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Shannon Kelsey Teaching Portfolio

Essentialism, Perennialism, Progressivism

There are three educational philosophies that best describe my overall view on education. The favorite philosophy of mine would be essentialism, which teaches the basic skills of reading, writing, math, science, etc., the other two philosophies that I partly agree with and will follow only to a certain extent are perennialism, which emphasizes rationality and progressivism, which emphasizes the concerns, curiosity and real world experiences of students.

                Essentialism can be found all throughout history dating back to as far as the days of the Greek philosophers. “In the 1930’s William Bagley helped popularize this philosophy with his writings and lectures. As interest in space grew, so did the interest in the essentialism way of education. Even in today’s society we see President Bush pushing this form of educational philosophy with his “No Child Left Behind Act” (Bayla Maya, para. 2, January, 2005). As you can tell, many people prefer essentialism, Especially in American schools, although you can see essentialism all over the world in other schools as well. In the American school system, they tend to mainly stick to the basics when it comes to core classes. Essentialism tends to teach the students the most “essential” or “basic” academic knowledge and skills, as well as character development. The essential curriculum focuses on math, history, natural science, foreign language and literature. They also believe the teacher should teach the students traditional values and virtues such as respect for authority, consideration for others and perseverance. Essentialist schools require students to pass and master basic techniques and information for their grade level before being promoted to the next grade.

                Perrennialism, just like essentialism, dates back to the Greek philosophers, mainly Plato and Aristotle. “These two philosophers taught their students by influencing them to question the facts. In more recent times Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins have been known to influence the perennial approach to education. Mortimer Adler helped design the “Great Book Program” in 1946. Robert Hutchins supported this educational philosophy when he implemented the use of Adler’s “Great Books” in his “Chicago Plan”” (Bayla Maya, Para. 5, January 2005). Perennialists believe in teaching from the Great Books and teaching rationality in the main focus of education. They also believe in the essential truths and that they are correct and reoccurring. Tom Hoffman says that in a perennial classroom you will find “ teachers who set the curriculum using humanities and great books, very little flexibility or student choice in the curriculum, the teachings focus in on concepts rather than facts, and that schools aim is to develop reason and moral qualities in students (We are what we teach, para. 8, no date).

                Progressivism began in the 1920’s when John Dewey created the laboratory school and the foundations of the progressive education movement. John Dewey taught the students of the school not by having them sit in a classroom all day but by doing hands on learning activities. “Progressivists believe that individuality, progress and change are fundamental to one’s education. Believing that people learn best from what they consider most relevant to their lives. Progressivists center their curricula on the needs, experiences, interests and abilities of students. Progressivist teachers try making school interesting and useful by planning lessons that provoke curiosity” (Foundations of Education, para. 1, no date). Tom Hoffman says that in a progressive classroom you will find “curriculum centered around student interests and abilities, lots of experiments, products, activities and group work, and that textbooks aren’t as important, students learn by doing” (We are what we teach, para. 12, no date).

                In my classroom, I will mainly be demonstrating essentialism. I will constantly reinforce issues such as respecting authority, consideration for others, and perseverance. I will also decide what is taught in my classroom, not the children. We will get to have some fun, extra time but even that will revolve around learning math, science, literature or foreign language. When I am teaching, I plan on sticking to the basics, the things most people should know to be successful such as math skills, reading, writing, and spelling. I will also be using a little bit of perennialism in my classroom, by influencing the children to question the facts that they are told and to be curious and think logically, since I feel that is important. I will not be using the great books while teaching. Maybe to help the students get used to questioning things and asking important question, I will make a game out of it or give a reward to the child who asked the best question that day. I think it is very important that every elementary school teacher has progressivism in their educational philosophy. Younger children enjoy being active and feeling like they are accomplishing something. I plan on allowing my children in the classroom to enjoy many hands on activities, such as “centers”. Centers is where the children rotate around the room in groups doing a little project in every center they visit. I also plan on allowing the children to do many activities such as arts and crafts, painting, science experiments and encouraging them to use their imagination.

                The three educational philosophies that I plan on following and feel best describe my teaching style are essentialism, perennialism and progressivism. I agree fully with the views of essentialism and some of the views of perennialism and progressivism, although I will be using a mix of the three in my own classroom.




Philosophy Essay 3



Hoffman, T (2006). We are what we teach. Education Today, Retrieved October 23, 2007, from


Maya, Bayla (January, 2005). What are the five key educational philosophies. Retrieved October 23, 2007, from


Theodore, Peter A. (and students) (no date). Progressivism. The Foundations of Education Web, Retrieved October 23, 2007, from


Theodore, Peter A. (and students) (no date). Perennialism. The Foundations of Education Web, Retrieved October 23, 2007, from

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