Some of the major themes are touched upon in the book, including the issues teacher-student relationship, teaching feminism, the philosophy of Paulo Freire.The key premise of the book is that we need to liberate the students’ minds from all types of oppression levied upon it: There are a lot of videos and podcasts of bell hooks, including those she delivered in New School in New York.
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.
But learning is a place where paradise can be created.
The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility.
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.
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.
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.