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Personal Opinion on the Philosophy of Essentialism


The philosophy of essentialism is rather ancient and dates back to the times of Aristotle and Plato (Albear, 2014). According to essentialists, each entity regardless of nature has its own essential characteristics which help to distinguish it among other things and which are crucial for the functioning of the entity. Plato stated, for example, that the essential reality or idea behind everything; it actually makes the things what they are in reality (Diehl, 2006).


Educational essentialism has originated from the traditional essentialism and basically refers to the organization of educational activities (Erkilzg, 2008). In the classroom, the philosophy of essentialism is related to the aim of the school to provide the students with the essential academic knowledge and skills. According to this philosophical stream, teachers should try to make students respect traditional values such as consideration for others, perseverance, respect for authority, etc (Feenberg, n.d.). The curriculum plan of essentialists should contain the traditional subjects only. They are in opposition to any vocational courses. It is the school administration’s authority to decide what is more or less important for students. The interests of the latest are not taken into consideration (Moss, 2010).

The essentialists believe that students leave their schools equipped with practical minds, high level of self-discipline, and ability to apply the knowledge they have acquired to the real life situations. The teacher is the centre figure in the philosophy of essentialism. Teachers’ beliefs and statement are regarded as undoubted and should be perceived as truth. In turn, students should follow the example of the teacher in everything. Their only role is to listen and learn. This approach is frequently applied at the universities when reputable scientists deliver the introduction lectures in front of hundreds of students. After completion of an introductory course, the students learn about the details of a particular science.


In my opinion, the philosophy of essentialism is not useful due to the following reasons. First, during the lecture, no one can ensure that the attention of the students is indeed drawn to the lecturer. Instead, many of them might be thinking about thousands of things irrelevant to the subject matter of the course. In addition, the denial of vocational course is a mistake as well since nowadays the economy needs specialists who are aware of the tiniest aspects of a particular field. There is no need for professionals who know everything in general and nothing in particular. Therefore, instead of introducing and applying the essentialism approach, I would recommend to better focus upon techniques related to the development of critical thinking of students.

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