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Authoritarian v. Non-Authoritarian Educational Theories

            Authoritarian theories of education include Perennialism, Essentialism, Behaviorism, and Positivism. These authoritarian theories each are their own distinct whole they are all rooted in the assumption that the person whom is in authority is the one with the best understanding and experience of that which is being taught. In this type of approach, the student's role is to try to attempt and follow the directions of the person in authority with the experience.
             Perennialism is the basic view that the principle of knowledge lasts forever. It could almost be translated as "everlasting." A perennialist views nature, human nature, and the basic principles of existence as constant, not changing very much. Perennialists tend to stress the importance of time-honored ideas, the great works of past and present thinkers, and the ability to reason. The focus of perennialist learning is mainly that of "difficult mental calisthenics" like reading, writing, math, things of rote memory.
             Essentialism has the view that there is a common core of information and skills that everyone should know and have. Their focus would be to organize the material and curriculum to impart the knowledge and skills as effectively as possible. This idea of imparting the knowledge effectively is realized through hard work and mental discipline, and teacher-centered instruction. Focus on fundamentals and respect for authority is taught in the classroom.
             Behaviorism is a theory that says one's behavior is determined by environment. Since the teacher controls the stimuli in the classroom, the teacher influences the student significantly. The teacher fosters desired behaviors by using positive reinforcers and negative reinforcers. The theory is basically that behavior that is not reinforced will cease to occur.
             Positivism on the other hand focuses on the acquisition of facts based on careful empirical observation and measurement. Under positivism, schools would have to have standards and content that represented the best understandings of experts who have already uncovered important ideas based on their own observation and measurement.

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