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Idealism and the Aims of Education

- March 19, 2014



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

“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
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.