CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: What impact have the two philosophical schools of thought of reconstructionism and prerennialism had on modern teaching today?



3 a ii). Analyze the two philosophical schools of thought of reconstructionism and prerennialism and their impact on modern teaching today.


Reconstructionism is a philosophical school of thought that broke off from the progressive movement because of unresolved problems of democracy when they wanted to rebuild the social order. They see education as a powerful instrument for effecting planned social changes in given society. It is most likely to be favoured in times of economic, political and technological turbulence such as has been experienced recently by the newly independent countries of Africa. They believe that new education can make new and better men and women, therefore, the school should transmit cultural heritage. Also, the school is seen as an agent of solving political and social problems.

These schools of thought can be regrouped into two big schools.

  1. Progressivism (Reconstuctionism)
  2. Traditionalism (Perennialism and Essentialism)

However, progressivists and traditionalists disagree on many points concerning subject matter which is to be included in the curriculum, such as:

    • Which knowledge is most worthy?
    • Should we emphasize process or information?
    • Should a curriculum be fixed or flexible, constant or differentiated, practical or liberal?

To a large extent one’s answers to these questions depends upon one’s system of values.


The school of perennialist teaches subjects in their customary separate forms, history as history, geography as geography etc. rather than in the combination as general (social) studies.

The teachers and patrons of this school are sure that some subject is too trivial to be included in the curriculum. Only subject matter that is alleged to be hard to learn is admissible. They do not believe in the feelings and emotions of body  movement, memory and thinking.


Leading American Perennialist Robert Maynard Hutchins


Activity 10

Identify some of the beliefs concerning values which are held by educators who belong to the school of reconstructinists.


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