A paradigmatic dialogue-disagreement in a democratic school: A conceptual analysis of a soul-searching assembly meeting

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Ana Marjanovic-Shane


In this article, I attempt to conceptually analyze points of disagreement among the students of the first democratic high school in Norway, The Experimental Gymnasium of Oslo (EGO). The clashes and disagreements among the students started heating up immediately after the school was opened in the fall of 1967. As they were learning how to run their school, the students discovered profound differences in their views of education and its purposes. Their deep disagreements about the meaning of education and conflicts about their school practices almost broke up their school right at the very start of its existence.

Their different understandings of education erupted in a passionate and dramatic general assembly meeting, which they later referred to as the Soul-Searching Assembly. This four-and-a-half hour-long meeting was recorded and its transcript was published (Hem & Remlov, 1969). In this article, I analyze the dialogues from the assembly, looking for the students’ diverse ideological and conceptual positions, views, desires, and underlying values. The tensions and clashes the students voiced echo the profound paradigmatic differences in conceptualizing education throughout the modern history of education, from the Enlightenment until now, a few decades into the 21st century. The purpose of my analysis is to examine these paradigmatically different views and the concerns behind them. These radically different paradigmatic, conceptual, and axiological positions have an effect on what we may consider being good, ethical, just, and true for human existence, human relationships, and human rights in general, and especially in education. The EGO students’ intensive and urgent ontological need to explain their very different positions to each other allowed me to take a closer look into the tensions and conflicts still existing in the larger cultural-historical public sphere of discourse on education.

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How to Cite
Marjanovic-Shane, A. (2023). A paradigmatic dialogue-disagreement in a democratic school: A conceptual analysis of a soul-searching assembly meeting. Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal, 11(2), A217 - A244. https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2023.445
Author Biography

Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Independent Scholar, USA

Ana Marjanovic-Shane is an Independent Scholar interested in ethical ontological dialogism and meaning-making in education, democratic education, students’ academic freedoms, and students’ critical and creative authorship in self-education. Her articles in English and Serbian were published in various journals (e.g., Mind, Culture, Activity Journal, Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, Dialogic Pedagogy Journal) and as book chapters in books on play and education. Two recent publications include: Shugurova, O., Matusov, E., & Marjanovic-Shane, A. (2022). The University of Students: A place for joint self-education. Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal, 10, E1-E42; Marjanovic-Shane, A., Meacham, S., Choi, H. J., Lopez, S., & Matusov, E. (2019). Idea-dying in critical ontological pedagogical dialogue. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 20, 68-79, and a book: Matusov, E., A. Marjanovic-Shane & M. Gradovski, (2019). Dialogic pedagogy and polyphonic research art: Bakhtin by and for educators, Palgrave Macmillan. Ana lives and works in the USA.


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