Rebel’s Dilemma

In “Rebel’s Dilemma”, bell hooks writes, “To a grave extent the academy has always been so similar to the dysfunctional patriarchal family hierarchy that hemmed me in as a child that I feel that I can never be truly healthy—well and whole in the deepest sense—without leaving it” (2).  Writing as a tenured professor occupying a space within the academic elite, bell hooks’s “Rebel’s Dilemma” develops the author’s self dichotomy, an African American revolutionary wedged within a patriarchal academic system whose conventions “restrict creativity in the classroom . . . restricts the mind – the way individuals think and write outside the classroom”(2).  Thus, bell hooks’s dilemma is rebelling against the system which has established the professor in her current position.  Academia has developed her credibility. Thus, hooks is provided with the means in which to voice her radical ideologies to a large audience.  Greatly interested in hooks, respecting the courage the she exhibits in her “struggle to break from the impositions of images” inaccurately representing the author, I did a bit of light research regarding her ideologies and pedagogic practices (1).

In her 1994 text Teaching to Transgress, hooks writes, “My commitment to engaged pedagogy is an expression of political activism”.  Thus, hooks aim is to ignite interest in students through the classroom promotion of her political ideologies.  Furthermore, as a commencement speaker in 2002 at Southwestern University in Texas, hooks’s controversial political beliefs were clearly exposed, stating, “Our nations call for violence in the aftermath of 9/11 was an expression of widespread hopelessness, the cynicism that has been at the heart of our nations ongoing fascination with death”.  Additionally, hooks proclaims that the 9/11 response was “our government’s declaration of its commitment to violence, to death”*.  Whether one connects with her political insights or not, bell hooks is clearly an individual “doing [her] own thing . . . walk[ing] the paths [she] needs to walk, and always writing only what [she] needs to say” (Rebels,2).

Lastly, two interesting quotes in hook’s text Teaching to Transgress lend themselves well to the ongoing conversation regarding pedagogy.  The author asserts that teachers have the “right as a subject in resistance to define reality”.  Furthermore, she submits that teaching “is a performative act . . . that offers the space for change, invention, spontaneous shifts, that can serve as a catalyst drawing out the unique elements in each classroom”.  In a world of rigid guidelines regarding academic instruction and classroom structure, hooks’s views concerning the spontaneous classroom and reality redefinition are interesting to say the least.  Should teachers break out of the restrictive grasp of academia, the system that is much responsible for their “success”, and define reality according to their ideologies?


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