03 September, 2010

Which Way?

Learning Together
Part One: An Introduction to Educational Philosophy
It is an age old discussion. How do we best educate our kids? Scholars, teachers, parents, and community leaders have been asking themselves this question since...Well, since we first started educating our kids. 

If you are homeschooling, you know how confusing choosing a curriculum can be. Just look at a curriculum catalog. Many of those are so big, they look like the New York City phone book. If your child attends school, you know how confusing it is to choose the right program of study for your child. One year, I remember touring all of the preschool programs in our town. By the end of that process, I needed a nap-time!

In order to help ease all of this confusion, it is best to begin at the beginning. Every school and every curriculum emanates from a particular educational philosophy. Once you discover the educational philosophy of a particular school or curriculum, you can better discover what program of study to choose for your child. Here is a brief overview of the predominating educational philosophies in many western countries today:

Most recently, there is Critical Theory and Constructivism. In this educational philosophy, the learner is a member of a greater community. Learning is student-centered and rooted in the experiences of the learner. Affecting social change is at the core of the learning.

Then, there is Progressivism. In this educational philosophy, the learner is active. Learning is student-directed and rooted in the scientific method. Problem-solving is at the core of the learning.

There is also Essentialism. In this educational philosophy, the learner acquires knowledge of the "basics". Learning is teacher-directed and rooted in academic rigor and discipline. Becoming a productive member of society is at the core of the learning.

Finally, there is Perennialism, or Classical Education. In this educational philosophy, the learner is a rational thinker. Learning is based upon eternal ideas and rooted in the great works of western civilization. Developing into a lifelong learner is at the core of the learning.

You can further subdivide these four educational philosophies into two primary categories:

Student-Directed Learning vs. Teacher-Directed Learning

Critical Theory/Constructivism and Progressivism are  largely student-directed. In these modern educational philosophies, the learner influences much  of the course of study. The teacher serves as a facilitator, rather than a director.

Essentialism and Perennialism are teacher-directed. In these more traditional philosophies, the teacher influences much of the course of study. The learner serves as receptor, rather than director. 

Critical Theory/Constructivism, Progressivism, Essentialism, and Perennialism have key philosphical differences. therefore; is important for us, as parents, to learn about these variant educational philosophies when choosing our child's program of study.

Next week in Learning Together:

Cohen, L. (1999) Philosophical perspectives in education. Oregon State University. Found on 6 September 2010 at http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/ed416/PP3.html
Thanasoulas, D. Constructivist learning. Found on 6 September 2010 at http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/Teachers_Page/Language_Learning_Articles/constructivist_learning.htm
Bagley, W. The case for essentialism in education. Found on 6 September 2010 at http://www.spu.edu/online/essentialism_in_ed.htm
Bansal, S. & Maheshwari, V.K. Perennialism in education. Found on 6 September 2010 at http://www.scribd.com/doc/30519036/Perennialism-in-Education


  1. Hi there, I hope you will pardon the comment unrelated to your post, but I didn't see a contact email. A while back I found a post about an Ikea magazine basket re-purposed to hold kids art supplies. I thought it was from here, but my link doesn't work any more. If this was your post, any chance of seeing it again? I finally got one of the baskets and can't wait to get it filled. Thanks so much.

  2. No problem. I'm so glad you're making the project! I updated the website a few months ago, and a couple of the links moved. Try this URL:
    Let me know how it turns out:)