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This essay provides a grounded critical discussion of why a professor might limit their undergraduate students’ sovereignty of educational decision-making to promote an opportunity for a democratic dialogic culture in the class situated in a conventional university. On the one hand, both democracy and dialogue require voluntary participation by the students in their education and dialogue and their sovereignty over collective decision-making and educational reasoning. On the other hand, this participation is based on the students’ socialization in a special culture which might often be at odds with their sovereignty. It is difficult for many students to freely choose democracy and dialogue in education when they are embedded in a conventional educational institution based on Kantian educational paternalism and foisted education. Also, the students are often culturally unfamiliar with such concepts as “democracy,” “dialogue,” and “self-education,” let alone their practical implications. To address these contradictions, I introduce the notion of the “teacher as a benevolent dictator.” I discuss, problematize, and analyze the forms of this benevolent dictatorship, its potential pitfalls, and promises.
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