Thursday, November 17, 2011


Education and philosophy are closely inter-related. Philosophy is love of knowledge and education is acquisition of knowledge. Philosophy is the corner stone of the foundation of education. Education is practical activity of philosophical thought. Without philosophy, education would be a blind effort and without education, philosophy would be crippled. Philosophy answers thousands of questions pertaining to the whole field of education.
            Philosophy of education can refer to either the academic field of applied philosophy or to one of any educational philosophies that promote a specific type or vision of education, and/or which examine the definition, goals and meaning of education.“The art of education will never attain complete clearness without philosophy’’ Fichte. “Education is the Dynamic side of philosophy’’ James Rose.
Idealism is the oldest philosophical thought. Human life has two dimensions- Spiritual and Material. When the emphasis is on the spiritual life, it is called Idealism. The word idealism is derived from two distinct sources- the idea and the ideal. Idea means true and testified knowledge. The word ideal stands for the perfected form of an idea or ideas. An idealist does not have considerations for material values of life. A thinker who idolizes ‘Mind and Self’ is an idealist. Protagonists of idealism are- Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Burkley, Kant, Fitche, Schelling, Hegel, Green, Gentile (the Western); From Vedas and Upanishads to Aurobindo Gosh (the Eastern philosophers).

            To make the meaning of Idealism more clear give below some important definitions as given by eminent scholars-
i.                    “Idealism holds that ultimate reality is spiritualism.’’ D. M. Dutta
ii.                 “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 true reality of  is of a mental character’’  J. S. Ross
            The fundamental principles of idealism are as under-TWO FORMS OF THE WHOLE WORLD
             Idealism believes in two forms of the world-(1).Spiritual world (2).Material world.
Idealists give more importance to spiritual world in comparison to the material world. They believe that spiritual world is real and the ultimate truth where as the material world is transitory and mortal. To know the reality of the spiritual world is to know the reality of mind and soul. It is a sort of self- realization – the main aim of human life. 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.”
            According to Idealists, knowledge of mind and soul can be obtained through ideas only. Hence, they have given more importance to ideas over the objects and material or later. In the ideas are realities and ultimate entities of the material world. In the words of 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.”
            To Idealists, man is more important than material nature. It is because man can think and experience about material objects and material phenomena. Hence, the thinker or the one who experiences is more important than the object or the phenomena experienced. Man is endowed with intelligence and a sense of discrimination. Thus, he is not a slave of the environment as animals are, but the moulds and transforms the environment for his on good and welfare of the society. In short, he creates his own world of virtue and his creativity achieves higher and higher levels of art in many areas. The following words speak this truth-“The spiritual and cultural environment of man’s   own making, it is a product of man’s creative activity.” – R. R. Rusk
            According to Idealists, the prime aim of life is to achieve spiritual values. They are- Truth, Beauty and Goodness. These spiritual values are undying and permanent. The realization of these values is the realization of God. In the pursuit of these absolute values man rises higher and higher in the moral plane till he attains Divinity. For the achievement of these spiritual values of all the capacities of man are to be harnessed to the full. These capacities are – knowing, feeling and willing. By the fullest use of these capacities man can achieve the highest spiritual values and thus realize his true and ultimate self. J.S. Ross also opines-“Goodness, truth and beauty are seen to be absolutes each existing in its own right and entirely desirable in it.”
            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 them the development of personality means achievement of Perfection. Plato rightly speak that each individual has an ideal Self. He tries to develop that ideal Self more and more. This is self- realization in the true sense of the term. It may be noted that self -realization means knowledge of the self or soul. The self -realization can only be achieved in society. In short, Idealism believes in the welfare of whole human community.
            Idealists give full support to the principle of Unity in Diversity. This underlying divine force maintains the existence and working of all entities. Idealists call this power as God, the Supreme Force which is omnipotent and omnipresent. Realization of this Supreme force in one’s Self is to attain divinity and fullest development of personality which may be called spiritual fulfillment. 
 The following are the aims of education according to the philosophy of Idealism.
            According to Idealism, man is the most beautiful creation of God. Hence, the advocates of Idealism lay great stress on the exhalation of human personality. By exhalation of human personality, they mean self-realization. Self-realization involves full knowledge of the self. Hence, the first aim of education according to Idealism is to develop the ‘Self’ of the individual higher and higher till self-realization is achieved.
            Idealists give greater importance to spiritual values in comparison with material attainments. Thus, according to them, the second aim of education is to develop the child mentally, morally and above all spiritually. Thus, the teacher should so organize education as to develop the child spiritually.
            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.
            The cultural heritage is of immense worth and value. It belongs to whole humanity and it is the purpose of education to preserve, deserve, develop and transmit it. It is for education to acquaint the child with cultural heritage so that he conserves, promotes and transmits it to the rising generation. This is done through the process of self-estrangement.
            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. Only then, it will be possible for the individual to attain fullest and highest development of personality.
            In the words of Frobel “the object of education is the realization of a faithful, pure, inviolable and hence holy life”. This may be possible by developing courtesy i.e. politeness good breeding, urbanity, docrum, modesty, respect for public opinion, liberty etc; Justice i.e. honesty, speaking truth, integrity, uprightness etc; respect for low.
            Adams has defined education from the point of view of an Idealist. According to him there is a purpose in all objects and natural phenomena. He has further said that the world is planned and well-organized. There are set principles working in this creation. An Idealist always tries to discover and understand this principle so that on the basis of moral elements the world remains organized.
            The individual aim of education has been clearly expressed by Sir Pery Nunn; “Nothing good enters into the human world except in and through the free activities of individual men and women, and the educational practice must be shaped to accord with the truth’’.
‘Education’, therefore must serve for everyone “the conditions under which individuality is most completely developed’’.
            While structuring 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 experiences. These experiences can be imbibed by two ways namely- (1) from the physical environment and (2) from contacts with other fellowmen. In this way, in an Idealistic curriculum, both the scientific subjects as well as the humanities are included. In the following discussion we are throwing light on the ideas of Plato, Herbart, Nunn and Ross about curriculum.
A.                 PLATO
            Plato was staunch idealist. According to him, the aim of life is to realize God which is possible only by pursuing high ideals namely Truth, Beauty and Goodness. These high ideals can be attained by three types of activities namely intellectual, aesthetic and moral.
B.                 HERBART
            According to Herbart the Idealistic aim of education is the promotion of moral values. Hence, he gave prime importance to subjects like Literature, History, Art, Music, Poetry, together with other Humanities and secondary place to scientific subjects.
C.                  NUNN
            Views of Nunn about curriculum are also based on the philosophy of Idealism. According to him, it is the function of schools to promote and maintain morality and the historical tradition to preserve and develop its achievements more and more. This is possible only when the school includes those activities and subjects in its curriculum which reflect the achievements of human culture and civilization. Hence, Nunn emphatically advocates the inclusion in the curriculum, those attainments which reflect the highest creations of human mind and those activities which involve the noblest expressions of human ingenuity and creative intelligence. Nunn has divided these activities into two categories: (1) Physical, Social, Moral and Religious and (2) Literary and Aesthetic.
D.                 ROSS
            He holds the view that one can develop spiritually when he is developed physically and these are both important for physical skill and health education. He wanted to teach physical exercise, intellectual exercise with the help of literature, language, history, geography, science and mathematics along with ethics for moral development. For spiritual development he wanted aesthetics to be taught with fine arts and religion with religion and metaphysics.
            In the realm of Idealism, the role of teacher is very important and glorious. Idealistic philosophy believes that this planned creation has two parts-(1) The teacher and (2) The child as student. Both aims at one target only- The development of the individual child in a spiritual way. The realization of this great aim is possible only through education and the essential agent, the teacher. In reality an Idealist teacher is imbued fully with high degree of self-knowledge, self-dynamism and essential qualities of spiritualism. By his own model of life, he tries to shape the individuality of the child to a life of purity, virtue and great achievements. He creates a wholesome conducive atmosphere by his own activities and planned experiences for the child. He guides the child with such genuine love, affection and sympathy that he attains his full mental and spiritual development. J. S. Ross aptly remarks- “The Naturalist may be content with the brains, but the Idealist wants fine roses. So the educator by his efforts assists the educand, who is developing according to the laws of his nature to attain levels that would otherwise be denied to him.’’
 IDELISM AND TEACHING METHODS                                                          
            The aims of Idealism are concrete and definite. But there is no specific method for achieving them. Socrates used Question-Answer method Plato emphasize Discourse Method and Aristotle advocated Inductive-Deductive method. In the works of Hegel, Logical Measuring is evident.
Descrates employed the device of   Simple to Complex. Pestalozzi laid stress on education of the physical organs and allied activities. Herbart advocated Instruction Method. Frobel insisted upon Play – way Method. Not only this, other Idealists advocated many more methods namely – Discussion, Lecture, Talk in groups. In this way, according to Idealists no specific method is to be adhered to. In their opinion any and every method may be employed to realize the ideals set and determined before. Butler has rightly remarked – “Idealists consider themselves as creators and determiners of methods, not devotees of someone method”. 
            Discipline is to be inculcated through morals for which the following needs to be remembered.
·         Moral education is training in habits and not an inculcation of mere theoretical views.
·         A mechanical virtue, in which a youth exercise a minimum moral choice and obeys an external rule prescribed for him, is to be inculcated. In this lowest species of moral discipline the youth learns self denial and self control. There are to be inculcated as an elementary base of moral code of discipline.
Lack of discipline in a school scope the moral character of the pupil. It allows him to work merely as he pleases, and he never can reinforce his feeble will by regularity, punctuality and sympathetic industry. He grows up in such a way that neither he does unreasonable and nor allows others to do so.
Too strict discipline undermines moral character by emphasizing too much the mechanical duties and especially the phase of obedience to authority, and it leaves the pupil in the state of perennial minority. He does not assimilate the law of duty and makes it his own. The law does not touch his heart but is on his lips only. He fears it but not love it. The tyrant teacher produces hypocrisy and deceit in his pupils. Even when there is simple implicit obedience in the place of fraud, there is no independent character development to take correct decision.
The best help that one can give to his follows is that which enables him to help them. The best school is that which enables the teachers to help themselves. The best instruction is morality makes the pupil a law up to himself.
            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 ideals and values are gained. Such noble mission, according to Idealism may be achieved through proper guidance of teacher given in school. Hence, Idealists considered school and its impressionistic environment as greatly essential
            Proper evaluation of Idealism is possible only when one reviews its merits and demerits in greater detail.
            The common criticism regarding Idealism is that it is an abstract and vague doctrine. It avoids the present realities and prepares the child for the next world. It is concerned with the ultimate end of life. It avoids the real problem day to day living. Education should be such as to make individuals capable to solve the problems to confront them from time to time and are able to lead happy and contented life. Idealism lays more emphasis on thinking and mental activities. This increases the importance of intellectualism unnecessarily. It emphasizes upon the achievement of immortal VALUES NAMELY, Truth, Beauty and goodness. These values are not absolute. Idealistic education gives more importance to teacher in relation to the child. Modern psychology emphasizes the prime and central importance of child.  Idealistic methods of teaching emphasize cramming and rote memory. In modern education, these methods are given little importance. 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.
            In the realm of aims of education, Idealism has made signal contribution. It is only this philosophy wherein a detailed exposition of aims has been emphasized. 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. It aims at self – realization of all individuals by one’s own efforts. Hence, it promotes universal education. In the process of idealistic education, the teacher assigned a very important role. The teacher influences the child by his high ideals of life and by his sympathetic encouraging behavior. This achieves the fullest development of child’s personality. Idealism respects the individuality of the child and tries to stimulate his creative energies. Thus, Idealism has influenced other philosophies as well. Idealism emphasizes the principle of self-discipline. This principle leads to the development of the ‘Self’ of an individual. Because of the Idealistic philosophy and education, the school has grown into an important social organization. 
            The above discussion clearly shows that Idealism has merits as well as demerit. In the present world of today which is full of stresses, strains, conflicts, envies and material struggles, the need of idealistic education is greatly essential for peaceful living of human beings devoted to social good and national welfare.  
            Idealism is basically a philosophy of life and it has exercised, like all philosophies of life, a general rather than a specific influence on education. In philosophy it has taken many forms but all of them agree to the view that the universe is an expression of intelligence and will; that there are certain absolute and eternal truths of life; that the ultimate reality is in the nature of mind rather than in the nature of mater. The latter is perishable and changing; it is an external manifestation of a reality which is not affected by the phenomenon of change. Through the whole of the universe is running a spirit which along is a reality, and knowledge of and reconciliation with that spirit of the individual’s soul is real knowledge. That is the real truth. Appreciation of that truth in its various forms is real art- a thing of real beauty. Conformity of the human will with the moral administration of the universe is real goodness. The difference between idealism and materialism is fundamental-whereas idealism regards mind as the sole explainer of reality, materialism regards that as a phenomenon of matter.
            Idealism lays emphasis on the study of all subjects but stresses the importance of literature, ethics and religion which are recognized to that degree by other philosophies. The teacher has a very important role in education for it is he who leads the individual from darkness into light and who helps him to exalt his personality. As a philosophy idealism with its old form has been sometimes dubbed as rigid and conservative but the modern idealistic outlook is broader and the world is fast realizing how a rejection of the eternal values of life is creating a vacuum into which have crept in so many evils and which may be ultimately fatal to the whole civilization. In India idealism in the form of spiritualism was developed very early as the sole philosophy of life and throughout the ages the same philosophy has kept inspiring the Indian mind and evoking a reverence for it.

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