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Ideology, Philosophy and Theory

Ideology is a way for people to understand their past as they examine present circumstances and plan for their future. It can be looked at as an ideal interpretation of how people should live. In education, ideology is used to determine what is most important for students to learn while they are in school. Ideologies vary depending on the person or group espousing their virtues, and are therefore subjective to a variety of human natures. (Gutek, 2009, pp. 184-185)

Philosophies are more abstract than ideology. “Operating at a high level of generality, philosophies seek to explain what is real, how we think, and how we value” (Gutek, 2009, p. 186). While ideology can be used to determine a course of action for the future, philosophy deals with why this course of action might be appropriate.

Theories are arrived at after the data has been examined and usually replicated in some way. Theory provides a guide to follow. For example, I have a theory that children learn more when they are mentally stimulated. In order to prove my theory, I could divide my class into two groups. One group would be given a variety of creative and challenging exercises while the other group would be given the same lessons presented in a more mundane setting. If my theory is correct, the children who are given the more stimulating lessons will learn more quickly and effectively.

Theory can be derived by looking at one’s ideologies and philosophies. Philosophies help us determine what is important, ideologies help us determine how to best utilize that which is important to us, and theories tie them together into practical application.


Gutek, G. (2009). New Perspectives on Philosophy and Education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.