A Comparison of Idealism and Realism in Education
Plato’s theory of Idealism:
Plato is an astute and important philosopher, who writes beautifully and with great power and elegance on Truth and Reality. His work is still profoundly important in today's Post modern world, and can be easily understood due to its simplicity of language and engaging style of dialogue. - He appreciated that all Truth comes from Reality and this Truth was profoundly important to the future of Humanity.
When the mind's eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently; but when it turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions, its vision is confused and its beliefs shifting, and it seems to lack intelligence. (Plato, 380BC
The idealists believes that material or physical universe is not complete expression of reality, the physical world is the manifestation of some great spirit behind it. While the physical and material world is destructible and changeable, the spirit behind it is indestructible and unchangeable
Idealism in general is the metaphysical doctrine,(metaphysics is an area of philosophy that is concerned with questions about reality.It deals with questions like: what is reality? What is existence? Is the universe rationally designed or ultimetly meaningless? The basic assumption of epistemological Idealism is that we only know our own ideas (representations or mental images) metaphysics also involves questions concerning ,Is human nature physicle or spritual (mind-body problem)?Does a person make free choices or do events and conditions force one into determined decisions? So "idealism" in general is, metaphysical that a world of material objects containing no thought either could not exist as it is experienced, or would not be fully "real.
Fundamental principles of Idealism:
· Idea is real
· Man is supreme creation
· God is the source of all knowledge
· Values are Absolute
1-Idea is real: It is a system of philosophy which believes that what is real is the idea of the object which is at the conscious level of our mind and not the object that we see which is a mere shadow of that idea.
2-Man is supreme creation:According to Idealism man is being spritual is a supreme creation of God.They believe that man has spirit or mind and through this spirit or mind he controls the environment.
3- God is the source of all knowledge: Although the man is supreme creation of God and he can create values, yet he cannot find knowledge of ulimate reality from anyone, elsewhere except God, not possible through the methods of observation, experimentation,reasoning,etc.,Idealists advocate the use of intution for knowing the ultimate.
4- Values are Absolute: Idealists believes in three spritual values, they are the Truth, the Beauty and the Goodness. The Truth is an intellectual value, the beauty is an aesthetic value and the good is a moral values. For Plato these three values are identical to each other.
Things that are abstract super natural or out of human mind are not the facts. Idealist’s point of view about knowledge is that the good knowledge is useful for the society. Idealists believe that ideas are the only true reality. It is not that all idealists reject matter (the material world), but rather they hold that the material world is characterized by change, instability and uncertainty. While some ideas are enduring. Thus idealism might be more correct descriptive term for this philosophy. Idealism believes that what is real is the idea of the object which is at the conscious level of our mind and not the object that we see which is a mere shadow of that idea. Material or physical world is not complete expression of reality. To him the physical world is the manifestation of some great spirit behind it. (Shahid, 2006) Idealism believes in refined wisdom. It is based on the view that reality is a world within a person's mind. It believes that truth is in the consistency of ideas and that goodness is an ideal state to strive to attain. As a result, schools exist to sharpen the mind and intellectual processes. Students are taught the wisdom of past heroes. Aristotle’s theory of Realism:
Realism believes in the world as it is. It is based on the view that reality is what we observe. It believes that truth is what we sense and observe and that goodness is found in the order of the laws of nature. Realistic believe that the fact is something that is made an image in the human mind (Shahid, 2006.)
As a result, schools exist to reveal the order of the world and universe. Students are taught factual information. Realism is the classical philosophy of education. Like other aspects of life the Realism also searches in education for the fact and reality in education. Realism discuses the three basic questions of philosophy that is: 1) what is good? 2) What is fact? 3) What is reality? In the first question realism discuses with the nature of knowledge known as “Entomology”. The second question is about the nature of value, known as “Epistemology”. At the third question the educational philosophy discusses about the nature of beauty, known as “Axiology”(Shahid, 2006).
Realistic educators say that knowledge is that what is good. Virtue. The fact is in the supernatural. The physical world is just an image of the reality. Reality is that what is never changing (permanent). So if it is like that then there should be uniform education in everywhere. Realistic philosophy says that they have a treasury of literature in their literature that is a good source of knowledge. One has to get knowledge from this treasury of literature. Aristotle is known as the father of the realistic approach.
Comparison of idealism and realism in Education
Comparatively idealism and realism both are classic but two different doctrines of education. One is symbolist (Idealis) and the other is materialistic (realism) The source of knowledge in idealism is taken from the past literature that is usually abstract type of knowledge stressing the concept of supernatural (Metaphysical) phenomenon where the idealists focus upon the picture of an object in one’s ideas. The teacher in the idealistic approach is autocratic who has more knowledge and pedagogical strength then the pupil. He/she has to select the content and learning experiences for the what ever he/she thinks is suitable and in effective for the students.
. On the other hand the idealism has fully stressed upon the objects and their ideas on the human mind. Both the philosophies have to well furnish the students’ cognitive strength that is useful to prepare him for the life and its challenges. The teacher in idealism has to face the pupil and to engage him in the discussion in his/her selected topic. The student learns by the discussion. This method is known as ‘Debate’ or Socratic method.
While Realists place enormous emphasis upon critical reason aided by observation and experimentation. Realists support the lecture method and other formal ways of teaching. The teacher lectures and the learner has a role of passive and obedient listener. The learning experiences or content in the idealism is chosen situational regarding the need of the learner where in the idealism these learning experiences are chosen from the literature that have been written by the great philosophers in the past. The learner in the realistic approach is a passive factor that has to follow the teacher what ever the teacher says. He/she is a gentle and obedient in front of the teacher. The learner has to inculcate as much as he/she can and also can express his inculcated knowledge. He is a hardworking pupil. The same in idealism but here the learner is comparatively more active then that of the realism. The pupil can take participation in the discussion and debates. (Shahid, 2006).
Shahid, M.S., (2001) prospective of education. Lahore: Majeed Book Depot.
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