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By Nheil Jhun Gomez

What is Essentialism?
 An educational theory that believes that the
purpose of schooling is to impart necessary
knowledge, skills, and attitudes to enable young
people to function as fully developed human
beings in the modern worlds.
 Schools should be organized to transmit this
core of essential material.
 Classrooms are teacher-centered.
Nature, Origin, and Motives
 Essentialism is a uniquely American philosophy of
education which began in the 1930’s and 1940’s
 It was a response to Progressivism’s overemphasis on a
child-centered approach to education.
 There was a concern that schools were not helping
students develop an appropriate knowledge.
 Essentialists believed schools should teach the basics
(critical core of information and skills) to students so that
they could be productive and contribute to modern society.
 The two origins of essentialism is from idealism and
 Essentialist believe in teaching the basic subjects
 The purpose of this philosophy is to help the learners
acquire basic skill set, intelligence and morals for them to
become model citizens.
Major Proponent
William Bagley (1874–1946)
 An influential member of the Essentialist
Committee for the Advancement of American
 Critical of Progressivism and sought to create a
philosophy of education stressing the basics
E. D. Hirsch, Jr. (1928-present)
 Believed in the importance of cultural literacy
and extensive knowledge (facts, names, events,
Why teach
 This philosophy contends that teachers teach
for learners to acquire basic knowledge,
skills and values.
 Essentialism aims to instill all students with
the most basic knowledge, skills, and
character development.
 Schooling should be practical, preparing
students to become valuable members of
What to teach
 Basic skills
 The fundamental R’s -- reading, writing,
arithmetic, right conduct -- as these are the
essential to the acquisition of higher or more
complex skills needed for adult life.
 Curriculum includes the traditional disciplines
such as math, natural science, history, foreign
language, and literature
 It should focus on facts-the objective reality out
there--and "the basics," training students to
read, write, speak, and compute clearly and
How to teach
 Emphasize the mastery of subject matter
and basic skills through the use of prescribed
textbooks, drill method and the lecture
 This traditional approach is meant to train the
mind, promote reasoning, and ensure a
common culture.
 The teachers impart knowledge mainly
through conducting lectures which students
are expected to take notes.
Key Terms
When deciding if a theory is related to Essentialism
look for these key terms:
 basics
 accountability
 phonics
 4 R's
 core knowledge
 drill and practice
 cultural literacy
 memorization
 test
Thank you