How does idealism and realism fit into today’s education?

February 9, 2014

Where does idealism fit into education today? It provides every student with an education, even when they have different intellectual disabilities. According to our textbook “all should have the opportunity to cultivate their minds as far as possible” (Ornstein, Levine, Gutek, Vocke, p. 184). We as teachers’ should have great expectations for our students intellectually and standardization should not overshadow an individual’s desire or willingness to learn (p. 184). Idealism fosters the idea that schools should be at the center of education with teachers as the leaders and directors of knowledge. Students should be allowed to experiment and discover things in the safety of the classroom, Plato felt that “truth must be experienced rather than told because language fails to convey belief” (Unknown).


Does realism also fit into education? It has to! In order for students to get the most out of education, “separate subjects provide the most accurate and efficient way for students to learn about reality” (p. 186). Which is happening in schools today. Realist also believe that “curriculum should be scientifically approached, standardized, and distinct-discipline based” (Cohen). Which we also use in the form of evidence based practices. Cohen also goes on the state that “character is developed through training in the rules of conduct”. Which is something that I have been reading about lately in education magazines, the thought is that teaching character is a key component in educational success today.


So how do we apply this to our classrooms? I think in a way we are using a more holistic approach to education today or at least I feel that I am. I don’t think that one approach works better than the other for all students, but rather some elements of each come together to help create a positive, creative, well-founded and well established practice for education. I think they all had wonderful ideas and I honestly cannot say that I like one better than the other, but I do like elements of all of them and think that they have provided us with a solid foundation to build our classroom and schools around.



Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., Gutek, G. L., & Vocke, D. E. (2014). Foundations of education (12th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


What is the Allegory of the Cave? (n.d.). WiseGEEK. Retrieved from

Categories: Foundations of American Education.

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2 Responses

  1. ebr1992February 13, 2014 @ 8:17 pm

    Tracie, I completely agree with you that a teacher has to embrace more than philosophical approach in order to be a well-rounded educator. Today’s classroom is a very diverse environment and we cannot succeed, if we are harsh and not flexible in our teaching methods. Idealism asks that we nurture our minds and always strive for intellectual excellence. This is certainly something that we should want for each of our students, regardless of a student’s ability. In realism we value the ability to excel in a specific skill and to understand its connection to the physical world around us. As you said, all of these ideas have a place in today’s classroom.

  2. I agree with your assessments of idealism and realism and how they can be implemented in today’s school system. You looked at different elements of each perspective than I did in my post, so it was nice to see different applications of the same perspectives.

    Although, while idealism states that everyone has a potential to learn, it also states that “idealists want to safeguard the academic quality of education by maintaining high intellectual standards and resisting any tendency toward mediocrity,” (Ornstein, Levine, Gutek, Vocke, 2014, p. 184). In my opinion, this seems to imply that the students that aren’t as intellectually inclined shouldn’t be included in the school systems.

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