What is Idealism in education?

In this guide, we will discuss What is Idealism in education and more specifically, what idealism is. Additionally, we will talk about some of the most influential philosophies in education besides Idealism. 

What is Idealism in education?

If you are wondering, ‘What is Idealism in education?’ then, you may have heard the term somewhere in the news, a teacher, while reading a book, etc. In education, there are several philosophies of education that influence the way individuals are supposed to learn and here we will discuss one of the most important, idealism. 

However, we need to start by understanding what Idealism is. Idealism is based on the premise that ideas are the only true reality and the only thing that is worth knowing because they don’t change, they are immutable unlike objects in the physical world. But, where do ideas come from? They are generated in the mind and we can find them as thoughts, later on, translated into language. 

What is Idealism in education?

What is Idealism?

It is important to start by understanding that Idealism has a central premise where the only true reality is ideas and they are the only thing that is worth knowing. Plato is an ancient Greek considered the father of Idealism and he argued that there are two worlds. The first type of world is the spiritual or mental world which is eternal and permanent. The second type of world is the world of appearances and we get to know this world through our senses but unlike the world of ideas, this one is imperfect and it tends to change. 

Moreover, as indicated in oregonstate.edu, “Reacting against what he perceived as too much of a focus on the immediacy of the physical and sensory world, Plato described a utopian society in which ‘education to body and soul all the beauty and perfection of which they are capable” as an ideal’”. 

Subsequently, we have the aim of Idealism in the field of education is to discover and develop people’s abilities and full moral excellence so they can better serve society. Additionally, the curricular emphasis is the subject matter of mind in the areas of philosophy, literature, religion and history. The teaching methods focus on handling ideas through lecture, discussion and Socratic dialogue, which is a method that uses questioning to help students discover and clarify their knowledge. 

What are the implications of Idealism to education?

Some of the implications of Idealism to education include:

  • The aim is the preservation, enrichment and transmission of cultural values.
  • Education is said to aim to contribute to the development of overall culture.
  • Idealism to education helps individuals become more rational.
  • The development of a good relationship between a student and a teacher.

Additionally, we can find the educational aim or focus on developing and applying knowledge and skills for life in a democratic society. Additionally, it aims to allow individuals to grow through processes, experience and problem-solving.

On the other hand, the role of a teacher is to accept the ideas of the student and facilitate their thinking through the generation of ideas. Finally, they need to encourage students to think critically and share their own ideas.

In terms of curriculum and methods, we find how “It is believed students should be taught how to think in school.  The teacher passes on knowledge to the students, and the students gain and adapt the knowledge. Idealists think the lecture is the most important method to deliver knowledge to students (graduatefoundationsmoduleela.wordpress.com)”.

Goals in the classroom

Some of the Goals of an idealist in the classroom or the role of the student is to share ideas, allow them to think outside the books or the teacher’s words not taking them as a universal truth, knowing that their ideas are also equally important and getting involved in their learning process.

As we have mentioned, the methods of instruction teachers use the most are lectures, which are considered important because it allows the students to listen to the teacher (teacher-centred approach), combined with the Socratic method where the teacher involves students in learning activities (student-centred approach).

Finally, the aims of education should be directed towards the search for true ideas, self-realization and character development. 

What is Idealism in education?

Other philosophies in Education

There are other influential philosophies in education that are worth mentioning, such as Realism, Pragmatism and Existentialism.

Realism

Another important philosophy who has influenced education is Realism. Realists argue that reality exists independent of the human mind and the ultimate reality is the world of physical objects. Moreover, truth is believed to be objective also translated to what can be observed. 

Moreover, as indicated in oregonstate.edu, “Aristotle, a student of Plato who broke with his mentor’s idealist philosophy, is called the father of both Realism and the scientific method. In this metaphysical view, the aim is to understand objective reality through “the diligent and unsparing scrutiny of all observable data.” Aristotle believed that to understand an object, its ultimate form had to be understood, which does not change. 

For instance, if we think if a rose exists or not it will depend on whether or not an individual is aware of it. In this sense, a rose can exist in our mind without being physically present but the rose ends up sharing some properties with all the other roses and flowers, even if one rose can be red and another one yellow.

Pragmatism or Experimentalism

Pragmatists believe that only the things that are experienced and observed are real. This means that the focus is on the reality of experiences. Moreover, we can find that in contrast to Realists, Pragmatism argues that reality can change and what we learn, we learn best through applying our experiences and thoughts to problems. The truth is not immutable or absolute since it is believed that the universe is constantly evolving. 

Pragmatist philosopher John Dewey believed that students or learners must adapt to each other and their environment. Educational institutes or schools should emphasize the subject matter of social experience. Furthermore, it is believed that learning is dependent on the context: place, time and circumstances. 

Teaching methods for Pragmatists focus on hands-on problem solving, experimenting, and projects, often having students work collaboratively or in groups. Additionally, the curriculum is said to bring disciplines together to focus on developing problem-solving skills in an interdisciplinary matter.

Existentialism

Existentialists believe that the nature of reality is subjective, and lies within individuals. The physical world has no inherent meaning outside of our human existence. “Individual choice and individual standards rather than external standards are central. Existence comes before any definition of what we are. We define ourselves in relationship to that existence by the choices we make. We should not accept anyone else’s predetermined philosophical system; rather, we must take responsibility for deciding who we are (oregonstate.edu)”.

In education, the goal of existentialism in the classroom should be a matter of personal choice. Teachers believe that students are entities within a social context in which they need to confront other’s views to clarify their own. Moreover, they are made aware that they are responsible for their decisions. 

Why is this blog about What is Idealism in education important?

As we have discussed in ‘what is Idealism in education?’, we have a better understanding of what Idealism is. We mentioned that Idealism is based on the premise that ideas are the only true reality and the only thing that is worth knowing because they don’t change, they are immutable unlike objects in the physical world. But, where do ideas come from? They are generated in the mind and we can find them as thoughts, later on, translated into language.

It is important to understand that in education, students and teachers have a defined role but it doesn’t. It needs to be dynamic and there is more than one philosophical approach and its implications in education. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about What is Idealism in education

What do you mean by Idealism?

Idealism in philosophy means a group of metaphysical views which argue that ‘reality’ is in some way indistinguishable or inseparable from human perception and/or understanding that is believed to be mentally constituted, closely connected to ideas. According to the philosophical perspective, idealism is conceived as the doctrine that argues the world/reality only exists essentially as a spirit or consciousness.

What is the role of students in Idealism?

Idealism is believed to be one of the most traditional philosophical doctrines in education, in which a teacher has the central role as a role model, showing them how to become good citizens. Students are meant to answer the questions the teacher asks and subsequently, the teacher provides feedback that allows students to improve themselves.

What is the aim of idealism?

The aim of Idealism in education is to discover and develop the abilities and full moral excellence of each individual in order to better serve in society. The curricular emphasis is the subject matter of mind in areas such as literature, history, philosophy, and religion. Additionally, idealism aims to help us understand the world and how we get to learn. 

What is the importance of idealism?

Idealism interprets individuals and their universe in terms of the mind or spirit. Idealism gives importance to the ultimate reality in the world is spiritual in nature. Idealism argues that the universe is an extension of the mind or soul and it is important to understand their point of view and how we get to know the world.

What are the main features of Idealism?

The main features of Idealism or the most important fundamental principles of Idealism are:

  • Idealism believes in the Universal Mind.
  • Idealism believes Man is a Spiritual Being.
  • The world of ideas and values are more important than the physical world or the world of matter.
  • Real knowledge is perceived in mind.
  • Importance of personality development. 

References 

Youtube.com: “IDEALISM in Education – Philosophical Foundations of Education”

Aliman, Angelie & Nabua, Edna. (2020). IDEALISM AND ITS IMPLICATION TO EDUCATION. Retrieved from researchgate.net.

Graduatefoundationsmoduleela.wordpress.com: “Idealism”

Cohen, L.M. (1999) Section III – Philosophical Perspectives in Education. Part 2. Retrieved from oregonstate.edu.

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.