Bell Hooks Teaching Critical Thinking

Bell Hooks Teaching Critical Thinking-71
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.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.

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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.

In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. My acquaintance with bell hooks comes from the book titled “Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom” published 20 years ago in 1994.

This is treatise of how to teach in an engaged manner, with connection to students’ minds as well as spirits.

Children are organically predisposed to be critical thinkers.

Across the boundaries of race, class, gender, and circumstance, children come into the world of wonder and language consumed with a desire for knowledge.One of the major things that makes my life meaningful at this particular moment is teaching and the chance to pass some knowledge and ways of thinking to my students.It is not self-esteem which I am gaining here, although I recognize that teaching is a mildly narcissistic activity which may inflate already oversize egos. For all aspiring intellectuals, thoughts are the laboratory where one goes to pose questions and find answers..The heartbeat of critical thinking is the longing to know — to understand how life works.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.Instead, there’s a continual cycle, a continual relearning, reapplying, remaking in new situations, as well as frequent forgetting and going back to first principles. And with writing, I quite enjoy periodically reading a new, good book about it, and using that as a way to push myself to think about things again but with a fresh mind, with a new slant, a new twist.And that, I think, is the value of this book – its meditations both illustrate hooks’ own experience of that cycle of reengagement and reflection and, with both their inviting vision and their staunch challenges, are inspiration and guidance for readers to do the same.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.

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