Realism Philosophy in Teaching Literacy


Realism philosophers postulate the presence of a distinct real-world of existence that compels understanding and perception of the actual order of the world. Contrary to divergent subjective thoughts and perceptions that may deviate from the reality of things, realism teaches sanity and common sense in ensuring acceptance. Realism proponents defy idealized thoughts that often deviate from the real and actual attributes of the world. In the philosophy of education, reality compels the design of content suitable to empower learners with practical and relevant skills (Craver and Ozmon, 2007). Distinguishing realism from other types of philosophy follows the criterion of freedom of objectivity in the interpretation of the order of existence.

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Realism Context of Teaching Literacy (Different Countries)

Teaching philosophy varies across jurisdictions due to various factors, including cultures and socioeconomic, economic statuses. Realism drives teaching input to equip learners with relevant skills to understand and survive in the context of the environment. Taking the illustration of American and South African education systems, immense differences exist in the attributes subjected to their education systems (De Witt and Lessing, 2005). Characterized by significant differences in economic status, education realities differ to a huge extent depicted by resources and opportunities available to learners (Frazer, 1995). Essentially, motivations and learning ambitions for learners in the two countries experience different worlds of realities. Equally, economic capacity and infrastructure present different expectations for education outcomes for the two countries’ learners. As an illustration, the curricula designed in the two nations adopt a realist perspective that depicts the nature of sociocultural and economic differences. This implies various features of teaching literacy exist across different countries within the realism perspective.

Why and how should North American teachers follow this philosophy in addressing the issue?

Imparting literacy skills to students within the context of the realities of the national environment ought to inform North American teachers. Reasons for adopting the realism perspective must target imparting literacy to learners in the most environmentally responsive approach. Firstly, the changing roles of education in a highly innovative society must find extra skills relevant to embrace the technology culture. Defined by realities of a technology-intensive environment, literacy elements of education must depict clear teaching philosophies. Additionally, realism in literacy must equip students with objectivity skills appreciating globalization observed at every level of current societal interactions. Tightly interlinked public and private sectors across the world imply that learners need skills to appreciate diversity produced by forces of globalization. Realism makes an invaluable contribution to literacy in this context, creating bridges that acknowledge the values of internationalized cultures.

To achieve realism in literacy, teachers in North America have an impressive opportunity, having had sufficient interaction with the reality of impacts of global immigration. As an illustration, the USA opens its doors to world cultures and makes foreign policy an integral part of national governance (Machet and Pretorius, 2004). The pressures of the globalized socioeconomic and cultural environments require preparing learners with a wider interpretation of issues facing the learners. As an illustration, the teacher must facilitate acceptance of a diverse culture for the student to appreciate the attributes of the international culture. Teachers must impart knowledge within the context of mixed cultures, history, and future trends. Learning outcomes must facilitate an appreciation of contemporary American and world settings.

How and why is our approach to teaching this subject different from other regions of the world?

The American model of teaching literacy depicts distinct characteristics that display national features and better international understanding than many other jurisdictions. In terms of practical training, the American system appreciates the realities of the current economic, social, and cultural settings in the country. In terms of the diversity of American society, the realities of the education system inform education policy to produce suitable content under the circumstances (Radnor, 2002). Despite the difficulties of the education system to handle diversity, the burden might make the reality of successful literacy remote. Consequently, the broad scope of the reality of American society presents a mixture of philosophies that equally make it difficult to achieve the desired literacy outcomes. Dilution of realism with the other philosophies presents the American system of education with the strengths of the mixture as it does with its weaknesses. As an illustration, the developing world emphasizes practical training and choice of disciplines reminiscent of the difficulties of the developing world.

The intended impetus of such an approach considers the introduction of relevant skills under diverse national socioeconomic and cultural pressures. Equally, the role of realism in the design of the American curriculum informs consideration of historical memory in overcoming current and future challenges. Despite the difficulties in the attainment of a broad range of development needs, the education system in the country finds numerous literacy sources from practical experiences than most education systems (Radnor, 2002). Using the relevance of national experiences, the USA makes a better case of realism than many other nations. The achievement of a seamless development of literacy education within historical interpretations makes education policy responsive to future challenges.

How might teachers using this philosophy and dealing with this issue engage students so they perform optimally?

Teachers’ role of imparting constructive skills to deal with challenges in a reality acceptance approach must find analytical skills useful in learning outcomes. Problem analysis facilitates devising solutions paying attention to detail against the backdrop of real issues of academic intervention. In enabling students to interpret marked differences in phenomena that lack explanation in other philosophies, realism equips students with an array of skills. Analytical skills facilitate an explanation of common sense in the interpretation of literary debates that other philosophies fail to solve. As an illustration, teachers must utilize realism to find meaning in education teachings on vocational specialization.

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The driving force behind the idea of vocational institutions originates from realism interpretation of intelligence and abilities, as opposed to idealized notions of career progression. Pretorius and Ribbens (2005) reckon that hardships in developing can resolve from the strength of real interpretation of relative endowments. Supporting learners to exploit their abilities to uphold specialization in terms of literacy aptitude facilitates the maximization of students’ interests to make education development a reality. Literacy abilities differ across students due to intellectual abilities, which can assist teachers in assisting average literacy learners in accepting their realities and finding meaningful and decent education alternatives.

What obligations do teachers using this philosophy have to address social inequalities?

Social inequalities pose a threat to learners’ abilities under idealized interpretations on the scale of the superiority of social classes. The onus of bringing stability in a socially stratified system extends beyond the education system. In light of the complexity of the matter of social stratification, the education system bears the burden of introducing standardized outcomes across all learners. Using the philosophy of realism in literacy, the education system possesses several practical alternatives to defuse the damage. Firstly, teachers of literacy under realism underscore the importance of equality of all learners despite opposing social constructions. Logical consideration of the society in realism enables teachers to handle all students as equal beneficiaries of education. As an illustration, the realism philosophy adopts a standard curriculum taught to all learners on the assumption of the equality of abilities. The beauty of the curricula under realism underscores the freedom of specialization for differences in abilities.

The obligation of the teacher in imparting literacy under realism exposes the education system to a unified approach for learners. Certain levels of social inequality facing the society may emerge in areas where resources and infrastructure derail uniform dissemination of content. Conditions of teaching in such broader concepts of inequality exist in different settings of economic development (Pretorius and Ribbens, 2005). The developing world experiences numerous challenges of socially derived inequalities, which expose the teachers to extra pressure to teach literacy. The realism extends the obligation to the teacher to ensure that the learners do not face discrimination from their social predicaments. The standardized curricula and teaching ethics provide teachers and learners with the reality of the gap that exists. Teachers adopt additional teaching and attention to ensure that learners achieve the projected learning outcomes. Realism will continue to offer solutions to literacy questions with practical solutions befitting desired interpretation. Teachers embracing realism will find social inequality as an insignificant hindrance to imparting literacy.


Craver, S. & Ozmon, H. (2007). Philosophical foundations of education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

De Witt, M. W., & Lessing, A. C. (2005). An investigation into the early literacy skills of Grade R Second-language (L2) learners in South Africa. Africa Education Review Journal, 2(2), 242–257.

Frazer, S. (1995). What’s new in philosophy of social science? Oxford Review of Education 21(3), 267-281.

Machet, M., & Pretorius, E. (2004). The socio-educational context of literacy accomplished in the early primary school years. Language Teaching, 33, 45-60.

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Pretorius, J. & Ribbens, R. (2005). Reading in a disadvantaged high school: Issues of accomplishment, assessment and accountability. South African Journal of Education, 25(3), 139-147.

Radnor, H., (2002). Researching your professional practice: Doing interpretive research. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.

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