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Self Managed Learning: a hybrid of Progressive and Democratic Education

Eugene Matusov (School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 22 September 2023

Issue publication date: 2 November 2023




The book has generated a passionate dialogue-disagreement (mostly but not entirely) with the book. Dialogue-disagreement is based on challenges, disagreements and rebuttals between opponents, often belonging to different, even irreconcilable, paradigms. The goal of dialogue-disagreement is not so much to convince the opponent to change their mind but rather to critically examine and problematize the two involved paradigms: the authors’ and the reviewer’s. By taking the generated challenges and disagreements seriously, both irreconcilable paradigms can grow through their replies. Dialogue-disagreement gives the participants–opponents the gift of revealing their own paradigmatic blind spots, which are often invisible from within their paradigms. Dialogue-disagreement is exploratory and based on an agnostic relationship between frenemies, i.e. “friendly enemies.”


This is a critical book review essay of Self Managed Learning and the New Educational Paradigm (Cunningham, 2021).


The reviewer views Ian Cunningham’s Self Managed Learning educational paradigm as a hybrid of Progressive and Democratic Education, while the reviewer sees his/her Self-Education paradigm as entirely Democratic (and Dialogic). Elsewhere, the reviewer discussed and critically analyzed the Progressive Education paradigm, which generally involves channeling the student’s learning activism and subjectivity toward learning outcomes desired by an educator. It uses the educator’s manipulation of the student’s subjectivity to make them study what the educator wants them to study. In contrast, the paradigm of Democratic Education assumes that the educatee is the final authority of their own education. The educatee decides whether to study, when to study, what to study, how to study, with whom to study, where to study, for what purpose to study and so on. The educatee makes these decisions by themselves or with the help of other people at the educatee’s discretion and conditions. The reviewer charges that Ian’s Self Managed Learning paradigm is a hybrid of both paradigms, with the Progressive Education paradigm taking the lead and exploiting the Democratic Education paradigm.


The book presented a unique, innovative practice worth a critical analysis. The reviewer’s dialogue-disagreement with the book reveals a particular hybrid of Progressive and Democratic Education which is common to some innovative self-directed learning.



The reviewer wants to thank Ana MS, Tina Kullenberg and Abram De Bruyn for providing their feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript.


Matusov, E. (2023), "Self Managed Learning: a hybrid of Progressive and Democratic Education", On the Horizon, Vol. 31 No. 3/4, pp. 196-205.



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