Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Idealism and the Aims of Education

Idealism is the metaphysical and epistemological doctrine that ideas or thoughts make up fundamental reality. Essentially it is any philosophy which argues that the only thing actually knowable is consciousness whereas we never can be sure that matter or anything in the outside world really exists thus the only the real things are mental entities not physical things which exist only in the sense that they are perceived. A broad definition of idealism could include many religious viewpoints although an idealistic viewpoint need not necessarily include God, supernatural beings or existences after death. In general parlance, “idealism” is also used to describe a person’s high ideals (principles or values actively pursued as a goal) the word “ideal” is also commonly used as an adjective to designate qualities of perfection, desirability and excellence. 
 “Idealistic philosophy takes many and varied forms but the postulate underlying all this is that mind or spirit is the essential world stuff, that the rule reality is a material character”.
Idealism in education:                          
Idealism pervades all the creation and it is an underlying, unlimited and ultimate force which regions supreme overall mind and matter. They all advocate its great importance in education and lay more emphasis on aims and principles of education than on models, aids and devices.
Idealism and Aims of Education:
 The following are the aims of education according to the philosophy of idealism:
Self-realization or Exhalation of Personality:
   According to the idealism man is the most creation of God. Self- realization involves full of knowledge of the self and it is the first aim of education “The aim of education especially associated with idealism is the exhalation of personality or self-realization it is the making actual or real personalities of the self.”
   To Ensure Spiritual Development:
Idealistic give greater importance to spiritual values in comparison with material attainments. The second aim of education is to develop the child mentally, morally and above all spiritually. “Education must enable mankind through its culture to enter more and more fully into the spiritual realm”.
Development of Intelligences and Rationality:
 “In all things their regions an external law this all pervading energetic, self conscious and hence eternal law this all pervading energetic. This unity is God. Education should lead and guide man to face with nature and to unity and God”.
Idealism and Curriculum
Idealists give more importance to thoughts, feelings ideals and values than to the child and his activities. They firmly hold that curriculum should be concerned with the whole humanity and its experience.
Views of Plato about curriculum   
According to Plato the aim of life is to realize God. Which is possible only by pursing high ideals   namely Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Three types of activities namely intellectual, aesthetic and moral cancan attain these high ideals.
Views of Herbart Curriculum
According to Herbart the idealistic aim of education is the promotion of moral values. He gave prime importance to subjects like Literature, History, Art, Music, and Poetry together with other humanities and secondary place to scientific subjects.
 History of Idealism
Plato is one of the first philosophers to discuss what might be termed idealism. Usually Plato referred to as Platonic Realism. This is because of his doctrine describes forms or universals. (Which are certainly non-material “ideals” in a broad sense). Plato maintained that these forms had their own independent existence. Plato believed that “full reality” it is achieved only through thought and could be describe as a non-subjective “transcendental” idealist. The term metaphysics literally means “beyond the physical” This area of   Philosophy a focuses on the nature of reality. Metaphysics attempts to find unity across the domains of experiences thought. At the time metaphysical level there are four broad philosophical schools of thought that apply to education today. They are idealism, realism, pragmatism (sometimes called experientialism and existentialism). Plato was an idealist philosopher who founded the first school of philosophy in Athens. His work forms the foundation of western philosophy. His presentation of philosophical works in the form of “Dialogues” gave the world of philosophy the dialectic. Plato took Socrates’ maxim “virtue is knowledge” and extrapolated it into an elaborate theory of knowledge which envisaged a level of reality beyond that immediately available to the senses but accessible to reason and intellect. The students of Plato’s academy the first school of philosophy in Athens, were to go beyond the concrete world of perception and come to understand the universal “ideas” or forms which represented a higher level of reality. Plato’s idealism extended to the concept of an ideal state as outlined in his “Republic”. This was a state ruled by an intellectual elite of philosopher kings.

Topic: Naturalistic (Rousseau 1712-1778)
Definition of Naturalism:
The meaning of the name “Naturalism” is strongly implied in the word itself. It is the view point which regards the world of nature as the all in all of reality naturalism commonly known as “Materialism” It is a philosophical paradigm whereby everything can be explained in terms of natural causes. Naturalism by definition excludes any super natural agent or activity. “Naturalism is not science but an assertion about science. More specifically it is the assertion that scientific knowledge is final, leaving no room for extra scientific or Philosophy knowledge.” (R. B. Perry)
Naturalism is usually defined most briefly as the philosophical concept that the only reality is nature, as gradually discovered by our intelligence using the tools of experience, reason and science.
According to naturalism:
 “Man’s conscience is the voice of reason and the voice of nature.”
Protagonist of naturalism:
Herbert Spencer
Samuel butler
The State of Nature as a Foundation for Ethics and Political Philosophy:
The scope of modern philosophy was not limited only to issues concerning science and metaphysics. Philosophers of this period also attempted to apply the same type of reasoning to ethics and politics. One approach of these philosophers was to describe human beings in the “state of nature.” That is, they attempted to strip human beings of all those attributes that they took to be the results of social conventions. In doing so, they hoped to uncover certain characteristics of human nature that were universal and unchanging. If this could be done, one could then determine the most effective and legitimate forms of government.
The two most famous accounts of the state of nature prior to Rousseau’s are those of Thomas Hobbes and John. Hobbes contends that human beings are motivated purely by self-interest, and that the state of nature, which is the state of human beings without civil society, is the war of every person against every other. Hobbes does say that while the state of nature may not have existed all over the world at one particular time, it is the condition in which humans would be if there were no sovereign. Locke’s account of the state of nature is different in that it is an intellectual exercise to illustrate people’s obligations to one another. These obligations are articulated in terms of natural rights, including rights to life, liberty and property. Rousseau was also influenced by the modern natural law tradition, which attempted to answer the challenge of skepticism through a systematic approach to human nature that, like Hobbes, emphasized self-interest. Rousseau therefore often refers to the works of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, Jean Bergerac, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui. Rousseau would give his own account of the state of nature in the Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men, which will be examined below.
Biography of Rousseau:
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born June 28, 1712 in Geneva and died July 2, 1778 in Ermenonville, France. He was one of the most important philosophers of the French enlightenment. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was also involved philosophically and wrote his first major philosophical work in 1750. From this work he earned a prize from the Academy of Dijon. The text, Discourse sur les sciences ET les arts, begins with a question, “The question before me is: 'Whether the Restoration of the arts and sciences has had the effect of purifying or corrupting morals.” This first discourse represents a radical critique of civilization. According to Rousseau, civilization is to be seen as a history of decay instead of progress. He does not conceive of the world as necessarily “good” per se, but rather argues for a sense of rationalism—one must attain rational knowledge in order to be able to control nature.
Rousseau is often referred to as the philosopher of freedom because he seemed to praise the natural or primitive state of human beings over the civilized one and in nature, human beings like animals free of the pressures and corruptions of the political state.Indeed, Rousseau’s views of nature and the natural played a central role in his philosophy. He believed that “Man” was born free and good and could remain that way in some ideal state of nature.

Rousseau’s conception of education:
Rousseau’s conception of education is naturalistic. He is against a system of conventional and formal education. Conventional and formal education is man-made and hence, not desirable “Everything is good as it comes from the hands of author of nature but everything degenerates in the hand of man.”For Rousseau, education does not mean merely imparting information or storing knowledge. Education from nature does not mean one of social life or institutions. It was to prepare a natural man.”The natural man is not the savage man but man governed and directed by the laws of his own nature rather than those of social institutions. Rousseau believed that the education from man and things must be subordinates to that the natural powers, emotion ns and reactions are more trustworthy as a basis for action than reflection or experience that comes from association with society.
Rousseau’s views on the principles of teaching:
The principles of teaching as suggested implicitly by Rousseau reflect his naturalistic philosophy. He lays stress on direct experience of things and on the principle of learning by doing. He says, “Teach by doing whenever you can and only fall back on words when doing is out of the question “He observes, too much reading serves only to make us presumptuous blockheads conceited and sophisticated”. Besides these two principles, Rousseau advocates the adoption of the heuristic attitude which places the child in the position to discover. (Emile)
 For example, to learn science in a practical fashion, by means of rough experiments performed with apparatus self-made and self–invented. Rousseau like a modern educators thinks less of the teacher’s own exposition, much more of the learning experiences of the pupil. He is against the telling method and the tendency to be didactic. The telling method cannot cause the child to learn.
Rousseau’s view on discipline:
Rousseau’s cry is “freedom” and “absence of restraint” for Emile, It is only in an atmosphere of freedom that Emile can develop his innate powers spontaneously. Impositions are of no use. Punishments have no value as the child has no correct conception of wrong or why punishment is given. The child’s reasoning power is not well developed. He wants children to have their own way, and to suffer the unavoidable consequences or inevitable reactions of their conduct.”Children should never receive punishment as such it should always come as natural consequences of their faults.”Rousseau advises the teacher not to intervene in matters of moral guidance’s as a means of disciplining the child. He contends that the child’s nature is essentially good, and any intervention is therefore, harmful.
Rousseau’s views on the education of woman:
In the fifth book of “Emile” Rousseau presents his views on women’s education by introducing an imaginary woman called Sophy. While Emile’s education is unconventional and natural, Sophy’s education is to be conventional and orthodox. Rousseau accounts for this difference: He says that women is an appendage of man; her aim of life is to please her husband, to obey him,” to bring him (man) up when he is a child, to tend him when he is a man, to counsel him, to render his life agreeable and pleasant.” Hence a woman, according to Rousseau does not require knowledge but taste and propriety of manners.

Rousseau’s views on social values:
Rousseau’s naturalism rooted man in nature rather than society. So much did he regard man as a child of nature, as over against society, that he proposed in his Emile to keep Emile away from society until adolescence. In his social contract he reveals how the problem of social organization is complicated by the importance of the freedom of the man. Individual man, he contented is not a man unless he is free if he is in bondage, he is less than a man. Yet unbridled freedom is neither in harmony with his own welfare not the welfare of the society. Evidently some social organization is needed, but one which preserves for man his freedom. It would seem that for naturalism social values are synthetic values which result from agreements in which individual men bind themselves together. They are second good, not so much preferred as individual goods, which result indirectly as a consequence of the desire to avoid the grater evils which accompany anarchy. They are not organic values, which are determined in part by the way nature of society and which would never be possessed by individual men separately, even if they did not need to be saved from conflict and chaos by some kind of social organization.
Rousseau has exerted great influence on education in its manifold aspects. Although his main aim in life was to destroy traditionalism, yet many of the important principles in modern pedagogy can be traced back to him. He asserted that education is a natural process; its function is not to remark the nature of the child by forcing on him the traditional or customary way of thinking and doing. It is due to Rousseau that the need of sense training and physical activities in the earlier development of the child has been recognized in modern systems of education.

Pragmatism in Education


·        Introduction
·        Pragmatism in education
·        How relevant is pragmatism to the education system today
·        Example of pragmatism
·        Strength and advantages
·        conclusion

Pragmatism in Education was created by John Dewey. This is American pragmatism and represents form idealism. Dewey's pragmatists views state that thinking of a person’s mind is conditioned by the group of people he or she.  Pragmatism emerged from the writings of John Dewey who believed that experimentation was the best approach for educating young minds. For example, pragmatists feel that field trips, educational excursions etc are more effective in teaching students about the world instead of audio-visual aids. Pragmatism includes such as thoughts as futurism, and educational humanism. Pragmatic education philosophy doesn't assign a traditional role to the teachers who are only seen as guides and not exactly more knowledgeable beings. Pragmatism focuses on real life experiences as the main source of knowledge and education.(George R. Knight) They gives the example of field trips as he says that for a child to learn about dairy products, its better to take him to a barn and let him experience the whole thing himself instead of showing him a movie on the subject. (p. 75) Idealism is an important philosophy that gained greater influence over education in the 20th century and was not so popular prior to that. It has been present in the educational field for a long time emphasizing the reality of ideas, thoughts, and mind over material. American pragmatism represents an activist development of Kant and Hegel’s idealism. As a theory of mutable truth, pragmatism claims that ideas are true insofar as they are useful in a specific situation what works today in one case may not work tomorrow in another case. The standard of moral truth is expediency. Ethical ideas are accepted as long as they continue to work. According to John Dewey’s social pragmatism, what is true is that which works for a society through the promotion of the public good. Dewey advocates a relativistic, secularized form of altruism that calls for sacrificing oneself to attain the ends of the People. In this view society, rather than the individual, passes moral judgment. Social policies are measured by their consequences instead of by abstract principles of what is right or just. There are no facts, no set rules of logic, no objectivity, and no certainty. There are only policies and proposals for social actions that must be treated as working hypotheses. The experience of consequences will indicate the need to keep or alter the original hypotheses. For pragmatists knowledge of the world is impossible to separate from actions upon it. There is no reality out there both facts and values are products of men interacting with an environment and shaping it to their wills. Society, Men are free to choose their own way of thinking and to create whatever reality they want to embrace. However, a man’s mind is conditioned by the collective thinking of other people. The mind is thus a social phenomenon truth is what works for the groups. It is participation in the common life of democratic society that realizes the freedom of the individual and produces growth in him and in society. They usually do not and need not reflect before acting. The goal of thought is merely to reconstruct the situation in order to solve the problem. If the proposal, when implemented, resolves the issue, then the idea is pragmatically true. Truth cannot be known in advance of action. One must first act and then think. Only then can reality be determined. Value judgments are to be made according to desires based on feelings. The test of one’s desire is its congruity with the majority of other men’s wishes, feelings, and values at that time. These, of course, can be examined and abandoned in a future context. Value judgments are instrumental, never completed, and therefore are corrigible. In the end it is feeling, for the pragmatist that is paramount. Dewey is primarily concerned with the democratic ideal and its realization in every sphere of life. He advocates education as a way to reconstruct children according to the pragmatist vision of man. Child-centered, rather than subject-centered, education treats the student as an acting being and therefore is focused on discrete, experiential projects. Dewey dismisses as irrelevant the teaching of fundamental knowledge such as reading, writing, math, and science. Both the educator and the students are to be flexible and tentative. The purpose of a school is to foster social consciousness. The child is to be taught to transcend the assimilation of truths and facts by learning to serve and adapt to others and to comply with the directives of their representatives. A disdain for reason and knowledge is thus combined with the practice of altruism and collectivism. Like Marx, Dewey comprehended and appreciated the conflictual essence of the Hegelian dialectic. Dewey stressed the clash in the education process between the child and the curriculum and between the potential and talent of the student and the structure of an outmoded school system. The traditional curriculum, loaded down with formal subjects, was unsuited to the child’s active and immediate experience. Dewey saw children as alienated from their academic work because of a contradiction between the interests of the school and the real interests of the students. There was an incongruity between the values, goals, and means embodied in the experience of a mature adult and those of an undeveloped, immature being. The teaching of abstract, general principles, and eternal and external truths was beyond a child’s understanding and a barrier to the authentic growth and development of the child.
Dewey’s new school would become a vehicle for the de-alienation and socialization of the child. The school would be an embryonic socialist community in which the progress of the student could only be justified by his relation to the group. Dewey’s activity method and manual training
could produce a collective occupational spirit in the school. Dewey, like Marx, was convinced that thought is a collective activity in which the individual simply acts as a cell in the social body. For Dewey, cognition is an activity of the group or society as a whole and innovations are the products of collective science and technology, rather than the creations of individual thinkers and doers. John Dewey’s progressive model of active learning promoted a revolt against abstract learning and attempted to make education an effective tool for integrating culture and vocation. Dewey was responsible for developing a philosophical approach to education called “experimentalism” which saw education as the basis for democracy. His goal was to turn public schools into indoctrination centers to develop a socialized population that could adapt to an egalitarian state operated by intellectual elite. Disavowing the role of the individual mind in achieving technological and social progress, Dewey promoted the group, rather than the teacher, as the main source of social control in the schools. Denying the ideas of universal principles, natural law, and natural rights, Dewey emphasized social values and taught that life adjustment is more important than academic skills. Dewey explained that the subject matter and moral lessons in the traditional curricula were meant to teach and inspire, but were irrelevant to the students’ immediate action experiences. The contradiction between the students’ real interests and those of the traditional school alienated students from their schoolwork. School-age children were caught between the opposing forces of immature, undeveloped beings and the values, meanings, and aims of subject matter constructed by a mature adult. Dewey believed that students’ energy, talent, and potential could not be realized within the structure of an archaic school influenced by. Pragmatism in education also suggests that a curriculum with formal subjects used to educate a child is not suitable. You can find more information here:

A good example of pragmatism would be technical or career education. If you know somebody isn't going to make it through college, there's no point in teaching them things that won't directly apply to a job he or she may have. In order to prepare them for the workforce, some of their school day is used to prepare them for a specific trade. E.g. why teach somebody who is going to be an auto mechanic the elements of plot since they're never going to have a practical application for that knowledge.
When students learn how to follow procedures they more secure about their environment and what is expected of them. This security allows the student to feel relaxed in his environment because he has mastered the environment. He is not insecure about what to do next. This helps students get back on task after something such as a fire drill. It also allows for seamless teaching with a substitute teacher because procedures will stay the same. This reduces behavior problems and keeps the focus on learning and educating.
Nature and comprehend knowledge as the product of the interaction between human being and environment, and knowledge as having practical instrumentality in the guidance and control of that interaction. This means that knowledge is not a static given but a process and that any proposition accepted as an item of knowledge has this status only provisionally, in other worlds just a coincidence that it works. It soon can be replaced by a better proposition.


Realism in Education:

For the realist, the world is as it is, and the job of schools would be to teach students about the world. Goodness, for the realist, would be found in the laws of nature and the order of the physical world. Truth would be the simple correspondences of observation. The Realist believes in a world of Things or Beings (metaphysics) and in truth as an Observable Fact. Furthermore, ethics is the law of nature or Natural Law and aesthetics is the reflection of Nature.

Realists do not believe in general and common aims of education. According to them aims are specific to each individual and his perspectives. And each one has different perspectives. The aim of education should be to teach truth rather than beauty, to understand the present practical life. The purpose of education, according to social realists, is to prepare the practical man of the world.

Realism in education recognizes the importance of the child. The child is a real unit which    has real existence. He has some feelings, some desires and some powers. All these cannot be overlooked. These powers of the child shall have to be given due regarding at the time of planning education. Child can reach near reality through learning by reason. Child has to be given as much freedom as possible. The child is to be enabled to proceed on the basis of facts; the child can learn only when he follows the laws of learning.”

The teacher, for the realist, is simply a guide. The real world exists, and the teacher is responsible for introducing the student to it. To do this he uses lectures, demonstrations, and sensory experiences, the teacher does not do this in a random or haphazard way; he must not only introduce the student to nature, but show him the regularities, the “rhythm” of nature so that he may come to understand natural law. Both the teacher and the student are spectators, but while the student looks at the world through innocent eyes, the teacher must explain it to him, as well as he is able, from his vantage point of increased sophistication. For this reason, the teacher’s own biases and personality should be as muted as possible. In order to give the student as much accurate information as quickly and effectively as possible, the realist may advocate the use of teaching machines to remove the teacher’s bias from factual presentation. The whole concept to teaching machines is compatible with the picture or reality as a mechanistic universe in which man is simply one of the cogs in the machine.
A teacher should be such that he himself is educated and well versed with the customs of belief and rights and duties of people, and the trends of all ages and places. He must have full mastery of the knowledge of present life. He must guide the student towards the hard realities of life. He is neither pessimist, nor    optimist. He must be able to expose children to the problems of life and the world around.

According to humanistic realism, classical literature should be studied but not for studying its form and style but for its content and ideas it contained.
Sense-realismattached more importance to the study of natural sciences and contemporary social life. Study of languages is not so significant as the study of natural sciences and contemporary life.
Neo-realism- gives stress on the subject physics and on humanistic feelings, physics and psychology, sociology, economics, Ethics, Politics, history, Geography, agriculture varied arts, languages and so on, are the main subjects to be studied according to the Neo-realists.


The method of the realists involves teaching for the mastery of facts in order to develop an understanding of natural law. This can be done by teaching both the materials and their application. In fact, real knowledge comes only when the organism can organize the data of experience. The realist prefers to use inductive logic, going from the particular facts of sensory experience to the more general laws deducible from these data.


Breed, F. (1942). Education and the Realistic Outlook Philosophies of Education; national society for the study of education, forty-first yearbook, Part 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Broundy,S. (1961). Building a Philosophy of Education. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Butler, J., Donald, Four Philosophies and Their… Education and Religion. New York:  Harper & Row.
Herbart, J.F., The Science of Education. Boston: D.C.Heath & Company, 1902.
Locke, John. Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902. The basic statement of Locke’s epistemological position.
Singh,Y.K.,(2007). Philosophy Foundation Of Education: Ansari road: S.B.Nangia.

Shahid, S.M.,(2002). History and Philosophy of Education: Islamabad: Yousaf Mustaq.

Weber, Christian O., Basic Philosophies of Education. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 1960.


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