In his Emile, Jean Jacques Rousseau argues that education is essential in the development of the individual. According to Rousseau, it is through education that man becomes an integer member of society. The French philosopher makes thus an important distinction between the natural man and the civil man. The role of education is to shape the natural man and transform him into a civil man who is able to perform as a fraction of society. The point that Rousseau makes in favor of education in his essay is still valid today, in our modern society.
The social environment in which man lives and the education he receives are indispensable factors in his formation as an individual. It is inconceivable for an individual to exist as a natural man, on his own, in the modern world. From the time of his birth and to the day of his death, man is included in a social organism that partly controls his behavior and his actions. Often, man is a part of many different social groups that help him develop. As Rousseau notes at the beginning of his essay, man is prone on devising social systems that completely transform nature.
Nothing is found in its natural and wild state in modern society and least of all man himself. Gradually, mankind moves farther and farther from its primitive state. From the beginning of time, man has devised means to ease his existence upon earth and to increase his comfort. To be able to find his way towards progress and fight nature, man has created social organisms and institutions. The modern individual defines himself by means of the function or role that he plays in society.
The education that an individual receives is therefore essential for his further advancement. To be able to integrate properly in the society he is a part of, man has to accumulate bits of knowledge from most of the fields of education. For instance, to know how to read, write or count is crucial for an individual. Also, to learn how to use the basic objects that surround him is also a basic requirement. In the modern world, every man has a birth certificate and an identification document to attest his existence.
There are numberless institutions that coordinate and control the life of the individual. Then, man needs to acquire some general knowledge of the main fields of study, so as to be able to complete his role inside the human society. The modern society forces the individual to become integrated. No man can survive on his own outside the fundamental social structures. It is therefore arguable that the modern man is very far from his ‘natural’ counterpart. He is a civil man, inasmuch as his existence is guided and sustained by the social organisms.
There is a mutual relationship of interdependence between an individual and society. Mankind needs to be organized as a society in order to be able to progress and develop as well as defend itself from the natural forces. The complicated mechanisms of society and culture are vital for man. Being endowed with a mind, man needs to create coherence for himself in the world as he cannot find it in nature. Education is absolutely necessary as it creates a smooth transition from the past to the present and then to the future, giving man the coherence he needs to function.
The individual has to learn as much as he can about the environment, about culture and the development of mankind in general so as to be able to fulfill his role in society. There are also certain disadvantages to the rapid evolution of mankind. Thus, man’s expanding domination tends to create havoc and unbalance in the natural world. Certain consequences of the rapid evolution of mankind can endanger its future, such as the pollution, the global warming and so on.
While medicine has progressed since its beginnings, new diseases appear because of the deterioration of the natural environment. Therefore, while the progress of mankind towards more and more advanced structures and technologies seems unstoppable and beneficial, there are also some negative consequences that intervene in the course of this development. Man has created an artificial fortress for himself in the midst of nature, but he still has to find an efficient way to preserve his balance.