EDCI 506 Blog 4: Idealism vs. Realism



Idealism is generally defined as a philosophical view in which the spiritual, nonmaterial world is ultimately real.  Idealists believe that he world is a creation of a universal mind, or God.  The soul of a person is the ultimate source for giving the power to think and feel.  This idea is present in both Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and Emerson’s “The Over-Soul”.  In each one of these readings the author’s show that reality is the creation of the world by an absolute power, either the sun (in “Allegory of the Cave”) or God.

Plato’s expresses the idealistic thoughts by stating that the power and capacity of knowledge are already present in the soul, verifying the idea of idealists that “knowing is a recall of latent ideas”.  Plato goes into detail stating that the prisoners only know what was already in their minds.  They believed that the shadows were reality, until the one prisoner escaped and saw what reality really was.  Plato continues to state that by believing in philosophy then you will have better knowledge. He states that language fails to give the truth and that the experience of reality is what gives overall truth.  He says that by saying what something is, is not enough for it to be taken in a realistic since.  Plato argues that in order to understand reality and to gain knowledge, ideas must be realistic and experiences.  This is shown by the prisoner finally seeing a reflection and the Sun (the absolute power), he then has seen and experiences reality, whereas the other prisoners have not and would argue with him about reality is because they only know the shadows.

Emerson also presents this idea that the values are absolute and eternal.  In his “Over-soul” writing Emerson goes into great detail explaining how language fails, and moral actions that are demonstrated will in turn have each person responsible for the respect for their own salvation.  This makes me think back to Maslow’s pyramid of self-actualization. Only after children have the values and necessities taken care of, will they reach self-actualization and be responsible for their salvation.

Realists believe that objects and existence are independents of us but we can learn from them.  When a realists argues “If a tree falls in a forest, and now one is there to hear it, does it make a sound” they argue that it does happen.  Realists state that even though it is not observed there is a theory for what happens.  Realists often apply the scientific method to situation in order to understand them.  They believe that after sensation and abstraction, a student might learn the smell, sound, color, size and weight; the students mind will then compartmentalize these ideas.  Therefore if the realist knows that when a person is present in the forest and the tree makes a sound while it falls, then every time the tree falls it makes a sound.

As noted in Foundations of Education, an idealistic classroom would have a teacher incorporate classics, arts and music into as many as their lessons as possible.  Idealistic teachers also would not want to use technology in their classroom as much.  In terms of getting material to the students it does not matter the device that delivers it but more so the value of the content.  A realist classroom is almost the complete opposite of the idealistic classroom.  A realist classroom would limit student’s studies to the core subjects, math, science, history and math.  They would disregard other class such as the music’s or arts in order to make sure the student can master the subject-content. However, unlike an Idealistic classroom and Realist classroom would allow for the “use of technology to aid in developing and testing skills and subject-matter competencies”.  This would work well in the 21st century.

For my future classroom I would implement a mix of the idealistic values and realistic values.  My ideal classroom, or school, would allow for core subject classes but also for arts, music and exploratory classes.  The school would use technology to aid in the teacher of the students.  Like a realistic school test assessments would be used, but the tests would not be the only way to measure the student’s success.  I would like to implement classics into the classroom but I would not want this to be a main focus, students in the 21st century need more realistic approaches to what they are learning.  In a civics lesson I would use the historical documents of the articles of confederation, US constitution and Declaration of Independence, but I would want to use the computers and other technology devices for students to create their own society and their own laws in order to see how important documents like these really are in today’s society.


Ornstein, A., Levine, D., & Gutek, G. (2011). Foundations of american education. (11 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://withfriendship.com/images/d/15002/Idealism-wallpaper.jpg




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3 Responses to “EDCI 506 Blog 4: Idealism vs. Realism”

  1. withers1020 says:

    I also would like to use a mix of both idealism and realism in the classroom. I think it’s important to incorporate both because it creates a well-balanced individual, someone who understands and grasps the key concepts but can also apply those concepts to other relatable situations. Your civics lesson example is perfect!

  2. jboehret says:

    I’ll have to check out Maslow’s pyramid of self-actualization – it might help me better understand Emerson’s essay which was a little dense and hard to chew, so to speak, for me.

    I agree with you – a perfect idealistic classroom is just as ineffectual as a perfect realistic classroom and elements of both will have to be incorporated, regardless of how a teacher relates to either philosophy. I am also with you on the realistic approach and agree that it is more applicable for the 21st century student, teacher and classroom.

    As a biology teacher, implementing idealistic approaches in my class might prove somewhat more challenging. But I do appreciate that you listed some precise examples of tools you might use.

    Interesting cartoon.

  3. jessrva says:

    While I feel I am more aligned with Realism rather than Idealism, the one area of a Realist classroom I disliked, was the lack of academic “interruptions” like art and music. I like that you took the time to think about the different aspects of both Realism and Idealism that you would want to incorporate into your future classroom. I especially agree with the point that you wouldn’t want to leave art and music out! I feel that art and music add invaluable lessons to children, and it is equally important to take a break from “traditional learning” every once and awhile to just create.