‘Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom’ // bell hooks.

As an introduction to critical perspectives, our set text was the introduction and first chapter of bell hooks’ ‘Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom’. In her concise introduction, hooks (whose name is purposely written all in lower case) outlines her education and experience as a young black woman growing up in “all-black, segregated schools of Kentucky in the fifties”. She deemed her self as lucky as she was taught by other African American teachers who were genuinely concerned that she, and her fellow peers acquired a “good education”.

Her positivity is short-lived, and her morale is crushed as she progresses further into the introduction, and thus further into higher education. She recalls how her new, not so kind teachers would “[exercise] their authoritarian power over [the] fellow students, crushing [their] spirits, and dehumanising [their] minds and bodies”. Far from the “romanticised” ideal of college hooks had hoped for, Stanford University was a place of inequality, racism and brimming with teachers who really believed the black students were “incapable of learning.”

To overcome this severe, disheartening situation, hooks made the decision to become a teacher. She strongly wanted to carry forward what previous (non-college) teachers had done so well for her; to encourage others to be “self-directed learners”. A very prominent quality of this type of student is the ability to think critically.

Critical thinking is essentially the ability to not accept facts for their surface value, but to instead delve deeply and actively investigate. It is essentially the “longing to understand” and where “theory and praxis” collide together. In contrast to what I believe, hooks proposes that “most children are taught early on that thinking is dangerous” and that most children “learn to suppress the memory of thinking as a passionate, pleasurable activity”. It follows that children apparently lack “self-awareness and self-determination.” Some children may do yes, but I find it unfair to generalise this notion to “most children in [her] nation.”

In contrast to her zombified, passive nation that hooks describes, some children develop skills in critical thinking by the act of encouraging teachers. These children question information, where it has been sourced from and whether it is accurate, precise and relevant. They actively seek to penetrate the surface, and exhaust every possibility imaginable. They never stop.



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