Rousseau as response to accelerated talent development

Claus Holm & Jens Christian Nielsen
The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University

Children and youth sport is currently, just like pre-school institutions, becoming part of an increasingly dominant development culture that puts development and utilization of children’s learning capacity in the centre. Both Danish mass and elite sports have traditionally had an ambivalent pedagogical and educational view on the development of children. However, this view is now under pressure. For example, this is expressed when an international major sport player like FC Barcelona wants to create elitist-oriented football academies for children as young as 6 years of age in Denmark. But inspired by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and recent Danish development psychological research, the article criticizes the idea of an efficient utilization of children’s learning capacity – not simply to protect children from taking advantage of their learning capacity, but to develop and utilize it in clever ways. Here are Rousseau’s insights important. In his novel Emile, or On Education from 1762, Rousseau points out that the most important and useful rule for child rearing is as follows: not to gain time, but to waste time – and thereby, in turn, gaining time. And to follow this rule, claim the authors of this article, is probably still the best way to develop and utilize a child’s learning capacity, whether we’re talking about a child in pre-school or a football club.

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CLAUS HOLM (b. 1966) holds an MA in Political Science and Philosophy and Ph.D. in Educational Sociology. He is employed as a university lecturer at The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University. His field of expertise is in education sociology with particular emphasis on research dissemination and knowledge policy. He has written articles on guidance policies in relation to talent development of pupils in primary school and on the issue of educational interventions in relation to vulnerable children’s resilience and anti-fragility.

JENS CHRISTIAN NIELSEN (b. 1971) holds an MA in Educational Studies and History and PhD in Youth Studies. He is employed as Assistant Professor in Youth Studies at The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University. For a number of years he has been engaged in youth research with a focus on adolescents’ identity processes, well-being, transition and learning. Currently, he directs the research project “Sports talents in the Danish public school”, dealing with talent development and sports classes.

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