The aim of this paper is to critique the individualistic ontological premises of ‘self-directed learning’, as it has been developed in humanist education literature in the tradition of Carl Rogers. The authors suggest instead that social-transformative education and its critical social ontology serve the emancipatory promise of education better while offering the possibility to tackle the collective challenges of our time. Beginning with an analysis of Rogers’ concepts of Self, Knowledge and Society, the authors aim to show that self-directed learning fails to live up to its emancipatory promise. Instead, the paper picks up and develops on a debate in the early SDL literature between Rogers and Paulo Freire, suggesting that Freire’s ontological premises are incompatible with those of Rogers, yet better prepare students to identify and face social problems. The authors further develop this point through the cultural-historical analysis of speech of Lev Vygotsky, cementing a social understanding of the Self as the foundation of social-transformative education. The paper concludes on the implications of this analysis for educational practice.
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© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.