Philosophy of education: Perennialism, Essentialism, Progressivism, and Social Reconstructionism

Philosophy is a set of beliefs or ideas one has towards their discipline or line of work. Don Kauchak and Paul Eggen, authors of the textbook “Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional,” define philosophy as “The study of theories of knowledge, truth, existence, and morality” [ (Kauchak & Eggen, 2011) ].

The philosophy of education is a very important aspect of teaching. It is meant to guide teachers in the classroom and offer insight to the thinking of past experts [ (Kauchak & Eggen, 2011) ]. It often will answer the main questions any new and even seasoned teachers have when preparing to teach in the classroom.

There are various degrees of philosophy, for example; there is the philosophy of life, the philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of education. However, there are four philosophies of education they include: Perennialism, Essentialism, Progressivism, and Social Reconstructionism.

After calculating my scores on the philosophical assessment in the Kauchak and Eggen textbook, I found that my personal philosophy of education is an equal combination of Perennialism and Social Reconstructionism. According to Kauchak and Eggen, Perennialism consists of the teaching of classic knowledge [ (Kauchak & Eggen, 2011) ].

This includes literacy, mathematics, and science. Another way of looking at this is teaching student’s subjects that they will use in the future, even if it does not seem relevant now. The definition of perennial is “long-term” and that is exactly how a teacher with a Perennialism philosophy teaches. Social Reconstructionism, according to Kauchak and Eggen is “An educational philosophy suggesting that schools, teachers, and students should lead in alleviating social inequities in our society” [ (Kauchak & Eggen, 2011) ].

In other words, a teacher with this philosophy teaches their students about social problems, improving society and teaching their students about personal responsibilities. Perennialism and Social Reconstructionism are each on opposite ends of the spectrum. Social Reconstructionism focuses more on the society in which the student lives, while Perennialism focuses more on the intellect of the student. Having these two as my personal philosophies is a bit difficult.

While I do believe teaching tolerance and understanding is important, I also know that learning mathematics, science and literacy is equally important. After reading the scenario on page 219 of the Kauchak and Eggen textbook, I would respond to the students by first trying to motivate them. Offering incentives is a great way to get students’ attention; they are more eager to pay attention if they are pursuing it to get something out of it. You can use anything as a motivator; my favorite was always free dessert at lunch!

You can also give extra credit points on the next quiz or for younger students you could offer an incentive such as “line leader” or “bathroom monitor” for the day. The younger students love when they think they are in charge of something, it can also help their self-esteem knowing they are doing something important. I do believe this is more of an example of Perennialism, however, depending on the specific motivator and the response it gets; it could be Social Reconstructionism as well. The second response I would try is starting a discussion.

I would try getting the students’ attention by putting them in discussion groups or having a discussion as a whole class. This would definitely be an example of Social Reconstructionism. This encourages the students to work together and to come up with a solution together. It gives them a chance to ask each other questions before asking the teacher. It also compels them to stay focused on the topic and eliminates the “my hand wasn’t raised” excuse. My third response, though I would make it my last resort, would be to write a summary on what was taught during the instruction.

By doing this, it makes the students want and need to listen in order to do their assignment correctly. This also offers a chance to get some feedback from the teacher and allows you to reflect on what you learned and what you need to work on. This is an example of Perennialism, as it deals with the thought process and encouraging literacy. While Perennialism and Social Reconstructionism are complete opposites, they also share some characteristics, making it easier to teach using both philosophies.

Many common knowledge subjects can be transitioned to include activities that work well to alleviate social problems. In math, you can have the students work in groups. This promotes team work and logic. In literacy, you may give reading assignments dealing with a specific problem in society (e. g. poverty, bullying, etc) and have the students write summaries on what they read. This can promote logical thinking as well as establishing knowledge of the society issue in the reading.