The Philosophy of RealismA person’s accomplishment in life is determined by his education. But for some reason, the modern times has shown lots of ironic situations which prove that man cannot simply go on with life with just a diploma. In fact, there are many young millionaires today who managed to gain success like for example web designers and celebrities who are considered very lucky for being in the “right place at the right time,” although financial success does not necessarily entail personal fulfillment. This is where the question of reality and education come into play.
The study of realism in education is very suitable especially since the present times demand for people who are capable of adjusting to changes now that traditions are slowly being taken over by liberal ideas. But whether being realistic is the absolute approach to happiness is yet another point to consider.The succeeding sections will be discussing the main concept underlying the philosophy of realism particularly its relevance to the educational system.
An important background on its history and contributors will be provided so as to well understand the purpose of this theory, after which a transition will be made to show how these principles will be applied to the modern-day set-up of the academe.BASIC FACTS, GOALS, ORIGINS AND HISTORICAL INFORMATIONThe concept of Realism is based on the belief that the world and everything around it has its own existence whether or not the human mind has an encounter or awareness of it. The supporters of this philosophy strongly rely on truth supported by hard evidence. In the realm of education, it holds the academe responsible for molding students who have a good sense of how the world works especially through the proper observance of the “laws of nature” (Bansal 1-2). Its development can be traced from four significant periods, namely the “Pre-Christian era, seventeenth and eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and the time of American realism” (Bansal 2-5).
The Pre-Christian era was dominated by the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle who maintains the standpoint that reality is defined by two important things which is “form and matter.” According to Plato, matter is the essence which all objects share no matter what form or shape they may have. One example is energy which is undeniably all around the universe even without the interference of human beings as evidenced by the synchronized movement of the heavenly bodies (Bansal 2).
Aristotle based this kind of thinking from using “syllogism,” a technique of logic which arrives at a certain conclusion by utilizing a certain pattern of reasoning like “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal” (Hopson 12).Following Aristotle’s pre-Christian era is the seventeenth and eighteenth century wherein realism made another breakthrough through famous educator John Amos Comenius and philosopher John Locke. In the process, Comenius introduced education as divided into four levels which initially starts at home as the “mother school”. Second is the formal school wherein learning was done through the use of the citizens’ local dialect instead of the traditional use of Latin language. However, the school for Latin grammar was maintained on the third level, followed by university as the fourth.
Comenius’ ideas were indeed full of innovation as he encouraged physical education as well as equal education for both men and women. But his most remarkable contribution during this period was his book “Orbis Pictus” which compared the human mind to a mirror which imitated everything that it witnessed. In other words, man’s actions are only triggered depending on what is going on around him. This idea was however criticized as this made a derogatory impression that man is a mere dependent on the objects around him rather than as a much superior being.
However, John Locke also advocated an almost similar hypothesis by comparing the mind to a blank sheet that only becomes filled until man is able to conceive something from his surroundings. Not only should he acknowledge the presence of these things but as well as contemplate on their consequence and purpose in order to make sense of the world’s existence (Bansal 3-4).Another interesting development was during the nineteenth century under Herbart who was a philosopher, educator, and a musician at the same time. Herbart’s holistic approach in these three different fields was probably what inspired him to come up with the concept called “apperceptive mass” which demonstrated that learning can be even more effective once a student learns to correlate between new knowledge and old knowledge.
He specifically formulated a five-step technique under this method which started with the preparation stage wherein the purpose is to rouse the student’s interest by introducing concepts that are both familiar and unfamiliar to him and at the same time try to see the connection or significance of these ideas. This is followed by presentation where the “new facts and materials” become the focus of the formal discussion. Third is the association stage wherein comparison and contrast is attempted between new information and old information already contained in the apperceptive mass.
Fourth stage is generalization which is the formulation of a conclusion in order to base a specific “rule or law” based on the previous stage from which the student can finally establish what he has learned from the long process of the subject. Last but not the least is the application stage which is composed of “academic exercises” or tests in order to show how well the student has absorbed all the information in the his newly-improved apperceptive mass (Bansal 4-5).The fourth developmental period for was the American Realism which gave rise to two opposing groups referred to as the New Realists and the Critical Realists. The New Realists expressed their disagreement to Comenius’ and Locke’s theory that the mind is the primary source of man’s accomplishments.
Perhaps one modern philosopher to support this concept is contemporary realist John R. Searle, who compared “consciousness to the process of digestion’s very natural and unpredictable occurrence” (Realism -Author unkown 12). But this was opposed by the Critical Realists in the year 1916 who introduced such names as “Durant Drake, Arthur O. Lovejoy, James B. Pratt, etc.” These individuals reaffirmed the role of the mind as something that is of major importance since, according to them, real knowledge can only take place once the concept of physical objects are processed by the brain through sensory perceptions (Bansal 6).MAIN CONCEPTS AND PEDAGOGY TECHNIQUESRealism is all about finding the truth through science and its methods are done through experiments and measurements (Philosophical foundations-author unknown 48-49).
As an approach to education, it wills to imbibe in the student’s mind a more practical approach to life or by seeing the truth behind every situation instead of indulging too much in ideal thoughts. In other words, it persuades that the students be able to develop an objective mind so that when he steps out of the confines of the university, he would not be surprised to see that the corporate world does not really put into practice all the upright ideals which were taught to him in school. Albeit this does not necessarily discourage uprightness in the student, but rather as a reminder that he has to be strong and prepared in adjusting to world where almost everyone had to prioritize rewards and promotions instead of principles in order to get ahead because in reality, life is hard especially when it is already time to raise one’s own family, unlike in the typical student life where mostly everything is provided for by the parents (Dolhenty 4).The Prospectus. Realism presents different approach in preparing the curriculum depending on its area. Humanistic realism, for instance, designed the study of classical literature in a way that students may acquire an in-depth understanding of the gist of the lessons and apply it to daily living.
Social realism on the other hand, designed courses which are more focused on promoting good manners and virtues such as “literature, heraldry which teaches the discipline of coats of arms subject as well as the individuals who deserve to wear them, genealogy or the study of the growth of plants and animals, riding, fencing, and gymnastics. It even promotes global knowledge through the study of modern languages as well as the way of life and institutions of nearby nations.The School Organization. Schools must exist independently of political and other selfish agenda. Their establishments must exist based on the need and quest for knowledge and they must always provide subjects related to science.
They must also provide programs related to sex education because this is one reality that every adolescent must be able to deal with. Depriving students of proper knowledge regarding sexual responsibility can affect their adult life with issues like unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, it is the school’s responsibility to provide at its best an environment which is a replica of the real world wherein the student can easily adapt after graduation.Teaching Techniques. According to this philosophy, students must be taught in a gradual manner. They must first be provided with proper venue to get in touch with nature in order to enhance common sense and understand the natural flow of life surrounding them. This wholesome experience will allow them to broaden their minds and to catch up with lessons properly by the time they are introduced to the rigid part of the lessons where technical words and structures are presented. This will also be easier if local dialects are used in teaching the students as well as the use of repetition or followups in order to make sure that the student remembers the lessons (Chaugule 4-6).
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF REALISMRealism poses both advantages and disadvantages for teachers, parents and the school itself. To provide a more concrete note for teachers, the examinations help them monitor student performance but they are held responsible for whatever results these tests may show. Parents, on the other hand, are provided peace of mind when they see report cards or test papers with high grades, otherwise they put the blame on teachers or the school if they are not satisfied with their child’s performance. Almost similarly, the school body is provided higher funding by the government if their students perform well, otherwise low test results will cause these funds to lessen (Realism-author unknown 14-15). Being objective can bring convenience since one needs not look further in order to prove that something exists. But on a more critical situation like that of a student’s performance, several things are overlooked. According to educator Dr.
S.S. Chaugule of the YCM Open University in Nashik, what if a student is not able to get ahead in academics due to some personal issues like family problems, identity crisis, illnesses, and other emotional and psychological issues that need to be addressed through subjective approach (Chaugule 7)? This is even made more difficult when there is fear of acceptance for the student if he is to reveal such personal issues. That is why it is important to turn things around by using these unfavorable test results as a means of searching for reasons behind a student’s poor academic performance and assuring the student confidentiality or protection from teacher advisers or guidance counselors.CONTRIBUTIONS AND CRITICISMS OF MODERN PHILOSOPHERS TO CLASSIC REALISM There are many modern philosophers who made a significant contribution to the expansion of Realism. In fact some of their ideals are almost in contradiction to the extremely objective principles of classical realists.
One contributor is Roy Bhaskar who laid the foundation for Critical Realism. According to him, the knowledge of man is temporary and prone to errors and therefore the world is still subject to discoveries which will correct these errors. It is human actions that surpass the human mind because it is powerful enough to produce unimaginable consequences which can affect the history and the future. Although other realists do not agree with this almost ideal concept, for others it provides hope especially to the supporters of special education who are given the extraordinary task of intervention for children with disabilities (Burnett 7). This is also affirmed by others who believe that the views of critical realism are very appropriate in responding to the demands of the ever-changing world which is constantly revolutionizing (Huckle 1). This is indeed a different approach from the objective views of conventional realism, but the argument of critical realism is deemed helpful in responding to the complicated issues that the world is facing.
Case in point is the above mentioned heartbreaking case for special children. Many families today are struggling with issues of children disabilities like autism, attention deficit disorders, etc. Traditional education is not able to address this and even modern medicine is not yet capable of finding a cure to the condition of these children. But the views of critical realism provides more possibilities that such conditions can be dealt with creating schools with environments in which these special kids can adapt and be given a chance to a normal life.Another noted modern contributor is George William Friedrich Hegel who incited controversy over his views on metaphysical realism which argued that God’s existence becomes definite in the human mind and therefore it is important that one promotes self-awareness.
Just like critical realism, this view can also be applied in today’s education since the world is faced with a series of issues that bring certain amounts of stress. Sometimes people need to believe that there is an ultimate Being who is capable of sharing their everyday burden otherwise carrying this burden alone can either lead to failure of health or relationship conflicts (Preston 2).TEACHERS’ IMPLEMENTATION OF REALISM THEORIES IN THE SCHOOLS OF 2010The theory of Realism greatly depends on teachers in carrying out its purpose to the academe. It is definitely amazing that despite many criticisms and certain developments, Realism has managed to maintain its place since the time of Aristotle.
As for the teachers of the year 2010, theories can be properly implemented only if they are well-oriented with the different characteristics of people. Possessing this quality is important since students’ characteristics are very diverse and with a multitude of them to deal with, a teacher must be credible enough to show that they are capable of leveling with their students. In this way, the students will not be hesitant to give their confidence to the teacher when it comes to improving classroom activities. It gets even better when a teacher is capable of radiating a certain balance which can guide students in dealing with their crisis which usually has something to do with discovering their true identities while on their way to adulthood but at the same time calm enough in guiding the students through the harsh realities of life. On a more formal classroom setup, the teacher must always make constant followups to see if the students have been able to retain their lessons as well as its significance. The students must not also be stressed by bombarding them with different information at the same time so subjects must be introduced gradually.
The teacher must also understand that students have different levels of understanding and so he must be patient when a student needs a little more time in catching up with lessons. Also, Realism strongly discourages the practice of cramming which must be properly monitored since it violates self-discipline. Teachers are also called upon to be more straightforward as to let their students know immediately what kind of performance is required from them. They should always be organized in using materials (especially visual arts) in order to constantly catch their students’ attention (Chaugule 5-6). These concepts are indeed very ideal and implementing it is certainly the dream of every educator.
However in reality, there are lots of limitations like time constraint and so most likely, the application of these theories cannot reach 100% like for example in the issue of cramming. Students are known for being stubborn especially when they have their peers to influence them. Good thing if they belong to groups who will encourage them to keep their lessons on track but in such age, they would seldom act in such a way. Fortunately despite encountering some difficulties along the way, certainly teachers have already developed ways to improve their approach in order implement the rest of the theories of realism in education. They only have to make a difference when it comes to commitment because only an inspiring teacher can be capable of making something out of even the most stubborn student. This is the most interesting feature of Realism.
Although it has been started on a basically rigid and objective point of view, it is able to consider the possibilities of changes that the modern world may bring. This is clearly emphasized in Ellwood Cubberley’s History of Education when it was especially mentioned how the theories of Realism brought significant “transition to the world of education through the medieval man’s eyes which brought important knowledge from the past and the modern man’s eyes with his full anticipation on what lies on the future” (Cubberley 213). Clearly, it is through the integration of knowledge that the goals of Realism can find its way through education.CONCLUSIONBeing successful in life truly has a lot to do with being realistic. Realism provides an individual with not only focus but a definite guide on how to deal with things in achieving one’s goals. The reason behind this is basically due to the fact that man by nature would always want an assurance or guarantee that he can be successful in his undertakings, whether it is from choosing a course or opening a certain business.
With the absolute method applied by classic realism, it almost becomes easy for people to rely on a structured, step-by-step method in order to get to his goals and he can be assured of support from the people around him since his methods have been tried and tested through time. But success does not always entail personal fulfillment which comes when one is able to achieve something out of the ordinary. When one is open to change and possibilities, the world is provided with the gift of new knowledge as being explained by the supporters of critical realism, who makes it a point that man must not rely solely on what this world can provide him, but rather he must initiate in discovering the world around him. Only then can he find genuine fulfillment and happiness which is perhaps the most important lesson of Realism.Works CitedBansal, S., Maheshwari, V.K., and Saroj Agarwal.
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