Rousseau’s Views in regard to Education of Women:
Rousseau in the fifth part of Emile has talked about the education of an imaginary girl named sophy. This education, in other words, is the education of women. He has said that he wants an ideal housewife for an educated young man like Emile. The wife should be capable of giving him all pleasure. He has already equipped Emile with practical and useful knowledge and, therefore, he is of the view that his wife, Sophy, should also have the knowledge of the practical value. Practical knowledge of both will make life happy and peaceful. Rousseau has based his belief on the fact that a woman is complementary to a man and is a real companion. Without the companionship of a woman, a man’s life cannot be complete. Man and woman are the two wheels of a carriage, in the absence of either of them, the carriage will degenerate into a lifeless wood. With these views before us, we can categorise Rousseau’s thoughts about women’s education in the following manner-
(a) The aim of a woman’s education should be to equip her to enable her heart to make a man happy. A woman should be capable of bringing up the man in his childhood, tending him in his youth and providing him with counsel and consolation. In short, she should have all the requisites to make a man happy as Rousseau has himself said. To be pleasing in sight, to win his respect and love to train him in childhood, to tend him in manhood to counsel and console him to make his life pleasant and happy. These are the duties of a woman at all times and that is why she should be taught while she is young.
(b) Contents of Woman Education- Women should be given physical education, education in the domestic work and religion etc. A woman, as has already been said, should be pleasing in sight and, therefore, she should be imparted physical education in order to have a healthy and good-looking body. It is an accepted principle that if the mother is healthy, children will naturally be healthy. Moreover, if the wife is healthy, she will be able to make the life of her husband also happy. A healthy body houses a healthy mind and provides peace and pleasure to the domestic life.
(c) Domestic Duties- Essentially woman is meant to take after home and, therefore, she should be an ideal housewife, Education should aim at helping her to attain this. She should know stitching, embroidery, dance, singing and other such arts as may help to make her husband happy. Knowledge of the domestic sciences shall be of immense help to her. Knowledge of philosophy and science may not be of any use to her.
A woman has to look after feeding and rearing up which is saturated with the feeling of sympathy, kindness and religious in nature. Therefore, women should be taught religious education. In this field, first place should be given to the “religion of making her husband happy”. This is what Rousseau has said in the following words, “When you teach religion to little girls, never make it gloomy or tiresome, never make it a task or duty and, therefore, never give them anything to learn by heart, not even their prayers…….It does not matter that a girl should learn it thoroughly and still more that she should learn to love it”.
Rousseau was also of the view that a few of the beliefs enunciated below must form a part of the personality of the girls. They should know that they are the makers of the destiny of the man and they should also know that there is somebody over and above, who sits at the judgement of the human fate. In other words, he has tried to lay down that they should be God-fearing. He has also tried to prove that there is a world hereafter as well where man has to face the results of his actions. In the words of Rusk, this belief may be summed up as below:
“To know that there is a judge of human fate, that we are all his children, that he bids us all to be just, he bids us love one another, he bids us to be kind and merciful, he bids up keep our words with all men even with our enemies, and this we must know that the apparent happiness of this world is naught that there is another life to come in which this supreme being will be the rewarder of the just and that judge of the unjust”.
(d) Women should be taught to be busy and that is the ideal method of their education- Rousseau has himself said that “the general principle to be followed in education of girls is to show the sense of tasks you set your little girls but keep them busy”. Being busy does not mean giving no rest to the body. It certainly provides for proper rest to the body as well as the mind.
(e) Strict Control and Discipline- has been the suggestion of Rousseau for women. He does not believe in giving freedom to women. On the other hand, he says that gentleness and obedience are the best qualities of a woman. He has himself said, “What is most wanted in a woman is gentleness; bound to obey a creature so imperfect as a man; she should early learn to submit to injustice and to suffer the wrongs inflicted on her by her husband without complaints. She must be gentle for her own sake, not his”. When we look at these views we find that Rousseau was perfectly Indian in his spirit in this regard.
His views in this regard are perfectly justified and practical. A woman has to be tolerant and patient. If she does not have a store of patience, she is bound to grow irritable in her domestic duties and spoil the peace and pleasure of the home. According to Rousseau, real womanhood lies in self-sacrifice and that is the ideal requirement of a happy home. The woman herself knows this fact very well. This is what Rousseau meant when he said, “The man should be strong and active, the woman weak and passive. The man seeks to serve, the woman seeks to please, one needs knowledge and the other taste. Woman is made for man’s delight”. This was extremely practical and all married people realize it even today. A woman who tries to go beyond the limits of domestic life not only makes herself unhappy but her husband too.
Views of Rousseau in regard to woman education may not be very up-to-date and acceptable to all. They have certain defects also but even then they are practical. Rousseau wanted a woman to be a perfect housewife and so he suggested all these things. Today it is not very much liked that a woman steals her hands in the domestic work. But she is considered to be a companion of her husband in the artificial sense of the term. Servants should cook and look after the home but the woman should have nothing to do with it. This concept is unpractical and brings about unhappiness in domestic life. A woman is a loving mother, cheerful companion and a wife competent enough to receive her husband, tired and back from work not only with open arms but with an open heart and smiling face. If a woman cannot do this, howsoever highly educated she may be, she has lost her distinct personality and utility to the human society.