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A. Key Concepts

Essentialism- establishes the schools primary or essential function as

maintaining the achievements of human civilization by transmitting them to
students as skills and subjects in a carefully organized curriculum

William C. Bagley ( 1872- 1946)

A leading essentialist professor of education

Believed that schools should provide all students with the skills and
knowledge needed to function in a democratic society
Essential knowledge: skills of literacy (reading and writing), computation
(arithmetic), subjects of history, mathematics, science, languages , and
Crafted a finely tuned program that of teacher education that moved
teachers from preservice to professional classroom practice

Arthur E. Bestor, Jr.

A professor of history at the University of Illinois

Refined and reiterated essentialist beliefs into the theory of basic
education and helped to organize the Council on Basic Education
Argued that schools should provide a sound education in the intellectual

New approaches neglected basics

Essentialists charge that popular and innovative methods have caused a

declne in students academic performance and civility

New Basics

A curriculum consisting of English, mathematics, science, social studies,

and computer science
Recommended by A Nation at Risk, a national report sponsored by the
U.S. Department of Education to correct deficiencies caused by neglecting
the basics

Standards movement

Generated by criticisms voiced in A Nation at Risk

Argued that American education will be improved by creating high
academic standards or benchmarks, for students academic achievement

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001
Carries the premise that that there are key basic skills , and that
standardized tests can objectively measure students academic
Terms of NCLB:
o States must establish annual assessments in reading and
mathematics for every student in grades 3 to 8.
o Test results will identify schools in which large number of students
fails to meet or surpass the standard.
o School districts are accountable for improving performance of
disadvantaged students, as well as the whole population

B. The Basic Questions

1. Schools and teachers should be committed to their primary

academic mission and not be diverted into non-academic areas.
The schools appropriate role is to teach students the basic skills and
subjects that prepare them to function effectively in a democratic society.

2. Essentialists favor a subject matter curriculum.

The curriculum should:
a. differentiate and organize subjects according to their internal logical or
chronological principles;
b. be well defined
c. have a cumulative sequence
d. prepare students for future learning

3. Essentialists are suspicious of innovative or process learning

approaches, such as constructivism. For essentialists, civilized people
learn effectively and efficiently when they acquire the knowledge base
that scientists, scholars, and other experts have developed and organized.

4. Curriculum content should be based on the time-tested

experience of the human race. According to the essentialists, students
need to learn about the objective real world rather than misguidedly
following the constructivist view that they should create their own vision
of reality.

C. Implications for Todays Classroom Teacher

1. The purpose of education is to transmit and maintain the necessary
fundamentals of human culture.
2. As effective professional educators, teachers should:
a. adhere to a carefully structured curriculum based of basic skills and
b. inculcate traditional Western and American values of patriotism, hard
work, effort, punctuality, respect for authority, and civility;
c. manage classrooms efficiently, effectively, and fairly as spaces of
discipline and order;
d. promote students on the basis of academic achievement, not social
3. Deductive logic is used to organize instruction.


Ornstein A. C.& Levine, D. U. 2011. Foundations of Education (9th ed.) Boston:

Houghton Mifflin

Prepared by:

Buenavista, Rina Raquel

Isidro, Ma. Celine Alexis