‘Education is one of the most valuable gifts a parent can give to their child’, people say, who do we thank for this valuable gift? In this essay, I will be speaking about one person in particular who has contributed greatly to education and has helped shape educational practices in past years. The key figure in critical and creative thinking that I have chosen to speak about is Bell Hooks. Hooks is a very renowned professor, author, and writer. Bell Hooks was an American author, feminist and social activist. Bell Hooks has published over 30 books and has appeared in documentary films. She has addressed many issues in these books such as race, class, gender, and importantly education which she has a profound effect on. Through Hook's effect on education, she focused on certain key concepts for example critical pedagogy and empowerment which will be discussed in this essay.
The first key concept from Bell Hooks that will be discussed is Critical pedagogy. “What is critical pedagogy”? one might ask. Critical pedagogy is a philosophy that “applies the tenets of critical social theory to the educational arena and takes on the task of examining how schools reproduce inequality and injustice” (W. Ian O’ Byrne, 2019). It is evident from Bell Hook's research that she speaks about interactions between teachers and students in a learning environment for example the classroom, she speaks about this through critical pedagogy. From examining the finding it is clear that Hooks observed the “overwhelming boredom, disinterest, and apathy that so often characterize the way professors and students feel about the teaching and learning experience” (Florence, 2019). This teacher and student learning experience can become extremely repetitive. The way students are taught in schools is not a sustainable way of learning. It is not interesting it is exceptionally mundane. The way students are taught in schools is through notes and textbooks. Students are taught to learn pages and pages of notes to be able to say information from the top of their heads but not actually process this information they are learning. Therefore the work becomes awfully tedious for both the students and the teachers, this puts a strain on the teaching and learning experience for both the students and the teachers. This results in there being no interest from the students in their work, and the teachers being frustrated with the students for not having an interest and participating in the class and voicing their opinion.
Throughout Bell Hook's career, she has taught in many schools. Hooks has taught in both privileged and disadvantaged schools. She learned many different things from teaching in such diverse schools. When Hooks was teaching in the more privileged schools the students there had a sense of entitlement. These students had better facilities, and better opportunities overall. This was compared to when Hook taught in the schools of a disadvantaged area. Hooks students from disadvantaged backgrounds had many more responsibilities in comparison to the students from the more privileged schools, for example, they had children, jobs, and other responsibilities that molded their expectations of the future. “The issue is students from Harlem were any less brilliant, the issue is that they exist in a reality where the education system only deemed to provide them with the basic “tools” to get a job than to enhance their lives in a more profound way” (The other sociologist, 2019). It can be argued that the students who are more privileged take their education for granted compared to the students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is also generally agreed that students that go to a privileged school, attend a better university after school and therefore get a better job after it for example a doctor, and then have a better standard of living, compared to a person from a disadvantaged area. The person who was in the disadvantaged school is only set up to get a job after school and might not ever get the opportunity to a third-level education, as shown from Bell Hook's research. “Hook notes that critical thinking can enhance not just these students whose choices are constrained. Critical thinking is just as important for them as it is for both the middle and upper-class people who are materially privileged but, who are experiencing a personal crisis. Critical thinking is about knowing the language and frames of reference to examine one’s life in-depth as well as the world around us, so we can ask questions about the things we take for granted” (The other sociologist, 2019).
The second concept that will be discussed is the idea of empowerment. “Empowerment: the act or action of empowering someone or something: the granting of the power, right or authority to perform various acts or duties” (Merriam-webster.com, 2019). It’s clear that Bell Hooks is a strong feminist and social activist. From a young age Hooks was a feminist and strongly believed in women’s rights and equality. “Hooks found that historically women of color often found themselves in a double-bind” (ThoughtCo, 2019). Bell Hook's main aim was to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression which still occurs around the world to this day. Hooks discusses the role men play in feminism. Hooks does this by discussing patriarchy. “Males as a group have and do benefit the most from patriarchy, from the assumption that they are superior to females and should rule over us” (Pluto Press, 2019). The concept of patriarchy still exists to this day it has not died out. Years ago it was tradition that men were the head of the house, every decision made would go through the man. The man of the house would go out to work to earn and the women would stay at home to mind the children, cook and clean. It has taken many years of women fighting for equality for these roles to change, for it to be acceptable for women to work outside the home and earn as well as men. It has also taken many years just for women to be allowed to do such a simple thing as a vote. Some men still to this day prefer to keep patriarchy intact. “Bell Hook's idea is men do not let go and still have not let go of patriarchy because they are not certain what will happen to the world they know most intimately if patriarchy changes”(Pluto Press, 2019). Empowerment has had an effect on education because through women standing up for their rights and equality women are now entitled to an education where before they didn’t have the opportunity to have one.