Dialogic Schooling

  • David Kennedy


This paper offers a genealogy of dialogic education, tracing its origins in Romantic epistemology and corresponding philosophy of childhood, and identifying it as a counterpoint to the purposes and assumptions of universal, compulsory, state-imposed and regulated schooling. Dialogic education has historically worked against the grain of standardized mass education, not only in its view of the nature, capacities and potentialities of children (and therefore of adults as well), but in its economic, political and social views, for which childhood is understood as a promissory condition. Dialogic education is oriented to what Dewey called “a future new society of changed purposes and desires,” made possible by an emergent form of social character. It has followed its own developmental trajectory from its origins in Pestalozzi’s Rousseau-inspired innovations, through anarchist theory and practice and the Progressive Education movement, to its current most salient formulation in the Democratic Education movement, whether as an enemy within the gates of standardized education or as expressed in innumerable alternative forms of schooling or unschooling. The paper highlights several key characteristics, gleaned from all those forms, of the dialogic school—identified as intentionality, transitionality, emergence, aesthetic temporality, interdisciplinarity and group governmentality--and argues further that community of philosophical inquiry theory and practice as a form of post-Socratic group dialogue that emerged in the 1970’s, is a pedagogical praxis that offers a grand operational template for dialogic education as a form of schooling.