Author: Kevin Swanson
Published in: CHEC Homeschool Update (reposted with permission)
Published on: Jan. 1, 2005

Reversing Rousseau

On one chilly winter’s day in 1746, a child was born to a couple in Paris. The father took the child from the arms of his wife, and against her protestations, delivered the baby to the steps of an orphanage. Without even taking the time to note the child’s gender, he abandoned the child to what would have been almost certain death. Subsequently, his wife had four more children, each of whom received the same treatment.

Incredibly, this man went on to unprecedented fame, becoming the most influential philosopher of modern times, the thinker behind all modern revolutions. His name was Jean Jacques Rousseau. What makes this story so poignant, and yet so sad, is that it exactly captures the spirit of our times.

Fifteen years after abandoning his first child, Rousseau began writing on the subject over which he would have the most profound influence of all – education. His famous book, Emile, was entirely devoted to the subject of educating a child. In his book, Rousseau and Revolution, the famous historian Durant summarizes the philosopher’s thoughts on education: “Rousseau wanted a system of public instruction by the state. He prescribed many years with an unmarried tutor who would withdraw the child as much as possible from parents and relatives.” According to my Encyclopedia Americana (1958 edition), Rousseau’s work was precedent-setting. “Highly debatable though these
propositions [in Emile] are, they have had immense influence on educational theory, including the ‘progressive education’ formulated by John Dewey and his followers.”

Paul Johnson is one of the most respected historians in the modern world. In his landmark book, Intellectuals (a work which should be a part of everybody’s library), he struggles to explain the thought processes of the “interesting madman,” Rousseau. “What began as personal self-justification… hardened into convictions, into the proposition that education was the key to social and moral improvement, and this being so, it was the concern of the state. By a curious chain of infamous moral logic, Rousseau’s iniquity as a parent was linked to his ideological offspring, the future totalitarian state.” The Bible uses fewer words and puts it clearer in Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Rousseau’s thinking was wrong. Dead wrong. But, the modern world would follow this man who abandoned his own children on the steps of an orphanage, a man who insisted that children should be raised by “professionals.”

The modern world began that day in 1746. A new sociology stepped into place. In just about every area of human life in the modern world (from America to Europe to Asia), licensed professionals, technicians, bureaucrats, and psychiatrists replaced the old-fashioned concepts of parents, mothers and fathers, grandmas, friends, neighbors, and pastors. The far-reaching effects of this bad worldview would capture the institutions of family, school, church, and state.

Several weeks ago, my wife was shopping at a local department store, five children in tow (as is customary for the homeschooling family). A woman, noting the entourage, deployed the usual question, “All yours?” To which Brenda answered with a cheery, “Sure are. Five blessings!”

Without skipping a beat, the woman replied, ‘I’ve got two. You want ‘em?”

What a heartbreaker! My wife was stunned. Undoubtedly this mother was a product of the age, the thinking espoused by a world that has lost a sense for what things are of real value. If you understand the worldview in which the modern world operates, you would at least be able to explain such a baffling response.

Rousseau’s worldview is alive and well in our world, and his orphanage is expanding. Consider what has happened since 1746. In this country alone, from 1973, forty million children have been cruelly murdered while still in their mothers’ wombs. To put it simply, there are many more children unwanted and unloved by their parents at least to one degree or another. The state (civil government) presses that worldview with more vehemence every year. Many states have widened the compulsory attendance law just over the last ten years in our country. Rousseau’s ideas roll on. Closer to home, the preschool next door to my office has just doubled their space. The effects of Rousseau
have impacted business, politics, economics, church, and family. Indeed, these effects are more than statistics. They are devastating. There is hardly a family anywhere that has not been impacted by the worldview of a madman who abandoned his own children on the steps of an orphanage. Today, 35% of children are born without fathers in America, a rate that has increased by a factor of 7 since 1960. By the year 2000, 80% of women with small children were in the workforce, a rate that is finally beginning to decline. How would one best summarize the 20th century? It was the century when fatherhood and motherhood faded, and the family’s importance, influence, and purview gradually dissipated. The worldview ideas of the “intellectuals” of the previous two centuries have given birth to a new social architecture, and the destructive effects of this “new” world are now painfully obvious, especially in Europe and America. For many parents, it has become too high a price to pay. Of course, there will always be those who continue to hold tenaciously to the worldview of the intellectual madman and the social structures he recommended.

Home Education Introduces a Different Sociology

I am sure that every homeschooled graduate has heard the question, “What about socialization?” When I graduated from my homeschool high school in 1980, I used to wonder why people would ask a question so asinine, especially when many homeschool graduates I knew were some of the most successful leaders in any context. But, after twenty years of thinking about the question, I’m now convinced that it is the most intelligent question to ask. Home education is bringing sweeping changes into modern society in the area of sociology, and not everybody is excited about that. We are replacing peer pressure, group think, and statist, big government social relationships with a different sociology. Of course, this will be of deep concern to those with a different worldview. It isn’t the academic strengths of homeschoolers that is of concern to the opposition. It isn’t even the fact that homeschooled children are able to interact with a wide variety of people from varying social contexts with ease that bothers the opposition. It is the fact that these children are raised in different social relationships, nurturing relationships that will inevitably produce well-rounded, influential leaders of change in future generations. It is the fact that home education is poised to change worldviews, the social relationships of the modern world, the way we live and the way we interact. We are re-inventing what it means to be a father who walks beside his son, what it means to be a mother who actually nurtures her children into confident, loving, faithful, world-impacting children of God. We are reinventing social relationships in Rousseau’s world. We are reversing Rousseau, a 300-year precedent! When a family who has learned to live with each other in peace and unity walks into a restaurant, they are treated with stares and an occasional complement. One day, we were sitting in Country Buffet, our favorite restaurant, when a family with six children entered.

My son, whispered to me, “Dad, that’s a homeschool family.”

I asked him why he thought that was the case, and I was amazed at his answer.

He said, “It’s the way the children are talking respectfully and lovingly to their parents.”

Later, I walked up to the father, intending to ask him if they were home educators. He beat me to it. “Do you folks homeschool?” he asked.

The Domino Effect

It would be one thing if homeschooling only affected family social relationships, and perhaps then home educators would be tolerated. But, indeed, that is not the case! Once you have rearranged social relationships on the basic level, you will inevitably find a domino effect taking place, and all other social relationships will be affected.

Last week, I took a call from Barna Research, an organization that surveys Christian ministries. (Ironically, the call came in while I was working on my Bible lesson that I was preparing for my children that morning.) The gentleman on the other end of the line was surveying Christian pastors on children’s ministries in their churches. He asked me if we had any Sunday School programs for children in our church. I told him, “No.”

“Any mid-week youth groups?”

“Not exactly,” I replied.

“How about children’s church?”

“Nope.”

There was a pause. “What kind of church are you? Don’t you have anything for children?”

I told him, “Well, we were reading the Bible, and we found Deuteronomy 6:7, Ephesians 6:4, the book of Proverbs, and all of the other passages on children’s ministries. In practically every passage, we found that it would be a really good idea if parents would disciple their own children. We couldn’t find any more powerful ministry program for children than for their own parents to show them Jesus every day as they sit in their house together, as they walk by the way, as they rise up, and as they lie down. We thought that would be a pretty neat system of discipling children, and we decided to go with it.”

“Wow. That’s not even on my list here. That’s pretty weird.”

“Yeah. Christian parents were doing that sort of thing for about 1800 years until the Sunday School movement started up and family discipleship virtually disappeared. By 1820, Archibald Alexander wrote his book lamenting the decline of families actively discipling their own children.”

Many homeschooling families are meeting resistance in their various other associations in life, whether it be extended family or church, and they wonder why. It is because they have made a worldview shift at a foundational level, a change in social relationship, and there is no way to avoid a domino effect in other social relationships. We’re reversing Rousseau, and it’s going to be a struggle.

This change in social relationships at the basic level of the family will produce a reunification of the family and empowerment for the family. Inevitably, this must affect economics, especially as families begin to see the household (and not the individual) as the basic economic unit. The word “economics” comes from the Greek, oikonomia, which means “the law or vision of the household.” As homeschooling reintroduces a reintegrated family, decentralized family businesses will replace the large corporations and individualized career tracks. This is a model that bears thousands of years of biblical and historical precedent (Gen. 29:9, 37:12, 1 Sam, 17:15, Acts 18:2,3, Prov. 31:11,27). The changes in social settings at home will change the way we do business.

Yet another domino in the sequence is civil government. If the family once again realizes its God-ordained roles in education, inheritance, and caring for elderly parents, that will most certainly replace the Rousseau-ian vision of government-provided schools, social security, and generational welfare programs.

The Vision Goes Even Deeper

Indeed, our vision is much deeper than a mere change in social relationships, business, and government. Our vision is that people would love God. It is the vision of the Shema, the most famous passage in Jewish tradition, in Deuteronomy 6:5-6. According to our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:37, this most basic summary of a godly life has never changed. God shows us HOW to love Him in the very next verse (Deut. 6:7). Here is how you love God: “Teach your children my words as you sit in your house, as you walk by the way, as you rise up, and as you lie down.”

Our vision is simple. We want fewer mothers saying, “I’ve got two. You want ‘em?” We don’t want booming day care businesses for toddlers. While we wish God’s richest blessings on orphanages and families that take care of the abandoned and ignored orphan, what we really want is more families loving God. We want more families loving God by parents lovingly, tenderly, and continually teaching their children God’s Word themselves throughout the day as they sit in their houses, as they walk by the way, as they rise up, and as they lie down.

Once again, we can hear Jesus’ question as plain and clear as can be:

“Do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Well then. Do you see those lambs over there that I gave you?”

“Yes.”

“Feed them.”

Kevin Swanson is a homeschool father and hosts the daily Generations Radio program heard around the world at https://www.generations.org/. For more information, books, and articles by Kevin, go to Generations.