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Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  2,777 ratings  ·  159 reviews
bell hooks, one of America's leading black intellectuals, shares her philosophy of the classroom, offering ideas about teaching that fundamentally rethink democratic participation.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 12th 1994 by Routledge (first published 1994)
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Teaching to Transgress is probably a book every person in a putative position of authority should read – not just teachers, but parents, coaches, community leaders etc. It’s accessible, passionate, quick to read, and offers a refreshing conception of education as something that’s not politically neutral and shouldn’t be about gaining marketable skills to get a job. I loved hooks’ distinction between the feminist classroom and the Women’s Studies classroom, her approach that calls for equalizing ...more
May 14, 2008 Megan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all folks in higher ed, especially those who teach
"The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. 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. This is education as the practice of freedom."
Though this is an important book for teachers to consider, I found myself somewhat disappointed. hooks definition of transgressive teaching, and critical pedagogy for that matter, are just too different from mine. Her critical work seems more what Alastair Pennycook calls "emancipatory modernism," which comes dangerously close to the missionary mindset so often criticized by critical pedagogues. I have nothing against hooks pedagogy, but my goal as a critical scholar is to question the systems o ...more
Meagen Farrell
This book renewed my passion for teaching, especially in light of the constant rhetoric of adult education existing to create an efficient economic pipeline. It reminded me at a critical time that I am not the only one who believes education of marginalized people can--and should--be something more. I found that hooks had articulated many things I felt & experienced but could not name, which proves her point about the power of theory. Chapter 3 in particular is critical reading for anyone te ...more
An important book for teachers concerned about the impact (anti-oppression or the opposite) of our teaching. Very dense so I will just share one idea that I take away:

I've tended to think about anti-oppression education in terms of the content that the teacher presents and that the class learns. hooks argues that *how* you teach and the dynamics of the educational space you (help) create are just as important as content in creating a classroom where education can be...well, freedom.
Not often that an academic work will make me cry, but this did. Powerful and polemic and relentlessly hopeful, this is a book that looks toward the future and seeks to change the reality of academia. hooks addresses, in a series of linked essays, various issues relating to her own experiences in academia as both a student and a teacher, as a black woman from a working class background.

It talks about language, the mind-body in teaching, about the problems of racist, patriarchal systems that lurk
I have no plans to be in a classroom any time soon. But reading this kind of made me want to get back to being in more of an intentional, specific learning environment.

borrowed from Emilys. I am feeling out the space where i can get situated in better understanding feminism and the anti racist work I can do as a feminist who is white. The chapter on essentialism and experience delineated baggage from my academia past. She says, "..While I, too, critique the use of essentialism and identity poli
The idea of education as a powerful means of social change is one I've been thinking about a lot lately. In my own thoughts I tend to focus on methods of teaching outside of a classroom setting, since my role in academia is that of a student and a tutor, as opposed to a professional teacher. I don't believe that my lack of experience teaching in a classroom prevents me from being a potential source of change, though. I would like to think that everyone has the potential to teach others, and that ...more
Courtney Stoker
I reread this book every summer to revitalize myself as a teacher. hooks gives both theoretical and practical approaches to help you make your classroom a site of liberatory education. A lot of pedagogical theory seeks to create a controlled classroom, and this is the pedagogy students often expect. They expect teachers to want them to be quiet, passive, and controlled, to talk about subjects without emotion and without referring to personal experience. They expect 1-way education, in which teac ...more
Sometimes you read a book that manages somehow to articulate intuitions you've always had. And sometimes that book goes a step further, and challenges your view of the world or your understanding of your place in it. Three things in particular I will take from this book: (1) education as the practice of freedom is actually education as a process of self-actualization,(2) coming to critical awareness can be a painful process; there is always conflict in spaces of unlearning, and (3) with critical ...more
Wiktor Kostrzewski
Overview: bell hooks writes about her true passions in this bold, honest book: learning and liberating. Written well before the 21st-century EdTech boom, this book advises every teacher, learner, coach and reader to return to the basics. Through engaged and fair dialogue, critical questioning, and recognising own voices, privileges, experiences and limitations, bell hooks paints a picture of a classroom where education can transgress, evolve and transform those who learn and those who teach.

Nov 03, 2007 Dee rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: critical thinkers
I was constantly pumping my fist in the air and shouting in reverence as I read this book. She makes the art of teaching so appealing in her descriptions of the potential liberatory effects on students' minds. Beautiful. She also so eloquently and poignantly critiques current scholars (along with the US culture in general) and our so deeply ingrained racism and sexism (and other isms) even among people who consider ourselves "progressive" and "feminist."
This was a tough but refreshing read. While reading it, I keep having this "What would bell hooks do?" dialogue in my head when interacting with students and classes this past week. hooks disrupts academia in her writing-- conversation with herself, conversation with other professor to share her views on teaching towards freedom. I love how human she is. How she can talk about the class that kept her up at night or her own human response to another student by acknowledging what role the body pla ...more
kathryn robinson
Pure brilliance! This was my first Hooks book. The subtitle Education as the Practice of Freedom says it all...
Sivananthi T
I liked the premise that education is the place to teach the exercise of freedom, of exploration, of transgressing current trends. And definitely wish that more university classrooms actually practised that - teaching critics thinking. However, the macro-trends of privatisation of education, and the re-purposing of educational institutes and universities to create 'skilled labour force' and only that, have hampered the development of academic thought and freedom. This topic is not at all mention ...more
Summary: To me, this is a book about the intersection between education and social justice. More specifically, hooks explores how teachers can change their pedagogical practice to enlighten and empower their students, combating racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression.

I definitely enjoyed this collection of essays on pedagogy by bell hooks. A lot of the ideas in the book were concepts that I struggled for a long time to understand and/or accept. While hooks' book was hardly the ca
Althea J.
This book gets all the stars.

If you're frustrated with the world and actually want to do something about it, something revolutionary, affect actual change... TEACH.

bell hooks speaks of the need to spark excitement for learning. She cites the liberation of minds as one of the key functions of education. She calls the classroom a radical space of possibility, and in Teaching to Transgress, she explains how teaching is a means of enacting progressive values of diversity, inclusion, and multicultura
I have been dedicated to feminist, liberatory pedagogy since I began to teach, but admittedly I never read much about it, its development, its history, and how it used by others. My own feminist praxis informed my teaching and my commitment to create an environment which was non-hierarchal, which elevated the voices of the subjugated, and which created communities of love, respect, and critical inquiry. Going to hooks at this moment in my career was motivated by a desire to deepen that commitmen ...more

Education is the key to freedom. Education should be that way for everyone has the right to learn and grow at their own pace. In the book called Teaching to Transgress by Bell Hooks, the theory of education is brought out through the use of practical thinking and self-actualization.
The author also breaks down education in the way that everyone deserves it. She also describes how the white race (mainly female) feels more privileged in the way that they can receive a better education than others
Jan 20, 2008 caroline rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to teach
Shelves: on-education
this tiny book is full of hardcore radical/progressive teaching philosophies! it's awesome. bell hooks rocks. she discusses ways we can transgress racial, class, and gender boundaries-- focusing on tensions that not only students but also teachers experience. she writes very straightforwardly and passionately. her tone & style are conversational at times, which i liked. she also weaves in lots of interesting anecdotes from her experiences in the academy as a feminist, african-american educat ...more
Liz Murray
I don't know why it took me so long to get to this book but it certainly came to me at a critical time. I'm back teaching after a few years off and this book is an essential read for all educators. Another reviewer mentioned she rereads this every summer and I can easily see this being a yearly read for me. Some lines that really stood out, among so many gems of wisdom it has to be said, is on pg 32: "Some folks think that everyone who supports cultural diversity wants to replace one dictatorshi ...more
bell hooks presents ways that a classroom can be radical, ways that learning can transform. There are no specific activities mapped, but that is the challenge of a radical classroom. You look at how hierachy has been established, then you pull readings (of which she mentions many) and plan discussions to actively engage students. We have to believe students are our next group of thinkers, that even if they don't have some sort of "eureka" moment in our classroom, we are helping them build a repe ...more
Feb 08, 2008 Chary rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Inner city teachers, administration, families, and the curious.
I am a teacher who is "pro-kid," meaning I am about empowering students rather than babying them, scaffolding their intellect with life lessons and social awareness. The walls of arrested development need to be broken by good rolemodels: wholesome families and honest and passionate teachers. Proactive, not reactive teaching from all sides of the child is the answer; at times the two are mixed up through cultural upbringing and lack of understanding of "the other side" of the desk. Learning is be ...more
In Teaching to Transgress (1994), bell hooks offers her thoughts on an engaged pedagogy that transgresses the assembly line model of education (13) where excitement is seen as disruptive (7). For hooks, pedagogy should be full-bodied and about self-actualization, engaging students as whole beings instead of compartmentalizing them (15). She also offers her thoughts on theory and practice, calling it a "false dichotomy" (65), and claiming that the "contempt and disregard for theory undermines col ...more
This book articulately affirms what we should really be doing as teachers at all levels by focusing on her own practice and continuing to remind the reader that teaching is political, not ever neutral even if it tries to be. This book is also about the issues she dealt with as an academic in fighting to make feminism deal with race and class in a real way. She also pushes her students to criticality which requires them to examine themselves and share their personal experience in relation to the ...more
Breno Filo
Uma leitura necessária e acessível para a comunidade escolar como um todo. Bell trata com muita proximidade às suas experiências pessoais as diversas transições que o ensino - enquanto troca de saberes e experiências - sofreu em nosso tempo, e as consequentes problematizações entre as complexidades de gênero, raciais, linguísticas, sociais, corpóreas e epistemológicas que tais mudanças acarretaram.

Meu desejo de lecionar foi alimentado com uma força sem precedentes.
Erin Reilly-Sanders
I really enjoyed this required read for class. As a series of essays, each chapter hits a slightly different area of multiculturalism although there are many pleasant overlaps. What I like best is that it feels like hooks is talking directly to you. So many books seem to aim right over my head but her words are clear and understandable. Her voice also feels honest, and a part of a real human being that connects to these issues on personal levels rather than just cognitively or even worse, disemb ...more
Melissa Mcdonald
Dec 06, 2012 Melissa Mcdonald marked it as to-read
Shelves: gender
hooks declares that education today is failing students by refusing to acknowledge their particular histories. Criticizing the teaching establishment for employing an over-factualized knowledge to deny and suppress diversity, hooks accuses colleagues of using "the classroom to enact rituals of control that were about domination and the unjust exercise of power." Far from a castigation of her field, however, Teaching to Transgress is full of hope and excitement for the possibility of education to ...more
Well bell, I wish you'd approach high school teaching more. Boundaries are always transgressed-- tell us how to deal with it there.
Rather than a set of instructions, the book is a series of anecdotes tied together by hooks' beliefs about engaged pedagogy.
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bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) is an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in ...more
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“There are times when personal experience keeps us from reaching the mountain top and so we let it go because the weight of it is too heavy. And sometimes the mountain top is difficult to reach with all our resources, factual and confessional, so we are just there, collectively grasping, feeling the limitations of knowledge, longing together, yearning for a way to reach that highest point. Even this yearning is a way to know.” 62 likes
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