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Essentialism, Perennialism, and the “Isms” Approach

Essentialism and perennialism are terms coined in the mid-20th century to identify separate but related approaches to educational theory and practice. These terms have retained minor currency in an approach to teaching philosophy of education known as the “isms” approach. Even more than the isms approach in general, essentialism and perennialism are largely absent from contemporary philosophy of education or curriculum theory, though they persist in some college and university courses and are well represented on the Internet. These two isms are examples of historical efforts to make sense of educational tensions that became particularly salient in the early 1900s but that remain unresolved a century later. While today’s educational theorists and reformers do not typically use the terms essentialism or perennialism, they continue to ...

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