Freedom, dialogue, and education in a democratic school

Main Article Content

Jim Rietmulder
Ana Marjanovic-Shane


This article is based on two interviews between Jim Rietmulder, the founder and lead staff at The Circle School (in Harrisburg, PA), and Ana Marjanovic-Shane, an Independent Scholar and a Co-Editor of this Special Issue. We discuss and examine the daily practice and the philosophical approach of a particular democratic school as we discuss democratic education in general. The main purpose of these interviews has been to introduce democratic education and explore the place for dialogic pedagogy in a democratic school, where the students are free to choose what to study, when to study, in what ways they want to study, with whom they want to study, etc. What happens to dialogic pedagogy if the students are not engaged around the same topics together? The question is whether the students’ legitimate status of free persons with equal rights of opinion and decision-making also creates opportunities and conditions for the students to engage in the critical dialogic examinations of the world, of their life and learning, and of their desires, motivations, and values.

Article Details

How to Cite
Rietmulder, J., & Marjanovic-Shane, A. (2023). Freedom, dialogue, and education in a democratic school. Dialogic Pedagogy: A Journal for Studies of Dialogic Education, 11(2), A21-A48.
Author Biographies

Jim Rietmulder, The Circle School, USA

Jim Rietmulder is a founder (1984) and current staff member at The Circle School, a pioneering democratic school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the author of When Kids Rule the School: The Power and Promise of Democratic Education. At The Circle School, students practice freedom and responsibility in a scaled-down version of the larger world, becoming experts at life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Among other things, Jim tutors students to take college entrance exams, plays mixed-age soccer at every opportunity, and anchors a daily Critical Thinking Discussion Group. Prior to, and overlapping with, The Circle School’s early years, Jim was a history magazine editor, software developer, and management consultant.

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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