Educational essentialism is an educational philosophy whose adherents believe that children should learn the traditional basic subjects and that these should be learned thoroughly and rigorously. An essentialist program normally teaches children progressively, from less complex skills to more complex.
An Essentialist will usually teach some set subjects similar to Reading, Writing, Literature, Foreign Languages, History, Mathematics, Science, Art, and Music. The teacher's role is to instill respect for authority, perseverance, duty, consideration, and practicality. Essentialism strives to teach students the accumulated knowledge of our civilization through core courses in the traditional academic disciplines. Essentialists aim to instill students with the "essentials" of academic knowledge, patriotism, and character development. This traditional approach is meant to train the mind, promote reasoning, and ensure a common culture.
William Bagley (1874-1946) was an important historical Essentialist.
Essentialism is related to the cultural literacy movement, which advocates the teaching of a core set of knowledge common to (and assumed to be possessed by) members of a culture or society. See also E.D. Hirsch.
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