Teacher as a benevolent dictator: Promoting a culture of democratic dialogic education in a conventional university

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Eugene Matusov


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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How to Cite
Matusov, E. (2023). Teacher as a benevolent dictator: Promoting a culture of democratic dialogic education in a conventional university. Dialogic Pedagogy: A Journal for Studies of Dialogic Education, 11(2), A245 - A260. https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2023.331
Author Biography

Eugene Matusov, University of Delaware, USA

Eugene Matusov is a Professor of Education at the University of Delaware. He studied developmental psychology with Soviet researchers working in the Vygotskian paradigm and worked as a schoolteacher before immigrating to the United States. He uses sociocultural and Bakhtinian dialogic approaches to education. His current research and practice focus is on Democratic Dialogic Education. His recent books are: Matusov, E. (2020), "Envisioning education in a post-work leisure-based society: A dialogic perspective." Matusov, E., Marjanovic-Shane, A., & Gradovski, M. (2019), "Dialogic pedagogy and polyphonic research art: Bakhtin by and for educators."


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