational method which consisted in removing the child from society. I don’t completely agree with him, because, sooner or later, the child has to grow up. So, slowing down this process is useless. Today the unconscious world of children is being ruined because of social networks, which reduce it more and more. Certainly modern society doesn’t help to preserve children’s unawareness.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.