‘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.
Freire for today (March 2021)
Gramsci’s grammar and Dewey’s dialectic (December 2014)
Seven ways to avoid a Frankenstein education. (February 2021)