Skip to main content

Zoom Text:


University studies of this time included those of Jacob Rodriguez Pereire (1715-1780) in Portugal, who instructed "deaf mutes" and taught them to hear and speak by touch and vibration through muscles. Scientists were amazed that students could imitate speech perfectly, even dialects. In the 1780s, Valentin Hauy developed embossed print and claimed that blind persons could be taught to read. These successful efforts to educate persons who were blind and deaf encouraged an interest in educating persons with other disabilities.


Philosopher, writer, and political theorist, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) believed that man's perfect nature was spoiled by corrupt society. Rousseau's belief that there is worth and value in all human beings was a revolutionary idea, challenging the nobility who believed in their own superiority. Like John Locke, Rousseau believed in the tabula rasa concept. Rousseau asserted, "Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains."

The idea of the "noble savage" was Rousseau's romantic conception of man enjoying a natural and noble existence until civilization makes him a slave to unnatural wants and corrupts him. Rousseau believed that only the "uncorrupted savage" is in possession of real virtue. In applying his romantic ideas to education, Rousseau believed in instructing children in physical and sensory methods until age 12, developing their intellectual skills from age 12 to 15, and their moral capacity from age 15 upward. Rousseau's notions influenced educators such as Itard, Seguin, and Montessori.