Monday, October 24, 2011

bell hooks and National Boards

Last week, someone tossed out the name bell hooks, and I remembered reading Teaching to Transgress in one of my education classes years and years ago.

I no longer have a copy of that book, but I think I need one.

I just read this article:  and it reminded me how powerful her ideas are, especially in the face of accountability measures such as those being put into place across the country that evaluate teaching based on multiple factors, many of which are somewhat outside the locus of control of the individual teacher who is 1/7 of a student's day for not even ten months.  (See my blog entry Anger and Education for some references to what is happening in Arizona).  Conversations about education so desperately need to turn to the care of students as whole people, and the nurturing of an imaginative and intellectual freedom for each student.  Toward that end, schools need to be humane for teachers and other adults as well.

"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 labour 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." (hooks 1994: 207)

This takes greater personal energy than teaching to the standards.  But hopefully, it is an energy that is self-renewing, like giving love:  the more we give, the more we have to give.

I find it fascinating that the National Board Certification journey, despite its emphasis on standards and a very specific kind of writing, manages to get at these deeper and much more satisfying levels of involvement with our students' education.  I suppose that one could approach National Boards with an eye to columns of rubric scores.  I should probably be doing a little more of that.  But there is something very powerful and transformative about turning our eyes toward the very people we should be watching all the time, our students, and realizing how often our gaze is drawn away by other forces.  The NB process pulls us back.


  1. Amethyst! What a thoughtful post, I love it! Just found your writing here and I am glad I did.

  2. Thank you very much. :) Some entries are more thoughtful than others... but that's the freedom of a blog, right?

  3. Have you read anything by Neil Postman? He was prevalent in the late 60s, and I LOVED "Teaching as a Subversive Activity." I think he also did "Zap in Education," or something similar. The man is my idol, but then I'm a few decades ahead (or behind??) you! Love reading what you write.

  4. Linda-- No, I have not. But it sounds like I should.


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