The Ignorant Schoolmaster

Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation

Paperback, 148 pages

English language

Published Jan. 1, 1991 by Stanford University Press.

Copied ISBN!

View on OpenLibrary

3 stars (2 reviews)

The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation is a 1987 book by philosopher Jacques Rancière on the role of the teacher and individual towards individual liberation. Rancière uses the example of Joseph Jacotot, a French teacher in the late 18th century who taught in Belgium without knowledge of their language (Flemish), to explain the role of liberation after Marxism. The work expresses Rousseauist ideas, e.g. in the state of nature humans are morally good, and emphasizes that individual change precipitates societal change. Its arguments draw heavily from the French socialist party's debates on education during the 1980s. It was translated to English in 1991 by Kristin Ross.

5 editions


3 stars

I'm baffled by this text and how often it floats around spaces filled with "radical pedagogues," how often it's cited as something that has shown people what they didn't know. That's fine. I'm not against texts that make people aware of something, nor am I against people finding something in places where I do not.

But this book is baffling. Its construction is confusing, and much of it feels apocryphal while told as fact. It swims between multiple perspectives without really claiming any beyond seeking to reform the school system, and that's the part I take most issue with. It is a reformist text, seeking to make it clear that what we're doing is wrong but not so completely wrong that we can't salvage it. At best, I think it was misguided when it was published, and its philosophical discussions have been outdated since before then.

I also cannot figure …

avatar for Flops

rated it

3 stars


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Philosophy
  • Biography
  • Parent participation
  • Education (France)
  • Education (Philosophy)