Saturday, November 5, 2011

Meaning of Perennialism

Perennialism came into existence in reaction to the Progressivism in the beginning of 20th century (1930). It does not accept the principles of modern society. It is also known as cultural regression. Perennialism does not accept cultural change and development process. It has always found progressivism a natural and usually a mortal enemy. This is because it is in progressivism that the influence of modern naturalism and empiricism is most clearly seen.
Perennial means “everlasting”, or “long lasting” like a perennial flower that comes up year after year. Supporting the idea that some ideas have remained over countries and are as relevant today as when they were first conceived, Perennialism urges these ideas should be the focus of education. Perennialists think that the students will appreciate learning for its own sake and become true intellectuals when the students are immersed in the study of those profound and enduring ideas.
For perennnialsits, the aim of education is to ensure that the students acquire understandings about the great ideas of western civilization. These ideas have the potential for solving problems in any era. The focus is to teach ideas that are ever lasting, to seek enduring truths which are constant, not to changing, as natural and human worlds at their most essential level, do not change. A perennialist views nature, human nature and the underlying principles of existence always as constant. The principles of knowledge are enduring. Truth never changes.
Perennialists believe that one should teach the things that one deems to be everlasting importance to all people everywhere. They believe that the most important topics develop person. Since details of fact change constantly, these can not be the most important. Therefore, one should teach the principles not the facts. Since people are human, one should teach first about human, not about machines or techniques and since people are people first and workers second of at all, one should teach liberal topics first, not vocational topics.
A particular strategy with modern perennialists teaches is to teach scientific reasoning not the facts. They may illustrate the reasoning with original accounts of famous experiments which gives the students aside to the science and shows the reasoning in action. Most importantly it shows the uncertainty and false steps of real science.
Perennialism appears similar to essentialism. However, it focuses first on personal development whereas essentialism gives focus first on essential skills. So its curricula tend to be much more vocational and facts based and far less liberal and principle based. Thus we can realize that both the philosophies are typically considered to be teacher-centered and are opposed of education such as Progressivism.
However, since the teachers associated with are the authors of the western masterpieces themselves, these teachers may be open to the student criticism through the associated Socratic method which, if carried out as true dialogue, is a balance including the teacher who is promoting the discussion.
It focuses on a program of studies which is highly general, non specialized vocational is advocated. Exposure of all citizens to the development of thought by those most responsible for the evolution of the western tradition is integral to the survival of the freedoms, human rights and responsibilities inherent to a true Democracy.
They are educationally conservative in the requirement of a curriculum focused upon fundamental subject areas but stress that the overall aim should be exposure to history’s finest thinkers as modals for discovery. Hutchins says that “Great books are great teachers; they are showing us everyday what ordinary people are capable of. These books come out of inquiring humanity. They are usually the first announcements for success in learning. Most of them were written for and addressed to, ordinary people”.
“In the course of history… new books have been written that won their place in the list. It is the task of every generation to reassess the tradition in which it lives, to discard what it can not use and bring into context with the distant and intermediate past the most recent contributions to the great conservation….The west needs to recapture and re-emphasis and bring to bear upon its present problems the wisdom that lies in the works of its present problems the wisdom that lies in the works of its greatest thinkers and in the discussion that they have carried on.
In fact Perennealism was a solution proposed in response to what was considered by many to be a failing educational system. Hutchins writes that “The products of American high schools are illiterate; and a degree from a famous college or university is no guarantee that the graduates is in any better case. One of the most remarkable features of American society is that the difference between the “uneducated” and the “educated” is so light”.
They focus that the students should be taught basic subjects as English, languages, history, mathematics, natural science, philosophy and fine arts.
The basic principles of Perennialism.
The basic principles of Perennialism are mentioned as below:-
  1. Men everywhere are basically the same, so education should be the same for everyone
The function of a citizen may vary from society to society, but the function of a man, as a man is the same in every age and in every society, since it results from his nature as a man.
Adler says, “If a man is a rational animal constant in nature throughout history, then there must be certain constant features in every sound educational program, regardless of culture or epoch”.
  1. Since man’s distinguishing characteristics is his reason education should concentrate on developing rationality:
Rationality is the common feature of human being. Not only education, knowledge is everywhere the same. Men are free; not determined. People are rational animals so he has to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong? It is the responsibility of a person to live on the basis of reasoning for being rational.
  1. Back to basics:-
Perennialism encourages human beings to return back to the human values, nature and traditions. Such traditions are the permanent properties of human beings .Permanence are more ultimately real than change. On the basis of these permanent properties, human beings life could be successful. The permanent of human life is the main thing, which could be ended by the change of time and the new culture.
Knowledge is universally consistent: there are certain basic subject matters that to be taught to all people.
  1. Truth is unchangeable:-
Truth is always permanent and unchangeable. Truth is same for all human being because the human nature is the same. It is not possible to think that truth is different for everyone. There is no meaning having different truth and being different people.
 According to Hutchins, “Education implies teaching, teaching implies knowledge, knowledge is Truth. The Truth is everywhere the same. Hence education should be everywhere the same.”
  1. The has pre-established permanencies upon which the men should adjust:
            Since the beginning of the human civilization certain standards have been made ready. Such standards are permanent and truth. The main function is to teach such permanencies.
 Perenialism and Education
            Perennialists think that the main aim of education should be to protect the human made traditional values and norms which are always permanent. Therefore, the education should be same in the world everywhere since the nature of human being is same every where. Education means the preparation of life. The aim of education should be same for all. It means an educational system must be same in every age and in every society. The world has pre-established permanencies upon which the men should adjust himself. In fact, since the beginning of human civilization, certain standards have been made ready. Such standards are permanent and truth. So the main function of education is to teach such permanencies. And the main goal of education is self-realization and self-discipline.
  1. The aim of education should be same for all:-
The aim of education system is the same in every age and in every society where such a system can exist; it is also to improve man as a man. It means to make man as rational and wise.
  1. Education should be provided according to the pace pf individual:-
Perennialists think that there is no limitation of time to get education. There is no virtue in encouraged immature minds to waste time in discovering of themselves and the kind of knowledge that they can be taught in a few minutes.
  1. The function of education is to adjust men to the truth which is external:-
The features of the contemporary society are not the truth, so the education is not necessary to interfere and show interest to other things rather than the pre-established permanencies.
      It believes that an acquaintance with things which are permanently important is a better preparation for handling whatever problems man may encounter than an education oriented to the conscious concerns of society at any given moment.
      The great works of the past are repository of knowledge and wisdom which has stood the test of time and is relevant in our day.
  1. Education is not an imitation of life but a preparation for life:-
The subject matter of education should be at the centre of the educational endeavor but not the child. As we know that the educational experience is preparation for life rather than a real life –situstions. Thus, it’s not possible to create the real life situation in reality. Every student should know or understand of what is the best in his cultural heritage, so that he can realize the values of this heritage and perhaps add to its achievements himself.
What are the aims of education?
            The aims of education are given below:-
a.       To shape man as man means to make him rational and wise.
b.      To help individuals to realize nature that inherent in them.
c.       Education should help individuals to actualize the potential nature of human beings.
d.      Ultimate ends of education are universal. So its aims are for all men in all times under all circumstances and the general means for realizing these aims are also universal. Final aim of education is to make “man as a man”.
e.       Educational ends are related with moral and intellectual development of human beings.
f.       Education should not be vocational which only for the slaves but not for the free citizens.
            According to the perennialism theory that the child should be taught certain basic subjects that will acquaint him the world’s permanencies. They emphasized to include   language, English, history, mathematics, natural science, arts and philosophy in the curriculum.  They said that Liberal arts such as Trivium which includes three arts like Grammar, Rhetoric and Dialect and next art is Quandrivium that includes arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and music should be included in the curriculum. Educational should not be vocational. For them vocational education is the education for a save not for a free citizen. In fact human nature is universally consistent; therefore, education should be the same for everyone. They always emphasis on general education. Hence, for them education should be to shape man as a man and help individuals to realize the nature inherent in them.
            Education should introduce universal concerns of mankind. Curriculum should emphasis the philosophy, history and natural sciences of the great man’s work or study since permanent knowledge which human beings have to know and do would develop in them. The basic education of a rational is the discipline of his rational powers and the cultivation of his intellect. And they think the great books of great men are important to study as they are as contemporary today as when they were written.For them self-realization demands self-discipline and self l-discipline is not attained without external discipline.
Role of the Teacher
            Perennialists think that the role of the teacher is very important. The main job of  a teacher is to develop the possible ability of the students and make them capable of using it in real situation. Teaching is an art of stimulating and directing the activity of men’s powers so that they are developed and made perfect as well as art of teaching concerns with converting the natural powers of reason from potential to actuality. In fact education implies teaching, teaching implies knowledge. Hence, there is no education without teaching.
            The duty of the teacher is to present permanencies of the world before the students and to utilize those into their daily activities or behavior. The teacher has to help them in cultivating of intellect but he should never encourage the students for social reformation. They think that social reformation is possible through process of education. The teacher should never be hectic in teaching. He should be always conscious that time for the students will be different for the same subject matter due to individual variation and according to that the teacher should plan it. The work of the teacher is to give on the basis their ability not on basis of age. Another function of him is to develop the logics. 
Role of students
  1. To move forward according to teacher’s advice.
  2. To read the great works of the intellectual.
  3. To find out the permanencies to the world though the help of the teacher.
  4. Learn according to own pace.
  5. They have to establish themselves as intellectual persons.
  6. They have to identify the ability power which is within them and try to develop those abilities.
            Despite differing environments, human nature remains the same everywhere. Therefore, the education should be the same for everyone and man must use his rationality too carefully choose ends.  In my opinion, like perennialism all the human beings in the world are same so they must be given same education everywhere. It must be long lasting. Being rational human beings have to value human values, nature and traditions which are permanent properties of human being. For me as perennialism, man should always adjust himself with pre-established standards that are made ready. So education has to give importance to those permanencies.
            No learners should be able to choose their own educational experience. So the education’s task is to teach eternal truth and adjustment to truth is in fact result of learning. Education is preparation for life which is real. Actually education can not create real life situation. The teacher must teach the students basic subjects based on permanencies. Vocational education is based left to practitioners in their field. The great works of literature, philosophy, history and science should be included in curriculum. Therefore the message of the past is never dated.


  1. very good summary..

  2. Thanks a lot!.. I used it for my master's!

  3. Thanks for reading and using it.