Rousseau, happiness, and the economic approach to education

Educational Theory 62 (3):267-285 (2012)
Abstract
Since the 1960s, the influence of economic thought on education has been steadily increasing. Taking Jean-Jacques Rousseau's educational thought as a point of departure, Tal Gilead critically inquires into the philosophical foundations of what can be termed the economic approach to education. Gilead's focus in this essay is on happiness and the role that education should play in promoting it. The first two parts of the essay provide an introduction to Rousseau's conception of happiness, followed by an examination of the economic approach to education and the notion of human capital. In the course of this discussion, Gilead shows that increasing happiness is one of the economic approach's major aims. In the third part of the essay, he uses Rousseau's views to interrogate significant aspects of the economic approach to education. He then continues by highlighting some of the educational implications that stem from Rousseau's critique. Gilead maintains that Rousseau's ideas can provide valuable suggestions regarding how education might contribute to the promotion of happiness. The article concludes by proposing that while Rousseau's ideas on the matter should not necessarily be embraced, contemporary policymakers can learn some important lessons from them
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