Jean-Jacques Rousseau can further be rescued if we look to his expectations of the teacher. He would have us consider the great weight of teaching:
“O thou who art to conduct him in his perilous path, and to draw from before his eyes the sacred curtain of Nature, tremble!”
Book Third, Pg. 134,”Émile”, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
I would argue that Rousseau is calling us to be more than teachers, he is calling us to make disciples, to replicate that which is good and redeemable in each of us.
“This clause is essential, and I would have the pupil and his tutor regard themselves so inseparable that their destiny in life should always be a subject of common interest to them.”
Book First, Pg. 21,”Émile”, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Read the quote above from a Christian worldview and you would not disagree, our destiny in this life and beyond should be considered inseparable. As teachers we should tremble at our great responsibility of sharing, training, and replicating.
To disciple someone is to prepare them to face life, not just a particular subject. If we are teaching a subject we must show how it is relative to the whole of life.
Our commitment must not be to the subject matter alone, but to the child and his or her learning how to discern the material and think on the subject critically.
The error in our day is that the teacher is attempting to replicate the student. If we adopt a teenager or young adult's dress, talk and habits, we fail to replicate. In our attempt to be young like the disciple, we fail to make him or her wise and prepared for adulthood.
We must be the example of a critical thinking adult in community.
Youth pastors and professors in flip-flops and t-shirts are one of the great failures in Christendom. They fail to show a child what an adult looks like. We must return to adults looking and behaving like grown ups.
“Fort his purpose labor yourself and be an example for him in all things.”
Book Third, Pg. 165,”Émile”, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
If we wish to replicate we must challenge our disciple with difficult subjects and ideas. We must set an example of how to work through doubt. How to discern, measure, contemplate, and trust.
“Do not hesitate to instruct him in those dangerous mysteries which you have so long concealed from him with so much care.”
Book Fourth, Pg. 235,”Émile”, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
If you are a teacher, and we are all teaching in some way, we must accept our great responsibility with fear and trembling, then boldly commit ourselves to young people throughout the course of their life with a desire to see them replicate our example.
On this, Rousseau is right.