Ode to bell hooks

Written by Maureen Wideman, Associate Vice President, Teaching and Learning

When I began my studies in education and how people learn, one of the first scholars I read was bell hooks. Needless to say, for me, this was an eye-opening experience that brought me face-to-face with my white privilege and the oppression people experience in our educational system (later to include colonial systems and residential schools). The wisdom of bell hooks, her perspective and courage have contributed to the changed perceptions of our world and made evident the work we need to do. Her experiences and struggles were astounding to me, in particular, as she was not that much older than me. Were we living in the same world, at the same time? Yes.

(below is continued from newsletter)

Some of the stories I read of her life have stayed with me. She was bussed from her American segregated school where she felt loved, respected, and supported, to the white high school across town where her histories were ignored, her support mechanisms non-existent, and her humanness and its needs not acknowledged. She became invisible. This experience spearheaded her lifelong work to change systems, in particular, education. Another story I love is when the scholar Paulo Freire was visiting the university where she was a professor.  She attended his presentation and challenged him on ignoring the plight of women in this influential work, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” I can’t image these two giants in the same room discussing oppression. He would support her challenges and agree that he did not see women as a group oppressed by education. Thank you bell hooks.
She was a feminist, social activist, writer and teacher – and now she is gone. She passed away in December before the age of 70. The sorrowful responses to her death were immense. The gap she leaves is huge. The beauty of her writing made many of us feel that we knew her, that we could consult with her, and find answers in her wisdom. If you aren’t familiar with her writing, I urge you go read her work available from the UFV library.
“The only canons I formed in my mind were filled with the writers with whom I felt a soul inspiring resonance, the writers whose works were great to me because they gave me words, wisdom, and visions powerful enough to transform me and my world.”

― bell books, Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom

2 thoughts on “Ode to bell hooks”

  1. Thanks for this brilliant piece on bell hooks. I’m reminded of her call to consider classrooms as sites of radical possibilities. So true today as we endeavour to prepare generations of graduates poised to to become agents of change. I hope you and others will join the bell hooks literary circle hosted by the RAN on Feb 28th from 1-2pm to carry on these conversations.

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