Alli Snow (allisnow) wrote,
Alli Snow

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Educational philosophy

I've been sitting here, reading my Intro to Ed book and pondering what to post on the class website (which is our weekly assignment) in response to the following question: Our students are becoming increasingly diverse. How well do the different philosophies of education address issues of student diversity? The philosophies are:

Perennialism: Train the intellect through studying traditional, classical works. Lecture. High-structure. Frequent testing. Critical, content-centered learning.

Essentialism: Acquire basic skills and knowledge. Train kids to function in present society. Lecture, question, give feedback. High structure. Frequent testing.

Progressivism: Problem solving. Train kids to function in the real world. Cooperative learning and guided discovery. Democratic classroom environment. Continuous feedback and informal monitoring, as opposed to testing.

Postmodernism: Examine present-day institutions and marginlized people. Emphasize works of marginalized people. Discussions, role playing, simulations. A self-regulated classroom.

So, how do these philosophies address issues of student diversity?

So far on the class message board, there have only been about ten answers, and most people answering don't really know what they're saying. They're just regurgitating phrases from the book that might sound okay if they were being spoken, but when reading them... well, they don't make any sense.

Then you have those who answer with the obvious: Perennialism is the least successful in addressing student diversity, Essentialism more so, Progressivism even more so, and Postmodernism the most successful. The reasoning (if you listen to postmodernists) is that the curriculum that the Perennialists and Essentialists favor has been created by White males who have either no understanding or appreciation for the diversity of other (primarily Eastern) cultures.

Personally, I consider myself to be an Essentialist. But that doesn't mean I think students should only read the works of Shakespeare and other White males to the exclusion of all other groups. I think it's important to impress upon kids that people of all ethnicities and backgrounds and gender can be authors and scientists and explorers and whatever else they want to be. But this is not the same thing as subscribing to Postmodernism, the book definition of which is "contends that many of the institutions in our society, including schools, are used by those in power (White males) to control and marginalize those who lack power (unskilled workers, women, and cultural minorities."

Now, that's a possible philosophy - one I don't agree with, but that's a rant for another time - but I don't see how it's appropriate in schools. Do people really want Black or Asian or Hispanic second graders to be taught that the White man is out to get them? To instill this sense of victimization at such a young age? To eliminate Shakespeare in favor of feminist and minority authors? I simply can't look at that without sensing some kind of social agenda, the kind I believe is harmful to children.

And that's why I favor Essentialism, with a Progressive bent from time to time, perhaps. You teach all students the basic skills that they need to know. You vary the curricula to include authors from many walks of life in order to demonstrate that excellence can be found in many places. You may encounter individual situations where a minority student isn't doing well in class due to cultural factors, and if that's the case, you deal with the individual. You maintain flexibility.

Sigh. I started this rant in the hopes that it would help me better understand the discussion question, but I don't think I've really gotten anywhere. How do these philosophies address issues of student diversity? Oh well. Maybe I'll wait a bit, see who else posts, and hope something they say gives me some spark of an idea.

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