Victor Papanek dedicated his book, Design for the Real World, to all his students, thanking them for what they had taught him. He might have been thinking of both his American students and the Scandinavian students he met at summer schools and lectures at Nordic architecture and design schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The latter students taught him lessons in design activism, user involvement and collaboration that showed new methods for industrial design so that it would stop being the most ‘harmful profession’ – alongside advertising – by speeding up global consumption and waste, social inequality, and pollution. He lectured in Denmark several times from 1969 on and moved to Copenhagen as a guest professor for one year in 1972/1973, so he both inspired and experienced the student protests and reform processes at the Danish schools of architecture and design during the most turbulent years. Some of his ideas on design education were published in Danish as well, and this makes it interesting to compare these ideas with the events, debates and reforms at the Danish schools. The protests and reforms in Denmark were part of the international developments of student rebellion, youth movements and political activism. What makes this case interesting from an international perspective is a radical use of direct democracy at the schools involving students, teachers and principals and the introduction of open student admission at the Royal Academy School of Architecture. Papanek’s stay in Denmark gave him a rather different view of the Danish students and their involvement through direct democracy, and he expressed deep disappointment with the students in 1973. The historical investigation of student activism, design critique and educational reforms around 1970 is an important reminder of an engaged criticism – which is much needed again – but also of many unfortunate experiences with educational experiments that we don’t have to repeat.