Life and Educational Views of John Locke

John Locke (1632-1704) was an influential philosopher during the 17th century. Locke also had some significant views on education. This post will look at Locke’s life and his positions on education.

Background

Locke was born in 1632 in England. He went to college at Oxford and graduated in 1655. During, his university studies Locke developed a negative attitude toward the scholastic approach to education with its heavy emphasis on rote memorization. This experience would help to shape his educational views later in life.

After completing his bachelors, Locke attended medical school. Locke was not interested so much in being a doctor as in taking better care of his own health which he had problems with. After completing medical school, Locke work as a tutor to the son of an influential nobleman.

Due to the political actions of Locke’s boss he had to leave England for a time. However,  when a new king ascended the throne in England Locke was able to return. Upon returning Locke writes one of his most famous works “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” as well as other important works.

With his return to England, Locke actually worked for the government that used to be suspicious of him. He continued to serve until his health failed him and  he died in 1704.

Educational Views

Locke primarily had a practical view of education. The learning of a student should be focused on practical. Today it is tempting to spread a child across many subjects and electives but this was not what Locke supported. Education should be simplified and to the point

Locke did not hold that education should only be academic. Reading and writing are important but they were not everything in his view. This was in stark contrast to his scholastic education experience were academics is everything.

Locke believes that character development was the ultimate purpose of education. Understanding right from wrong and showing integrity were much more important than academic prowess.

Due to his medical training, Locke also supported the idea of an education that caters to the needs of the body. Fresh air, exercise, sleep, and a plain diet were critical to successful education.

Temperance was also another key item of success as the workload of the child should be adjusted to individual needs and not all the same. For Locke, a standardized education is insensible and treats children as objects rather than as living creatures. The teacher’s job is to study the child and find what is appropriate for them.

Locke also had much to say about language. He boldly claimed that the learning of Latin was overrated and really an activity for the upper class and not really for everybody. Locke also said that the best way to learn a language was through practice and not through the study of theoretical rules of language use.  In many ways here, Locke is laying the foundation for modern beliefs in TESOL.

Conclusion

John Locke was a highly influential philosopher of the 17th century who had unique views on education at his time. His ideas on wholistic education are still relevant today and his thoughts on language acquisition are perhaps the main view in that discipline today.

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