Curriculum & Instruction

Classical Idealism: Everything You Need to Know

This is a collection of theories that were proposed by Plato and Socrates. These theories pondered on the nature and principles of knowledge, reality, and the human experience. It emphasizes the use of criticism to understand information and come up with useful conclusions. It believes that forms are structured in a hierarchy, at the top of which sits the various forms of good.

Plato believed people should primarily focus on their search for truth because the truth is eternal and perfect, which can’t be found in the constantly changing and imperfect world of matter. Mathematics shows the possibility of eternal truths. For instance, all points on the circumference of a perfect circle are equidistant from the center. This had always been true, even before people ascertained it, is still true, and will always be true. In other words, mathematics displays that universal truths with which everyone can agree could be found. However, mathematics covers just a solitary domain of knowledge. This made Plato believe that humans must seek other universal truths in newer areas, like politics, education, and society. Therefore, he touted the search for absolute truth as the true philosopher’s quest.

A key criterion of classical idealism is the separation of the world of matter from the world of ideas, which Plato mentioned in The Republic. According to him, at the highest point of the world of ideas sits the Good, which is the source of true knowledge. But people shouldn’t trust the world of matter, which is the constantly changing domain of sensory data. Instead, they should free themselves from their concern with matter, as it’ll let them move toward the Good. Plato wrote that this could be achieved by rising above the world of matter through the use of critical discussion or investigation (dialectic), in which an individual transcends from mere opinion to true knowledge. Plato viewed the dialectic as a medium for progressing from a matter related to the material world to one related to the world of ideas.

Classical idealism focuses on the realm of being or the world of ideas, which is believed to be the source of peace and happiness. This is in contrast to the realm of change, which is considered to be the source of pain and gloom. In the domain of education, it’s important to understand the duality of these two worlds, where one is constant while the other is changing. This will help discover and develop each individual’s full moral excellence and abilities to enable them to better serve society.

Hidden Curriculum: Everything You Need to Know

This refers to a silent agreement of views that enables the prevalence and growth of the dominant class. The hidden curriculum starts early in a student’s life, as the little ones often unintentionally pick up perspectives, behaviors, and attitudes while they are is at school. Additionally, students learn to form ideas and opinions about their classmates and their surrounding settings. For instance, students learn ‘suitable’ ways to act at school, which means they take up actions and behaviors that will make them popular with their peers and teachers. They also learn what’s expected of them. This could mean, for example, understanding the fact that test scores at the end of the year are what really matter. Though these ideas and attitudes aren’t taught in any formal way, the students take them up and internalize them through normal observation and participation in classroom and social activities.

In schools, hidden curriculum molds the perspectives of students dealing with a wide variety of issues. These include morals, gender, stereotypes, politics, social class, language, and cultural expectations. Gender roles, for instance, become very evident in early grades when socializing becomes segregated into girls and boys. Several books at this young age also support the concept of gender separation, which, in turn, promotes these norms in the early years. A clear example of hidden curriculum was the importance given to boys’ athletics before Title IX came into existence, after which several school districts strived to have a greater balance for boys’ and  girls’ teams.

Even within a school’s formal curriculum, one can often spot the hidden curriculum. Suppose, if an English class just assigns stories set in the United States or reading materials with Caucasian main characters, it may teach students that their school systems don’t welcome other cultures and languages. This can give rise to a dislike for reading or a negative self-image.

Typically, hidden curriculum is one-sided and reflects the beliefs and attitudes of the dominant class. Perhaps that’s why the critical theory proposes that in order to reduce the effect of the hidden curriculum and its effects on the subordinate classes, schools should use textbooks that have an objective perspective concerning views that maintain the hold of the dominant class.

It also suggests that teachers should not just force-feed children with views that are popularly accepted. Instead, they should allow the children to have their own interpretation of political, economic, and social matters based on their knowledge.