What is Idealism: Principles Aims of Education Curriculum Methods of Teaching School Discipline Merits & Demerits


The philosophical doctrine that stems from the category of thought associated with ideas is ‘idealism’. Generally derived from the Greek word ‘idein’ meaning ‘to see’.

The notion that reality of everything lies in ideas, thought, & mind not in material thing. Idealists are understood to represent the world as it might or should be, unlike pragmatists, who focus on the world as it presently is.

Idealism originates with Plato, the third-century BC thinker, who believed that there is an objective truth, expressed through the unchanging world of the ‘Forms’. Plato’s thinking has significant implications for ideas about education and knowledge.

Idealism is the philosophical theory that maintains that the ultimate nature of reality is based on mind or ideas. It holds that the so-called external or real world is inseparable from mind, consciousness, or perception.

Idealism is any philosophy which argues that the only things knowable are consciousness or the contents of consciousness; not anything in the outside world, if such a place actually exists.

Indeed, idealism often takes the form of arguing that the only real things are mental entities, not physical things and argues that reality is somehow dependent upon the mind rather than independent of it.

Some narrow versions of idealism argue that our understanding of reality reflects the workings of our mind, first and foremost, that the properties of objects have no standing independent of minds perceiving them.

Principles Of Idealism

1. Two forms of the whole World: Idealism believes in two forms of the world (1)spiritual world (2)material world, Idealism give more importance to spiritual world in comparison to the material world. They believe that spiritual world is real and the ultimate truth whereas the material world is transitory and moral. According to Horne, “Idealism holds that the order of the world is due to the manifestation in space and time of an eternal and spiritual reality”.

2. Ideals are more important than objects: According to the idealistic, knowledge of mind and soul can be obtained through ideas only. According to Plato, “Ideas are of the ultimate cosmic significance, They are rather the essences or archetypes which give form to cosmos. These ideas are eternal and unchanging”.

3. Importance of man over nature: To Idealistic man is more important than material nature. It is because man can think and experience about material objects and material phenomena. According to R.R.Rusk, “The Spiritual or cultural environment is an environment of man’s own making, it is a product of man’s creative activity?”

4. Faith in Spiritual Values: The prime aim of life is to achieve spiritual values. They are truth, beauty and goodness. These Spiritual values are undying and permanent. According to J.S. Ross, “Goodness, truth and beauty are seen to be absolutes each existing in its own right and entirely desirable in reality”.

5. Importance of Personality Development: Idealists give much importance to the “Self” of the individual. Hence, they insist upon the fullest development of the personality of an Individual. According to J.S.Ross, “The worth of human life at its best are emphasized by Idealism human personality is of supreme value and constitutes the noblest work of God”.

6. FULL SUPPORT TO THE PRINCIPLE OF UNITY IN DIVERSITY: They give full support to the principle of unity in diversity. They believe that implicit in all the diversities is an essential unity. This implicit unifying factor is of spiritual nature. This may be called universal consciousness or Divinity. According to Prof. H.N.Horne “An Idealistic philosophy of education, then is an account of man finding himself as an integral part of universe mind”.

Idealism & Aim of Education

1. Self-realization or Exhaltation of Personality According to Idealism man is the most beautiful creation of God. Hence, the advocates of Idealism lay great stress on the exhaltation of human personality. By exaltation of human personality, the mean self-realization. Self-realization involves full knowledge of the Self. According to J.S.Ross, “The aim of education specially associated with Idealism is the exhaltation of personality or self-realization the making actual or real the highest potentialities of the self”.

2. To ensure Spiritual Development: Idealists give greater importance to spiritual values in comparison with material attainments. According to Rusk. “Education must enable mankind through its culture to enter more and more fully into the spiritual realm, and also enlarge the boundaries of spiritual realm”.

3. To Cultivate Truth, Beauty and Goodness: Idealists assert that to develop spiritual values in the individuals, pursuit of highest ideals namely- Truth, Beauty and Goodness should be encouraged more and more. The more an individual realizes these ideals, the more spiritually developed he will become. Hence, education should strive its utmost in developing the child morally and spiritually so that he achieves self-realization.

4. Conservation, Promotion and Transmission of Cultural Heritage: Man is the only being endowed with a keen and penetrating intellect, intelligence and an enormous capacity of assimilating knowledge if the world. Man’s achievement in the realm of science, art and culture are of great intrinsic value. His creativity is dynamic and working Since the very early times This cultural treasure belongs to the whole humanity and it is the purpose of education to preserve develop and transmit it in all corners of the world The forth aim of education according to Idealism is to acquaint the child with the cultural heritage so that he conserves, promotes and transmits ir to the rising generation.

5. Conversation of In-born Nature into Spiritual Nature: Idealists hold the view that the inborn instincts and inherent tendencies of the child should be sublimated into spiritual qualities and values. This is real development of the individuality.

6. Preparation for a Holy Life: Idealists uphold that education should create such condition and provide an environment which is conductive to the development of spiritual values in a child. Froebel rightly marks- ”The objects of education is the realization of a faithful pure, inviolable and hence holy life”.

7. Development of Intelligence and Rationality: The world is planned and well organized. Man can understand the purpose as well as the plan and organization. According to Froebel- “In all things there reigns an eternal law this all pervading energetic, self-conscious and hence eternal unity. This unity is God education should lead and guide man to face with nature and to unity with God”.

Idealism & Curriculum

While structuring curriculum idealists give more importance to thoughts, feelings, ideals and values that to the child and his activities, they firmly hold that curriculum should be concerned with the whole humanity and its expressions.

These experiences can be imbibed by two ways namely

(1) from the physical environment

(2) From contacts with other fellowmen.

Idealism & Methods of Teaching

There is no specific method for teaching.

Socrates used Question-Answer Method, Plato emphasized Discourse Method, Aristotle advocate Inductive-Deductive method, Herbert advocated Instruction Method.

Butler has rightly remarked “Idealists consider themselves as creators and determines of methods not devotees of some one method”.

Idealism & Discipline

Idealism believes that there can be no spiritual development of the child without discipline.

Idealism emphasizes sympathetic control on the undesirable activities of the child whereas on the other hand, it grants regulated liberty for his spiritual development.

Idealism & School

School is a place where the capacities of logical thinking, reasoning and evaluating of the child are progressively sublimated and developed by teachers and the school environment into desirable channels so that high spiritual ideas and values are gained. Idealists consider school and its impressionistic environment as greatly essential.

Merits of Idealism

1. Idealism has made signal contribution.

2. Idealistic education promotes universal education.

3. Idealistic education emphasizes the inculcation of highest values namely, Truth, Beauty and Goodness. This will lead to the development of a moral character of the child.

4. The teacher is assigned a very important role.

5. Idealism leads to the development of the ‘self’ of an Individual.

6. Idealism respects the individuality of the child and tries to stimulate his creative energies.

7. Because of the idealistic philosophy and education the school has grown into an important social organization.

Demerits of Idealism

1. The common criticism regarding idealism is that it is an abstract & vague doctrine. It avoids the realities.

2. Idealism is concerned with the ultimate end of life. It avoids the real problems in day to day living.

3. Idealism lays more emphasis on thinking and mental activities. This increases the importance of Intellectualism unnecessarily.

4. Idealism emphasizes upon the achievement of immortal values namely, Truth, Beauty and Goodness. These values are not absolute.

5. Idealistic education gives more importance to teacher in relation to the child.

6. An idealistic method of teaching emphasizes cramming and rote memory.

7. In Idealistic education humanities are given greater importance for the spiritual development of the child while the present age of science lays great stress upon scientific subjects in the curriculum.

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