Politics and Philosophy
This chapter describes different educational philosophies, and illustrates how people in the United States have struggled—philosophically and politically—over the curriculum. Although it may seem that influential educators and policymakers are constantly inventing new ways of thinking about education, some ideas are woven throughout the long history of Western society. Reduced to their essentials, centuries-old arguments about education reflect philosophers' differing views on the nature of reality, humans' ability to "know" reality, and what's worth knowing. Many specific philosophies of education have developed from six broader philosophical trends. The first three philosophies—essentialism, perennialism, and behaviorism—inform traditional conceptions of schooling. The second three philosophies—child-centered and community-centered education, social reconstructionism, and multiculturalism—have informed progressive perspectives. The political tensions between equal opportunity and social stratification intertwine with philosophical debates over the purpose and conduct of schooling in the United States.