Neoteny, dialogic education and an emergent psychoculture: Notes on theory and practice

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This article argues that children represent one vanguard of an emergent shift in Western subjectivity, and that adult-child dialogue, especially in the context of schooling, is a key locus for the epistemological change that implies. Following Herbert Marcuse's invocation of a 'new sensibility', the author argues that the evolutionary phenomenon of neoteny-the long formative period of human childhood and the pedomorphic character of humans across the life cycle-makes of the adult-collective of school a primary site for the reconstruction of belief. After exploring child-adult dialogue more broadly as a form of dialectical interaction between what Dewey called 'impulse' and 'habit', three key dimensions of dialogic schooling are identified, all of which are grounded in a fourth: the form of dialogical group discourse called community of philosophical inquiry (CPI), which is based on the problematisation and reconstruction of concepts through critical argumentation. As a discourse-model, CPI grounds practice in all of the dialogic school's emergent curricular spaces, whether science, mathematics, literature, art, or philosophy. Second, it opens a functional space for shared decision-making and collaborative governance, making of school an exemplary model of direct democracy. Finally, CPI as a site for critical interrogation of concepts encountered in the curriculum (e.g. 'alive', 'justice', 'system', 'biosphere') and as a site for democratic governance leads naturally to expression in activist projects that model an emergent 'new reality principle' through concrete solutions to practical problems on local and global levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-117
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


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