Read Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks Free Online
Book Title: Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom|
The author of the book: bell hooks
ISBN 13: No data
Date of issue: March 18th 2014
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Format files: PDF
The size of the: 23.49 MB
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Teaching to Transgress is probably a book every person in a putative position of authority should read – not just teachers, but parents, coaches, community leaders etc. It’s accessible, passionate, quick to read, and offers a refreshing conception of education as something that’s not politically neutral and shouldn’t be about just gaining marketable skills to get a job. I loved hooks’ distinction between the feminist classroom and the Women’s Studies classroom, her approach that calls for equalizing (neutralizing?) power relations between student and teacher, and her rejection of the banking approach to learning. These ideas weren’t new to me, but I appreciate how straightforwardly they were presented, and I'm glad I've read it.
Where hooks somewhat lost me was in some of her expectations and methods, particularly around her desire to erase the separation between public and private and to always bring the body into the classroom. There’s surely some very legitimate criticism about people who claim to hold certain political positions but don’t actually put them into practice on a daily basis, which is something I and everyone I know struggle with. But hooks isn’t only writing about being politically consistent; she’s calling for the annihilation of personal boundaries in order to attain some kind of “self-actualization” and heal what she perceives to be the “mind/body/spirit” split of the "wounded educator." Early in the book she states that she expects her students to take the risk of “confessing” personal narratives to their classmates in order to stay registered in her courses, but doesn't acknowledge the danger of recounting sensitive, potentially traumatic details when there’s no guarantee that they'll be received well or even stay within the walls of the classroom. This anxiety and pain is necessary, according to hooks, in order to heal and to learn. Perhaps I’m too jaded and suspicious of the purity of others’ intentions but I’d never willingly put myself in a situation that could have direct and long-lasting negative effects on my psychological or even physical wellbeing, yet hooks doesn’t allow for principled opposition to that kind of mandatory disclosure; I'd be a "resisting" student to her.
My other major cause for pause is with how hooks suggests teachers execute this approach to teaching, insofar as she assumes visibility is something that’s always desirable. I can see how this could be true in many, perhaps even most cases, and it’s something I try to keep an eye on in my own teaching, but I’m unconvinced that it’s a uniformly good thing. I mean this with respect to power dynamics, but also more plainly. To take an example from my own education, the best experience of my entire undergraduate degree was a course on the philosophy of science taught by a man who was obsessed with Plato’s cave allegory and Eric Voegelin, and as disdainful of absolutist empiricism as he was of postmodern relativism. Twice a week, first thing in the morning, he lectured for the full 75 minutes and never deliberately encouraged student participation. hooks would, I suspect, consider this a travesty – and yet I learned more about myself sitting there and listening to someone who I’m sure would be horrified by my politics but who made epistemology and ontology utterly fascinating. Because I know he wouldn’t call on me, because I knew he didn’t even know my name until the end of the first term, I was able to sit there and absorb, reflect on, assess and critique everything he said on my own terms and without feeling visible.
Now, I’m perfectly willing to admit that a lot of these criticisms are about individual learning preferences and my own solitary nature, and maybe my issues are ultimately more about personal style than political positions. Still, I don't think visibility is an unmitigated good, nor can I imagine a situation where it would be appropriate for a student to start to dance with me to apologize for coming in late (“I remember the day he came to class late and came right up to the front, picked me up and whirled me around. The class laughed. I called him ‘fool’ and laughed. It was by way of apologizing for being late, for missing any moment of classroom passion. And so he brought his own moment. I, too, love to dance. And so we danced our way into the future as comrades and friends bound by all we had learned.”). I’ll heed hooks’ own advice to take the good and leave it at that.
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