“And if at whiles the bubble, blown too thin,
Seem nigh on bursting,—if you nearly see
The real world through the false,—what do you see?
Is the old so ruined? You find you’re in a flock
O’ the youthful, earnest, passionate—genius, beauty…”
Society is constantly questioning: what is knowledge? What defines reality? Idealism believes that reality is constant and unchanging (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011). The creator of idealism, Plato, believed that in order to answer these questions, students need to study the canonical books and the great works of art that each capture a piece of truth within it (Ornstein et al., 2011). His seventh book of the Republic, “The Allegory of the Cave,” discussed humans who had lived in a cave all their lives. One day, a man is dragged up the hill into the sunlight and, never having seen the “light” before, becomes distressed and overwhelmed. Plato discussed what would happen when the man returned to the cave. Would the remaining people believe him and follow him? Plato stated, “remember that the eyes can become confused in two different ways, as a result of two different sets of circumstances: it can happen in the transition from light to darkness, and also in the transition from darkness to light,” (Plato, 375 B.C.E.).
Do we ever find the “light,” or really “know” reality? This question can be distressing to answer in regards to the educational system. Which books are considered canonical? Which subjects lead us closer to the truth? We have developed a rigorous curriculum, but have we left anything out that might be crucial in our journey as teachers to help our students find the “truth”?
If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, would it make a noise?
Realism—the theory that asserts that reality is outside of our minds—proposes that the tree DOES exist and still makes a noise, regardless if a person hears it or not. Realism was developed by another major ancient Greek philosopher, Artistotle (Ornstein et al., 2011).
I agree with Realism’s three major assertions that there DOES exist a reality full of objects not made by people, that humans can get to know this reality, and that this knowledge can be relied upon to guide individual/group social behavior (Ornstein et al., 2011). For example, many trees have fallen in vast jungles before humans have explored them, but have still existed prior to human exploration. Humans have different theories and perceptions of reality, but all of these differences are all versions of the same existence.
Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., Gutek, G. L., & Vocke, D. E. (2011). Foundations of Education. (11 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub Co.
Plato. (375 B.C.E.). Republic. In V.B. Leitch (Ed.), The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001 (pp.64-67). New York & London: Norton & Company.