Raising the Rational Child

in The Wild Girl, Natural Man, and the Monster

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2002 | ISBN: 9780226160559
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226160573 | DOI:
Raising the Rational Child

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter explores the writings of three notorious parent-pedagogues—Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Thomas Day, and Manon Roland—who followed the precepts laid out in Emile to devastating ends. Their experience provides a fascinating glimpse of what went wrong when real children were held accountable to Rousseauian theories and how experience forced the would-be pedagogues to rethink their concept of perfectibility. These cases provide a good control model for understanding just how far-fetched the plots of fiction were vis-à-vis the practices and reflections of real parents, and conversely, how deeply pedagogical theory had penetrated contemporary habits of thought. They set a dangerous precedent for childrearing because of their reliance on the problematic metaphors of perfectibility. The works of the parent-pedagogues want to ensure that improvements would take place at the same time as they ensured the child's freedom.

Keywords: children; contemporary; perfectability; real parent; rational child

Chapter.  11824 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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