This dissertation develops an ontological understanding of dialogue that is then used to reconsider the forms and purposes of schooling. Employing the works of Martin Buber and Mikhail Bakhtin, the work departs from the literature on schooling that treats dialogue as merely an instrument in the schooling of children in order for them to become good citizens, to join the work force and the like. Instead, it is argued that dialogue needs to be understood as constituting the very essence of human existence. In addition, the dissertation offers a critique of monological assumptions of modern and postmodern philosophies and critiques non-ontological theories of dialogue that give it a merely instrumental, as opposed to constitutive value. The notion of a polyphonic self is then introduced, which calls for the reconsideration of the notions of identity, integrity, and authenticity. A human self is co-authored by others and can exist and be known only through dialogue with others. A person of dialogical integrity is defined as being consistently different in different situations; and the authentic self is true to the dialogical situation, rather than one’s inner feelings and self-concepts. The dissertation illustrates the ontological notion of dialogue by analyzing types of discourse in classroom communication. Instances of dialogue are not those where students and a teacher take the turn in an orderly conversation, according to rules of “dialogical teaching.” Rather, dialogue appears in some moments of disruption, talking out of turn, and laughter. The dissertation defines a successful school as one fostering dialogue in its ontological sense. Such a school should possess systemic qualities of complexity, civility, and carnival. These qualities create necessary conditions for the emergence of the dialogical relation.
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