White Men’s Writings: Rousseau

It is relatively common today for loyal supporters of the US Constitution to be informed that we are living in the past and basing our ideology on a document which was written by a bunch of white men who have been dead for about 200 years. Of course, this reasoning presupposes that thoughts by people who are not alive today (or in the very recent past) are not germane to our country or its laws. Without going into all the reasons which I find this thinking flawed, let me simply say that such statements are, at the very least, inconsistent.

This inconsistency may be easily discovered by considering another list of other dead white men whom those who would castigate the first group (men who who wrote the Constitution) find to be marvelously enlightened.

I do not know whether others would place M’sieu Jean-Jacques Rousseau at the top of this list, but based on the influence which his life and thought have had on Western educational and societal structures and teaching, I believe he would definitely be a contender. Modern public education in the United States owes him more than a small debt of gratitude. Because of him we like children to be self-directed (and not forced to learn things), we seek to remove children from the direct influence of parents at a very young age, and otherwise buy into the belief that the main problem with children is adults.

So, let’s hear it for ignoring the ancient writings of dead white guys. Of course, like those who would disagree with me, I only want to repudiate the writings of some dead white guys–not all of them. Let’s be honest with ourselves and with history and admit that we wouldn’t be where we are today without those who have gone before us. To discount someone’s thoughts because of the color of his skin and the age in which he lived (or died) is unhelpful at best.