Most of the education that we know of today is not education as “the practice of freedom.” According to Bell Hooks, educating as a “practice of freedom” is a form of teaching and consequent learning that is engaging and exciting for both teachers and students alike. In this “practice of freedom,” both parties are equal “players in contributing and sharing in the learning experience. Students are not just taught information that they are expected to commit to memory and recall when asked; rather they learn to think critically in a non-conformist, unconfined way. Teachers who educate as a “practice of freedom” teach “not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of students” (13).
When students are taught in this “liberatory” manner, the lessons they learn carry over into their lives outside of the classroom as well. Hooks recalls that in her younger years, before racial integration, her teachers made it their goal and “worked with and for us to ensure that we would fulfill our intellectual destiny…” (2). To do so, the teachers made personal connections to their pupils by getting to know each of them and their families. During that time, Hooks describes school as the place where she was able to “reinvent” herself without having to “conform to someone else’s image (3).
After racial integration, education became about knowledge of facts alone. The information that one learned had no bearing on how lived and behaved (3). This mode of education is similar to what Nick Sousanis portrayed in Unflattening. When students are not actively involved, and schooling just becomes memorization of information, life can become lose meaning and uniqueness. In order to learn properly, students must be interested and involved in what they are learning. When students are engaged and participate in the learning process, they apply what they learn to their lives.
Hooks’ vision of education is most certainly correct. We are born with an insatiable thirst to constantly learn and grow, to be changed by ideas. We are born curious and we are excited when we discover new things and concepts. Somehow, somewhere in grade school learning becomes boring, uncool and unexciting. If we start our lives with a natural love of learning and a pleasurable endeavor and somewhere in the course of our youths lose this drive, something must be wrong with the way we are educating. As Hooks writes, educators must view it as their personal mission to keep this natural inclination alive and to nurture and help students grow with it.
One issue with Hooks’ ideology of how teaching should be, is that it may not be very practical. Educating in this manner requires that both students and educators be involved and engaged in the process. As Hooks herself writes, very often this “give-and-take” is not present in the classroom and therefore hampers this kind of educational experience.
- Hooks writes that a crisis in eduation is that “students often do not want to learn and teachers do not want to teach.” Why is tha? Has it always been this way for the majority of students?
2) How can “transgressing” the educational boundaries become less scary? What will make students more open to this method?
Hooks, Bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.
Sousanis, Nick. Unflattening. Harvard UP, 2015. Print.