Idealism is a very old philosophical thought and it has exercised a potent influence on the mind of man throughout the ages. Even in modern times when people are not inclined towards accepting any dogmatic creed or philosophy, idealism has certain attractions which appeal to the human mind and thereby exercise a great influence on human thinking. In education the influence of idealism has gone a long way to restrict some of the radical thinking and establish the worth of the eternal ideals and values of life.
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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. Idealism is one of the oldest schools of philosophy.
TYPES OF IDEALISM
(a) ABSOLUTE IDEALISM
It is the one type which has found its way into educational philosophy. This lays down that the heart of reality is to be found in thought or reason. Reason is absolute; in fact it is the absolute. Being absolute, it is also one i.e., monistic. Everything, thus, is interrelated and all contradictions reconciled. Furthermore the complete cause of any single occurrence involves the whole of reality. The cosmos is great thought process, and the absolute is god thinking. Everything happens as a result of the self-willed idea i. e. absolute. The absolute is already complete, and self-realized. Nature is the medium through which the absolute progressively reveals itself in external form. Mind of man however, is a part of the absolute whole. The absolute being the whole and education being a part thereof, it may be that study of the fragment may reveal important facts of the totality.
The centralistic approach to idealism on the whole has committed this educational philosophy to the prominent importance of consciousness. Mind is ultimately spiritual, not materialistic. Human nature is to be viewed, as more than a behaving organism, responding to the stimuli of its environment. Man is too atomistic. Idealism stresses certain wholeness. Nothing happens in any part of the system that does not affect the rest.
On religious and moral education, the definition of the absolute is unmistakably of theistic characteristics. Since the aim of education is the increasing realization of the absolute, all education appears tinged with religious significance. This includes moral education. Reason being the absolute, the universe is one of law and order. So too there is a oral law in the universe backed by the authority of the absolute. Thus lays an inescapable moral imperative on education.
(b) MODERN IDEALISM
It has given a different tune to educational philosophy. In this concept idealism more to do this idea as metal state. n this idealism might be called a philosophy of idealism. The `I` of idealism being interested for euphony. The knowledge one has of his environment is idea of it. The environment in itself cannot be known through intermediate idea of it. The environments in itself cannot be known directly. It can only be known through intermediate idea of human knower. From which the learner’s knowledge takes, therefore, is bound to be in part the product of his human way of apprehending it. Such concepts are supplied by the mind of human learning.
FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF IDEALISM
The fundamental principles of idealism are:
(1) TWO FORMS OF THE WHOLE WORLD
Idealism believes in two forms of the world- Spiritual world and Material world, Idealists gives 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) IDEAS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN OBJECT
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 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.”
(3)IMPORTANCE OF MAN OVER NATUR
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 own 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.
(4)FAITH IN SPIRITUAL VALUES
According to Idealists, prime aim of life is to achieve spiritual values-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 all the capacities of man are to be harnessed to the full. These capacities are- knowing, feeling and willing.
(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 them the development of personality means achievement of ‘perfection’. Plato rightly speaks that each individual has an ideal self. He tries to develop that ideal ‘self’ more and more. This self-realization is the true sense of the term. It may be noted that self-realization means knowledge of the ‘self’ or soul. This self-realization can only be achieved in society. Hence, development of social qualities is very essential for self-realization as it expresses itself in the form of love, sympathy, fellow-feeling and co-operation for the good of all and discrimination among human beings on any basis of caste, creed, sex, race or status etc. It clears the fact that Idealism advocates the concept of universal education. In short Idealism believes in the welfare of whole human community.
(6)FULL SUPPORT TO THE PRINCIPLE OF UNITY IN DIVERSITY
Idealists give full support to the principle of Unity in Diversity. They believe that is of spiritual nature. This may be called Universal Consciousness or Divinity. 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.
IDEALISM AND AIMS OF EDUCATION
Idealism prescribes certain fundamental aims of education which are directly influenced by the aims and principles of life. In this context Ross puts forth the view, “The function of education is to help us in our exploration of the ultimate universal values so that truth of the universe may become our truth and give power to our life.’’ Some of the important aims of education as laid down by idealists are given below
(1) SELF REALIZATION.
According to idealism man is the most beautiful creation of god-His grandest work. It lays great stress on the exaltation of human personality it is self-realization The aim of education is to develop the self of the individuals higher till self-realization is achieved It is in fact making actual or real the highest potentialities of the self.
(2) UNIVERSAL EDUCATION.
Education according to idealism should be universal in nature. The universe is regarded as a thought process. Education should be based on the teaching of Universal truth from the stand-point of rationality of the Universe
(3) 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 enter more and more fully into the spiritual realm, and also enlarge the boundaries of spiritual realm”.
(4)TRANSMISSION AND PROMOTION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
The aim of idealistic education is the preservation ; enrichment and transmission of culture, Education must contribute to the development of culture .It should help in enlarging the boundaries of spiritual realm
(5)CULTIVATION OF MORAL VALUES
According to idealism, man is essentially a moral being. Therefore, moral, intellectual and aesthetic aspects of his personality should be promoted. According to Dr.Prem Nath “The process of education must lead to the deepest spiritual insight and to the highest moral and spiritual insight and to the highest moral and spiritual insight and to the highest moral and spiritual conduct .”
(6) PREPARATION FOR A HOLY LIFE
Idealism prepares an individual for a holy life. Froebel says.”The object of education is the realization of a faithful, pure, inviolable and hence holy life.’’
(7) DEVELOPMENT OF INTELLIGENCE AND RATIONALITY
Idealism wishes that education should develop the mind fully. It makes a person rational as well. Only the highly developed mind can understand the all pervading force. The idealists believe that education must help in the full evolution of mind , the emancipation of spirit, self realization and the realization of higher values of life and to train the whole man completely and fully for manhood and not some part of man.
IDEALISM AND CURRICULUM
While developing curriculum, idealists give more importance to thought, 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. It must consist of humanities.
The curriculum should give good mental experience of all types. So cognition (knowing) affecting (feeling) and conation (striving) should find due place. Sciences and art should be taught as fully integrated. Since the main aim of education according to the philosophy of idealism is to preserve and advance the culture of human race ,so subjects like Religion, Ethics, philosophy, History, Literature etc, should be provided in the curriculum. Healthy mind is found in healthy baby only. So health, hygiene, games and sports should find an important place in the curriculum.
IDEALISM AND METHODS OF TEACHING
Idealism has not prescribed specific methods of teaching. According to idealism, class-room is a temple of spiritual learning, a meeting place of human minds- a place for self education. For this no particular method has been suggested.However, the following methods have been advocated by different idealists:
· Learning through reading
· Learning through lecturing
· Learning through discussion
· Learning through imitation
· Descrates employed the device of simple to complex
IDEALISM AND DISCIPLINE
Naturalism provides unrestricted freedom to the child whereas Idealism wants to keep the child under discipline. Idealists believe that there can be no spiritual development of the child without discipline. This leads to inner discipline. “The discipline is not to be imposed on pupils. The teacher has only to help them to develop self discipline and through that self knowledge”
Self-insight and self analysis are the main disciplinary factors. The main task of education is the cultivation of higher values of life through moral and religious education. It requires the teacher to present a good example and exercise lasting impact upon the pupil’s mind. A teacher is an ideal person to be emulated by this pupil.
IDEALISM AND TEACHER
Idealism assigns a special role to the teacher. It considers teacher as a spiritual guide for the child. The teacher serves as a living model for the student. He sets the environment in which education takes place. He carries the child from darkness to light. He is to guide the student towards utmost possible perfection
Idealism regards the teacher as the priest of man’s spiritual heritage. He is a co-worker with God in perfecting man. An idealist teacher is a philosopher, friend and guide. According to Gentle- A teacher is “a spiritual symbol of right conduct.” He is thus, an indispensable necessity.
According to Froebel, the school is a garden, the teacher is a cautious gardener and the child is a tender plant. The plant can grow, no doubt, without help but the good gardener sees that the plant grows to the finest possible perfection. Through teacher’s guidance the child can make his natural development into a process leading to perfection and beauty.
CONTRIBUTIONS OF IDEALISM TO EDUCATION
Idealistic philosophy in education emphasizes ‘the exaltation of personality’, which is the result of self-realization, achieved by spiritual knowledge, self-discipline and dignified teacher. Idealism assigns a very important place to the teacher who is respected as a guide, and philosopher. They emphasize the importance of moral and spiritual education and points out the values of humanities, social sciences, art and literature. It emphasizes man’s perfection in various facets of life-physical, spiritual, intellectual, moral, esthetic and social.
EVALUATION OF IDEALISM
(1)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.
(2) Idealism is concerned with the ultimate end of life. It avoids the real problems day to day living. Education should be such as to make individuals capable to solve the problems that confront them from time to time able to lead a happy and contented life.
(3) Idealism lays more emphasis on thinking and mental activities. This increases the importance of intellectualism unnecessarily.
(4) Idealistic education gives more importance to teacher in relation to the child. Modern psychology emphasizes the prime and central importance of child.
(5) Idealistic methods of teaching emphasize cramming and rote memory. In modern education, these methods are given little importance.
Idealism may be considered to be outmoded in the prevailing scientific world view. Idealistic concepts like ‘spirit’, ‘mind’, ‘soul’, and ‘the cosmos’ have little relevance in the class-room teaching. There is too much emphasis on good manners and modesty which may be mistaken. It neglects child’s psychological nature. Idealism does not contribute to methods of teaching. It sets unobtainable goals. Idealistic scheme of education, by and large, pays attention to physical, industrial, social and electronic environment of today. It neglects social aspects of life. It over emphasizes humanity and under rates science and technology. In all, we can say that idealistic approach to education has its own merits and shortcomings. It should, therefore, be supplemented by other philosophy or philosophies of education.
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