Reading bell hooks.

‘Teaching to Transgress’

‘Teaching to Transgress’ is as fresh and powerful in 2021 as when it was first published in 1994. Its messages about teaching as discovery, resistance and liberation are as vital today as ever.

Reading bell hooks is like having a fascinating conversation with your best teacher – with the kind of teacher all teachers should aim to be.

This is the teacher who acknowledges you, knows you, loves you, values your experience and your identity, respects you and understands where you’re coming from. The teacher who stands alongside you in your struggle and learns as you learn, who gives of themselves, drawing on their own story and hearing yours. The teacher who helps you connect to something wider; something you don’t yet know.

A teacher who doesn’t have all the answers but gives you the confidence that they are worth searching for. A teacher who expects a lot from you, shows you how to think critically about yourself, your circumstances and the wider world. A teacher who encourages you to question, disagree, argue and resist. A teacher who values intellectual activity, who knows that learning is full of joy and who wants that for everyone.

A teacher who shows you how the ‘other’, the ‘abstract’ and the ‘theoretical’ are connected to your experience, who helps you understand how power operates and how to expose and confront injustices and oppression, whether systemic or individual.

A teacher whose committed and rigorous pedagogy cannot easily be labelled ‘progressive’ or ‘traditional’. A teacher who sees the classroom as a place of possibility and transformation; safe for everyone without being uncommitted or unchallenging. A space where equality, democracy and solidarity can be practised and built.

We often say we are ‘passionate’ about our work when we really mean ‘interested’, ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘committed’. This kind of routine hyperbole puts the meaning of the word at risk, and as ‘passion’ creeps into job adverts and job descriptions it becomes the new baseline term for simply ‘doing a good job’.

Reading bell hooks reminds us what it really means to be a ‘passionate’ teacher, and in ‘Teaching to Transgress’ we find the case brilliantly made; not for a generalised enthusiasm, but for a thought-through, focused and specific passion for what teaching can be.

This is the description of the ‘passionate’ teacher we would all want to know or to be.

We were reading ‘Teaching to Transgress’ by bell hooks for the March meeting of the Philosophy of Education reading network. For details of future reading and meetings see @PhilofEd on Twitter.

See also:

Freire for today (March 2021)

Gramsci’s grammar and Dewey’s dialectic (December 2014)

Seven ways to avoid a Frankenstein education. (February 2021)

About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
This entry was posted in Education, Philosophy, Reviews, Teaching and learning and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Reading bell hooks.

  1. Tim Brighouse says:

    EddieI have just read this…it is terrificAm writing a book with a colleague and one of the chapters is going to be about teachers and teaching….cold I use iut with proper acknowledgement of course as an end to the chapter??Hope you are well…Tim

    Liked by 1 person

  2. karlaveens says:

    I was lucky enough to discover bell hooks last year. Currently reading The Will to Change and I have read All About Love. I find her books are so engaging, thought provoking and when reading them I really feel like I am reading a conversation between friends. I love what you wrote about Teaching to Transgress.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Tim Brighouse says:

    Dear Eddie I hope you are well and enjoying life. I am writing a book with Mick Waters and we want to use your Bel Hooks blog which is beautiful. We shall of course attribute it properly. Is that all right with you? Kindest regards Tim


  4. Tim Brighouse says:

    Dear Eddie I am being pestered by the publisher which explains my following this up so quickly. Is it OK to use the blog suitably acknowledged? Tim


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s