Books: The book that shook

Books: The book that shook - 'I first read Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the summer of 1968. University students were overturning cars in the Boulevard St Michel, art students were challenging old-fashioned ways of doing things all over London, and I

by CHRISTOPHER FRAYLING, the Design Council's chairman
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

'I first read Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the summer of 1968. University students were overturning cars in the Boulevard St Michel, art students were challenging old-fashioned ways of doing things all over London, and I was revising for my final exams in Cambridge.

It is a strange and very profound book - part novel, part plea for a creative approach to education, part political polemic. The philosopher Kant thought Emile's first publication in 1762 was as significant an event as the French Revolution. I wouldn't go that far, but - looking back - the book certainly changed how I thought.

Emile is about tailoring education to the needs of the individual; about learning by doing rather than by parroting ill-digested opinions; and about the importance of educating performers as well as interpreters. Because Emile is couched in the form of a novel, none of this comes over as dry or remote.

It opened my mind to creativity in education - whatever the subject - as preparation for the challenges of life.

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