Hooks reflects on her own educational experiences from the perspective of a student in college. She confesses feeling “estranged from education” as her professors – rulers of a “mini-kingdom” – either ignored her presence or treated her with “contempt”. She finally found hope in Paulo Freire’s work, as she saw his theories as a way for students to “assume responsibility for their choices” and eliminate the professors as “all-knowing” kings of the classroom.
Ellsworth educational beliefs are very similar to Hooks, but she begins with a critique in the use of such “code” words as “critical” and “social change” as a failure to the “critical education movement” as it “hide[s] positions and goals of anti-racism, anti-classism, anti-sexism and so forth.” Ellsworth shares with the reader her experiences as a professor “struggling against…key assumptions and assertions of current literature on critical pedagogy...and com[ing] to grips with crucial issues of classroom practice that critical pedagogy cannot or will not address.”
Both Hooks and Ellsworth highlighted the professor’s authority over students as limiting the educational experience. Ellsworth identifies that one of the strategies for dealing with this dictating environment “is to make the teacher more like the student by redefining the teacher as a leaner of the student’s reality and knowledge.” I found this strategy to be an eye opener for me as I have been interested in doing a robotics or a maker unit with my students, but have held off because I myself do not have a mastery of such skills or knowledge. Ellsworth’s suggestion eliminates this anxiety with the idea that I could re-learn it along with the students. The benefit of teaching a unit this way is that it brings the teacher down to the students level of understanding “enable[ing] the teacher to devise more effective strategies for bringing the student “up” to the teacher’s level of understanding.” To take this a step further I could also utilize Hooks’ philosophy on teachers (professors in her case) being willing to “share confessional narratives” with their students as a way of teaching holistically. Hooks’ emphasis on “a holistic model of learning” includes not only the growth of the student but also the growth of the teacher, by confessing to my students that I am learning along with them I am collapsing my position as the authoritarian and uplifting the student’s positions as my followers. These ideas are not far off from current trending pedagogies such as, student centred classrooms and place based education.
While sharing confessions with my students and eliminating my position as authoritarian may have its benefits, I wonder if there are any classroom management repercussions to this, and if there are, how a teacher would address these issues while maintaining student’s empowerment.
Ellsworth, Elizabeth, (1989). “Why doesn’t this feel empowering? Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy, “ Harvard Educational Review 59(3), 297-324.