Bell Hooks Teaching Critical Thinking

Bell Hooks Teaching Critical Thinking-43
If you view education from this angle and see transformation, personal, professional and otherwise, then bell hooks is for you to read for education to inspire.

If you view education from this angle and see transformation, personal, professional and otherwise, then bell hooks is for you to read for education to inspire. New York: Routledge, 2010.] This is the third book about teaching and pedagogy by African-American feminist (and prolific writer on diverse topics) bell hooks.

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Her prose is very clear and she deploys it in a way that constructs an inviting vision of what that calls all to take part and build that vision.

It’s easy for me as someone with white and masculine privilege who at the level of explicit propositions identifies with that vision to momentarily lose sight of what I’m sure she never does: our respective places in relation to why that vision isn’t and to how it might be differs profoundly.

A reasonable response to that, however, is that seeing worthwhile intellectual work as only being about linear progression in the direction of the never-said-before, never-heard-before favours a relationship to knowledge that evaluates it primarily in relation to other texts rather than in relation to lives, and misunderstands how we actually relate in practice to hard critical insights about the world. Once you’ve read a couple of good ones, the amount of truly new insight you’ll find is subsequent good ones that you read will be incremental rather than exponential.

Yet in writing, as in practices of critical pedagogy, reading a piece of wisdom once does not mean that immediately and automatically informs our embodied practices forever after. That’s how enacting critical politics at the level of the everyday works.

The book is organized into 32 short divisions that hooks labels not “chapters” but “teachings.” I think it would also be fair to describe them as “meditations.” Each one responds to a question she has been asked about teaching over the years, but they are written to be of general relevance, and also to provide diverse entry points into hooks’ overall project of cultivating, in self and others, a critical, self-determining practice of engaging the world in the service of challenging what she often calls ‘dominator culture.’ The topics of the teachings range from the legacy of feminist challenge in the academy to the particular difficulties faced by Black women in classrooms to the joy of reading to sexuality to collaboration to emotion the classroom.

Reading hooks is always a delight and a challenge, though a welcome one.

My major satisfaction comes from the consciousness that I have the opportunity and hopefully the capacity to touch someone’s life early on to an extent that would allow transformation, personal and professional, mostly via showing the new ways of looking and thinking about reality, about the mundane, about the obvious.

Rendering the mundane exotic is perhaps key in education.

Her earlier two books on this topic made significant contributions to critical, anti-racist, feminist pedagogy.

This is a somewhat different book – it has been awhile since I last looked at the earlier two, so I may be misrepresenting the difference a bit, but I’m pretty sure it’s fair to say that rather than an effort to open up significant new territory and propose innovative ideas like , this one is more a tool for stimulating the inevitable cycle of reflection and action that is part of making any critical understanding material rather than abstract.

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