Precollege Philosophy and Public Practice

Volume 1, Winter 2019

Diverse Approaches to Dialogue in Public and Precollege Philosophy

Robyn Ilten-Gee, Larry Nucci
Pages 58-74

From Peer Discourse to Critical Moral Perspectives
Teaching for Engaged Reasoning

The social domain theory approach to moral education has focused on discourse between peers as a way of stimulating complex reasoning and fostering a critical moral orientation towards the norms of society. In this paper, we use the work of Anthony Laden and Mikhail Bakhtin to further refine our goals for using dialogue in the classroom. For Laden, “reasoning” is not simply thinking, but a social, dialogical activity. For Mikhail Bakhtin, “dialogue” is not simply talk, but the foundation of relationship and fundamental to becoming open to change. We argue that high-level reasoning in peer discourse is not an adequate end-goal for moral education—we must consider the intentions behind the discourse (e.g., deliberation, debate), and a young person’s willingness to change his or her beliefs. We point to contemporary examples of young people engaging in this kind of heteroglossic, engaged reasoning through media and civic action.