Indeed, in the introduction to Montaigne’s On the Education of Children, William Harris includes a chart that illustrates striking similarities in both the philosophical and literary stylings of the theorists. Both writers seek to shift the traditional assumptions of the education process away from merely treating the student as an open receptacle to whose head knowledge of facts and figures is dutifully filled. Instead, they embrace a progressive concept of education that would later be echoed in the transcendental theories of Emerson and Thoreau, and the self-exploratory theories of Maria Montessori. Rousseau and Montaigne contend that the focus of education must be placed not on the rote memorization of knowledge, but on the acknowledgement that true wisdom is gained in the understanding of the processes of learning.
Even as the underlining message of both writers concerning the need of shifting the emphasis of education away from socially constructed knowledge, towards the grasping of the intuitive processes of its attainment is the same, they differ in the extremity of their characterizations. While Montaigne acknowledges the necessity of questioning particular elements of society, he ultimately embraces it for its essential role in personal development. Conversely, Rousseau understands socially constructed knowledge to be inherently unsound and encourages the systematic and perhaps revolutionary questioning of its foundational concepts. In The Social Contract, another influential work, he even goes as far as chastising society because "the social pact gives the body politic absolute power over all its members (Rousseau 70)”. Whereas for Montaige, Harrison writes, “Humanity is too complex to reach the millennium through any single revolution, whether it be in religion, politics, or education. Montaigne saw this vaguely, yet more clearly than did