Man is the only creature capable of education. By education we mean the care (treatment, maintenance) that his childhood demands, the discipline that makes him a man, and finally education with culture. In this triple respect, he is a child, a pupil and a schoolboy.
As soon as animals begin to feel their strength, they use it regularly, that is to say in a manner which is not injurious to themselves. It is indeed curious to see how, for example, young swallows, barely out of their eggs and still blind, know how to arrange themselves so as to drop their excrement out of their nest. Animals therefore do not need to be cared for, wrapped, warmed and led, or protected. Most of them ask, it is true, for pasture, but not for care. By care, we mean the precautions that parents take to prevent their children from using their strength to harm. If, for example, an animal, coming into the world, cried like children do,
Discipline takes us from the state of animal to that of man. An animal is by its very instinct all that it can be; a foreign reason has taken all the necessary care for him in advance. But man needs his own reason. He has no instinct, and he has to make his own course of action. But, since he is not immediately capable of it, and arrives in the world in the wild, he needs the help of others.
The human species is obliged to draw from itself little by little by its own efforts all the natural qualities which belong to humanity. One generation educates the other. One can seek the first beginning of it in a savage state or in a perfect state of civilization; but, in this second case, we must still admit that man then fell back into the wild and into barbarism.
Discipline prevents man from letting himself be diverted from his destination, from humanity, by his brutal inclinations. It is necessary, for example, that it moderates it, so that it does not throw itself in the danger like a savage or a dizzy one. But discipline is purely negative, for it limits itself to stripping man of his savagery; instruction, on the contrary, is the positive part of education.
Savagery is independence from all laws. Discipline subjects man to the laws of humanity and begins to make him feel the constraint of the laws. But it must take place early. So, for example, children are first sent to school, not so that they learn something, but so that they get used to sitting quietly and observing punctually what they are ordered. , so that in the room they will know how to make good use of any ideas that come their way.
But man naturally has such a great penchant for liberty that when he is first allowed to develop a long habit of it, he sacrifices everything to it. This is precisely why it is necessary very early, as I have already said, to have recourse to discipline, because otherwise it would be very difficult to change one’s character afterwards. He will then follow all his whims … We must therefore accustom ourselves early to submit to the precepts of reason. When we let the man do all his wishes during his youth and that we have never resisted in any way, he retains a certain savagery throughout his life. It is of no use to him to be spared during his youth by an exaggerated maternal tenderness,
It is a fault in which one usually falls in the education of adults, never to put up any real resistance to them in their youth, on the pretext that they are destined to command. In man, the penchant for freedom makes it necessary to polish his harshness; in animals, on the contrary, instinct dispenses with this necessity.
Man needs care and culture. Culture includes discipline and instruction … Man can only become man through education. It is only what she does. It should be noted that he can only receive this education from other men, who have also received it. Also the lack of discipline and instruction among some men, makes them very bad teachers for their students …
The outline of a theory of education is a noble ideal and which would not harm in any way, even if we were not in a position to realize it. We must not regard an idea as chimerical and give it away as a beautiful dream because obstacles prevent its realization.
An ideal is nothing other than the conception of a perfection which has not yet been encountered in experience. Such, for example, is the idea of a perfect republic, governed by the rules of justice. Is it therefore impossible? Only it is necessary first that our idea is not false, and then that it is not absolutely impossible to overcome all the obstacles which can oppose its execution. If, for example, everyone was lying, would the franchise be a pure chimera for that? The idea of an education which develops in man all his natural dispositions is absolutely true …
There are many germs in humanity, and it is up to us to proportionally develop our natural dispositions, to give humanity its fullest deployment and to ensure that we fulfill our destination …
Education is an art whose practice needs to be perfected by several generations. Each generation, equipped with the knowledge of the preceding ones, is more and more able to arrive at an education which develops in just proportion and in accordance with their purpose all our natural dispositions, and which thus leads the whole human species to its destination. Providence wanted man to be obliged to derive the good from himself, and she said to him in a way: “Enter the world. I have put in you all kinds of provisions for the good. It is up to you to develop them, and so your happiness or your unhappiness depends on you. This is how the Creator could speak to men.