A student's right to freedom of education and a teacher's fiduciary obligation to support it A reply to the commentaries

Main Article Content

Eugene Matusov


I feel honored to receive so many deep, critical, supportive, expanding, and thought-provoking commentaries on my original paper “A student’s right to freedom of education” from undergraduate university students, educators, and educational researchers. These commentaries involve different genres: on-the-margin contextual comments, theoretical essays, ethnographies of their pedagogical practices, reflective sharing of good and bad personal educational experiences, personal authorial opinions, critiques, students’ course evaluations, analysis of science-fiction literature, investigation of Bakhtin’s biography, video replies, a list of questions, and so on. Once Socrates complained about the print text that it is impossible to ask the text new questions – the text won’t reply to these questions. In this special essay, we tried to overcome this problem by involving each other in address-reply commentaries on each other’s texts. We want to invite the readers of this special issue to join us in our dialogues of agreement and disagreement.

               In my reply to the commentaries, I want to focus on the issues raised by the commentators that most touched me. This focus is on the relationship between a student’s authorial education and a teacher’s authorial teaching, where “teacher” is understood on a range between an individual educator and the entire society. I want to apologize in advance if I left out important concerns that some of the commentators wanted me to address (feel free to raise it again on the margin) if I severely misinterpreted their idea or point (please correct me on the margin).

Here I focused on the following six major issues raised by the commentators. The first issue is raised by several undergraduate students from Canada, Russia, and South Korea about the possibility (and reality) of some students actively rejecting their freedom of education. Isn’t it a case for rejection of my call for a student’s right to freedom of education? The second issue raised by many commentators is about imaginary and real cases when foisted education is effective and even, arguably, more effective than student-owned education. Do these cases defeat my overall argument that student’s freedom of education is required by education itself? The third issue was introduced by my colleague and a proponent of self-directed learning Kevin Currie-Knight when he asked a deceptively simple question of what I mean by “student.” Usually, the role of a student is defined either by the institution or by the teacher, which implicitly goes against the spirit of my claim for a student’s right to freedom of education. The fourth issue eloquently raised by an Ecuadorian undergraduate exchange student, Juan Francisco Poveda, studying at the Kyung Hee University in Seoul, about whether education must be subordinated to the needs of the society. Fifth, I consider the relationship between the education-for-myself and the education-for-the-other, the new terms introduced by my Russian colleagues. My overall vista in considering this relationship is authorship: the student’s educational authorship or the teacher’s pedagogical authorship. In a disagreement with some commentators and in an agreement with some other commentators, I argue that the teacher’s pedagogical authorship must be subordinated to the student’s educational authorship through the teacher’s pedagogical fiduciary obligation. Finally, I will revisit the Kantian educational paternalism by considering the two, arguably, most powerful and extreme cases for foisted education: foisted education for the survival of the society and foisted education for a student’s agency awakening. In my conclusion, I will summarize the presented reasons for why a student’s freedom is needed for education and briefly discuss how to test my claims.

Article Details

How to Cite
Matusov, E. (2020). A student’s right to freedom of education and a teacher’s fiduciary obligation to support it: A reply to the commentaries. Dialogic Pedagogy: A Journal for Studies of Dialogic Education, 8, SF97-SF114. https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2020.357
Special Issue: Students’ Freedom of Education
Author Biography

Eugene Matusov, School of EducationUniversity of Delaware, Newark, DE, United States

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 recent books are: Matusov, E. (2017). Nikolai N. Konstantinov’s authorial math pedagogy for people with wings, Matusov, E. & Brobst, J. (2013). Radical experiment in dialogic pedagogy in higher education and its Centauric failure: Chronotopic analysis, and Matusov, E. (2009). Journey into dialogic pedagogy.


Bakhtin, M. M. (1991). The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M. M. Bakhtin (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Bettelheim, B. (1960). The informed heart: Autonomy in a mass age. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Biesta, G. (2010). Good education in an age of measurement: Ethics, politics, democracy. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Biesta, G. (2015). What is education for? On good education, teacher judgement, and educational professionalism. European Journal of education, 50(1), 75-87.

Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press.

DiAngelo, R. J. (2018). White fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism(pp. 1 online resource).

Freire, P. (1986). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Greenberg, D. (1991). Free at last: The Sudbury Valley School. Framingham, MA: Sudbury Valley School Press.

Kotek, J., & Rigoulot, P. (2000). Le siècle des camps: Détention, concentration, extermination, cent ans de mal radical [The century of the camps: Detention, concentration, extermination, one hundred years of radical evil]. Paris: Lattès.

Lave, J. (1992, April). Learning as participation in communities of practice. Presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Retrieved from http://www.udel.edu/educ/whitson/897s05/files/Lave92.htm

Matusov, E. (2011). Authorial teaching and learning. In E. J. White & M. Peters (Eds.), Bakhtinian pedagogy: Opportunities and challenges for research, policy and practice in education across the globe (pp. 21-46). New York: Peter Lang Publishers.

Matusov, E. (2020a). Envisioning education in a post-work leisure-based society: A dialogic perspective. New York: Palgrave.

Matusov, E. (2020b). Pattern-recognition, intersubjectivity, and dialogic meaning-making in education (Editorial). Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal, 8, E1-E24. doi:10.5195/dpj.2020.314

Matusov, E., Baker, D., Fan, Y., Choi, H. J., & Hampel, R. L. (2017). Magic Learning Pill: Ontological and instrumental learning in order to speed up education. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 51(3), 456–476. doi:10.1007/s12124-017-9384-8

Matusov, E., & Sullivan, P. (2020). Pedagogical violence. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 54(2), 438-464. doi:10.1007/s12124-019-09512-4

McLaren, P. (1993). Schooling as a ritual performance: Towards a political economy of educational symbols and gestures (2nd ed.). London ; New York: Routledge.

Neill, A. S. (1960). Summerhill: A radical approach to child rearing. New York: Hart Publishing Company.

Rietmulder, J. (2019). When kids rule the school: The power and promise of democratic education. Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers.

Rostotsky, S., & Polonsky, G. (1968). Доживем до понедельника [We'll live till Monday] [Movie]. Moscow: Gorky Film Studios.

Sánta, F. (1986). The fifth seal: A novel (A. Tezla, Trans.). Budapest: Corvina.