Surprise in Schools: Martin Buber and dialogic schooling (FORUM 1)

Author: JULIAN STERN

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Publication date: March 1, 2013

JULIAN STERN

The philosopher Martin Buber described the central role of surprise in education. Surprise is not an alternative to planning and order in schools, and it is not even an alternative to repetitive practice. It is, instead, that which must be allowed to occur in any dialogic encounter. Schooling that is creative and filled with hope will also be surprising; schooling that is wholly predetermined, certain, and perfect (at least in its own eyes), will be unsurprising – and also uneducational. Darwinian theories of evolution by natural selection are similar to communitarian anarchist challenges to political wishes for precise, centralised, planning. And the necessity of genetic mutation alongside largely repetitive copying, in such theories, provides a model for the necessity of surprise even alongside repetitive, transmissive, and copied work in schools. Surprise overcomes the potential of schools to be soulless institutions. It is promoted here as a defining characteristic of truly educational, dialogic schooling.

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