Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum in the US

The curriculum is a familiar notion for students and all persons working or engaged in the process of formal education. From a narrow perspective, it can be defined as a program of subjects taught in school, while from a broader point of view, it is a social activity and a set of experiences needed for effective participation in society (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2017, p. 19). Chapter 2 of Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues consider philosophy’s role in curriculum development, design, and practical applications. All stakeholders in the education process should be aware of the philosophical ideas underpinning the programs they work with to deliver high-quality education.

In chapter 2, the authors discuss how philosophy informs curriculum, major philosophical movements that influenced the U.S. education system, and various philosophies of education. According to Ornstein and Hunkins (2017, p. 47), curriculum workers are not objective and follow various philosophies when developing and designing educational programs. Furthermore, philosophy can be viewed as either the foundation of the curriculum or “a function interdependent with other functions in curriculum development” (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2017, p. 48).

Philosophy can serve a single foundation in curriculum development or one of such foundations alongside other sciences, for instance, psychology. In addition, the philosophy in curriculum development is influenced by the philosophy of the nation articulated in the form of law by the government (Baharun & Adhimiy, 2018, p. 47). However, it can be argued that the beliefs of the curriculum worker impact what role philosophy plays in curriculum development and design. Nevertheless, philosophy can offer a variety of frameworks to guide the process of development, design, evaluation, and implementation of education programs.

Chapter 2 addresses four major philosophies that influenced the education system in the United States, including idealism, realism, pragmatism, and existentialism. Idealism and realism see curriculum as a system encompassing separate content areas, although idealists value subjects that teach morality, while realists favor sciences and arts (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2017, p. 50). In contrast, pragmatism and existentialism emphasize the importance of subject choice and providing students with different social and cultural experiences (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2017, p. 51). It can be argued that curriculum can benefit from several philosophies being combined, as idealism and realism focus on subject knowledge acquisition, while pragmatism and existentialism teach how to function and act in society. Thus, teachers should be familiar with different philosophies affecting educational programs to better understand how the content of the curriculum was selected and how it should be presented.

Moreover, the authors consider perennials, essentialism, progressivism, and reconstructionism as philosophies on education. Ornstein and Hunkins (2017, p. 52–54) note that perennial aims to preserve knowledge and values, while essentialism emphasizes the importance of mastering basic concepts from fundamental subjects. Progressivism emerged in response to perennials, promoting problem-solving skills and scientific methods, whereas reconstructionism insists on society-centered education (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2017, p. 58–63). The described philosophies on education are directed by different philosophical movements and reflect distinct values presented within them. However, educational organizations should consider incorporating several philosophies into the curriculum to account for the needs of different students.

In summary, chapter 2 of Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues examines how philosophy relates to curriculum development, and what philosophical movements affected the U.S. education systems and led to the emergence of different philosophies on education. It illustrates that the curriculum is shaped by several external studies and theories, including philosophy and psychology. Furthermore, it is argued that philosophy provides the necessary frameworks for curriculum development and design, and different philosophical teachings should be incorporated into education programs to benefit students.


Baharun, H., & Adhimiy, S. (2018). Curriculum development through creative lesson plan. Cendekia: Jurnal Kependidikan Dan Kemasyarakatan, 16(1), 41–62. Web.

Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2017). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (7th ed.). Pearson.

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ChalkyPapers. (2023) 'Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum in the US'. 9 August.


ChalkyPapers. 2023. "Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum in the US." August 9, 2023.

1. ChalkyPapers. "Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum in the US." August 9, 2023.


ChalkyPapers. "Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum in the US." August 9, 2023.