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Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) is one of the most influential philosophers of education in the Western world. His magisterial study, Emile, or On Education, published in 1762, was a literary sensation and provoked controversy immediately after publication. The book was burned in Paris and Geneva, because of Rousseau’s teachings against original sin and his downplaying the role of the Church and of scripture in religious education. Rousseau was not the first philosopher who challenged the Christian dogma of sin, but he was the first who conceived of a child without any form of sin. His argument for a natural education is still discussed today.

One of Rousseau’s greatest followers was no less a figure than Jean Piaget. But Rousseau’s teachings also influenced present-day approaches to free schooling ...

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