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If, as evidence shows, well-founded classroom dialogue improves student engagement and learning, the logical next step is to take it to scale. However, this presumes consensus on definitions and purposes, whereas accounts of dialogue and dialogic teaching/pedagogy/education range from the narrowly technical to the capaciously ontological. This paper extends the agenda by noting the widening gulf between discourse and values within the classroom and outside it, and the particular challenge to both language and democracy of a currently corrosive alliance of digital technology and “post-truth” political rhetoric. Dialogic teaching is arguably an appropriate and promising response, and an essential ingredient of democratic education, but only if it is strengthened by critical engagement with four imperatives whose vulnerability in contemporary public discourse attests to their importance in the classroom, the more so given their problematic nature: language, voice, argument and truth.
 This paper is an edited version of the author’s keynote at the EARLI SIG 20/26 conference Argumentation and inquiry as venues for civic education, held in Jerusalem in October 2018.
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