A Review of Teaching to Transgress, a Book by Bell Hooks

Table of Content

In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, the United States faced a significant revolution characterized by a “social transformation based on the core belief in a profoundly democratic concept of freedom and justice for all.” This revolution challenged not only racial boundaries, but also questioned gender roles and class exploitation both at home, in the workplace, and in schools. In bell hooks’ book Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, the author prompts readers to engage in self-reflection and contemplation regarding their education system and societal norms. The book aims to convey the notion that education should be liberating; however, there exists a divide based on class, gender, race, and age contributing to discord within education.

Hooks begins her book by stating that it consists of a collection of essays in which she shares her personal experiences. These experiences aim to initiate a conversation about the commodification of education from both the perspective of a student and a teacher, as well as the societal factors that hinder the classroom environment. She argues that for biases to be challenged and changed, all forms of crossing borders must be acknowledged as valid and legitimate. However, this does not mean they cannot be criticized or questioned, nor does it ensure that those with power will not perpetuate existing structures when entering spaces occupied by those without power.

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Bell hooks argues that the risk of accepting and supporting current systems of domination, especially in regards to teaching, how we teach, and what we teach, is ultimately less threatening than the potential consequences. She emphasizes the importance of opposing domination and highlights that embracing it would undermine the core message of her book – promoting critical thinking.

Hooks explores the concept of critical pedagogy influenced by Paulo Freire, who greatly inspired her during her undergraduate years. Freire provided her with the encouragement to challenge the traditional education system, known as the “banking system” of education, which believes that students only need to passively absorb and memorize information given to them by their professors. Hooks believes in creating a classroom environment where both students and professors have equal opportunities and rights in education.

According to Martin Luther King Jr, who inspired hooks, the goal of education is to cultivate intense and critical thinking skills – the true purpose of education.* Acquiring the capacity to think critically allows individuals to freely express their perspectives. When experience is recognized as a legitimate form of knowledge in classrooms, alongside other forms, it diminishes the tendency to use it as a tool for suppressing others. By actively listening and valuing each other’s voices, we affirm and honor the importance and uniqueness of every individual.

Students can finally experience the freedom that hooks once felt in her early years of education when they have the freedom of voice. As hooks stated, the academy may not be a paradise, but learning itself can be a place where paradise can be created. Despite the limitations of the classroom, it still holds potential for possibility. It is a space where an open mind and heart enable us to confront reality while collectively envisioning ways to surpass boundaries and transgress. In this crucial time in history, this concept of education as the practice of freedom would allow for genuine mental liberation within a system governed by a specific story.

Hooks, a feminist writer, holds views that align strongly with feminism. Though this may isolate certain individuals, the essence of hooks’ message fully supports feminist principles. Feminism, defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” is the ideology that hooks seeks to promote. The central idea conveyed in Teaching to Transgress stresses the importance of equality for all individuals, regardless of their presence within or outside classroom settings. Feminism plays a vital role in advancing political, economic, and social parity among various marginalized groups.

Critical thinking is the basis for living in a logical, sensible, and understanding way. Those who engage in critical thinking understand the inherent flaws in human thought processes. Teaching to Transgress effectively promotes empathy by presenting the perspective of a black woman. Hooks’ varied viewpoints can be easily understood by readers from different racial, gender, or socioeconomic backgrounds.

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A Review of Teaching to Transgress, a Book by Bell Hooks. (2022, Dec 21). Retrieved from


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