A Buberian Critique of Three Literacy Learning Classrooms

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Noting that school activities, in general, are judged by the extent to which they achieve their academically defined goals, this paper contends that schools serve another purpose, a social one. Arguing that schools should help children learn social responsibility and prosocial behavior and attitudes, the paper provides a rationale for, and a perspective from which, school activities may be viewed according to a social orientation. The paper uses the work of 20th century philosopher Martin Buber as the basis of this rationale and perspective. Drawing upon the Buberian perspective, the paper describes three literacy learning classrooms, representing three different pedagogical orientations to literacy learning: (1) a traditional-eclectic literacy learning approach, (2) a mastery learning approach, and (3) an open-informal approach to learning to read and write. The paper describes specific settings and events from each classroom in terms of Buber's notion of community building.