Historical Foundations of Early Childhood Education 

The 18th century's scientific brought with it a new emphasis on our potential to understand our world, our universe, and ultimately transform society. Reasoning was emphasized by both men and women, and skepticism of traditional sources was common. The spotlight was taken off of religion and placed onto the idea of a humanistic way of life. Education became more scientific and practical, and the idea that children's education was a natural process that needed the support of adults became more commonplace.

John Locke (1632-1704
John Locke was a doctor, academic, philosopher, and political theorist, and an influential thinker of the Enlightenment. He developed the theory (known as "Tabula Rasa", or "Blank Slate") that children come into the world with an empty mind, and that knowledge and learning is received through experience and converted to understanding through reasoning. Locke strongly believed in "nurture" over "nature." This belief led him to emphasize the idea of early education and changes in parental care, such as allowing infants to be free from swaddling, allowing young children to explore their world physically without restraint, and the use of gentle forms of discipline. He emphasized respectful, loving relationships as the best way for adults to inspire the child to replicate their behaviors, and that learning should be fun, not a task to be imposed.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
French writer, philosopher, and social theorist. Jean Jacques Rousseau was a powerful player in the educational thought. Challenging the idea that children are born into the world with 'original sin', Rousseau believed children were instead born with inherent goodness that was spoiled by civilization. He challenged Locke's belief that one should always reason with children, and believed education should begin at birth and continue well into adulthood, emphasizing the differences between the minds of children and adults, and adjusting educational methods accordingly. He believed children learned best by experiencing and exploring their environments that are still incorporated into ECE programs today. He was a proponent for natural, spontaneous, undirected play free of adult interference, and encouraged parents to show their confidence in their children's natural growth by allowing spontaneous activities and nurturing of their children's interests.