Teaching

‘Thank You, bell hooks': What She Meant to Teachers

By Education Week Staff — December 16, 2021 1 min read
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bell hooks, the Black feminist author and intellectual whose books transformed ways of thinking about education and racism, died Dec. 15. She was 69.

hooks’ more than 30 volumes covered a wide range of topics, including theories of classroom pedagogy, an interrogation of the racism within modern feminism, explorations of Black masculinity, and the nature of love. Her oeuvre also spanned multiple formats, including poetry, memoir, and essays.

In K-12 education, she is particularly remembered for a trifecta of books on teaching and learning, beginning with 1994’s Teaching to Transgress. The book critiqued how education systems typically value authoritarianism and compliance. Engaging teaching, she wrote, liberated students by equipping them with the tools to challenge and transcend those structures.

Unlike many contemporary theorists, though, hooks’ writing was generous, accessible, and deeply felt, rather than ponderous, remote, or circular.

Her death brought an outpouring of grief, gratitude, and testimonials from many educators, particularly Black women teachers and writers who saw a mentor, a guide, an ally, and above all, someone who loved them unconditionally.

Five educators reflect on how bell hooks’ timeless wisdom has transformed their teaching.

bell hooks has shaped a generation of teachers, and her legacy will continue not only through her writings but in those she inspired. Three of her essays are now free on JSTOR for those looking to read more of her work.

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Education Week Library Staff contributed to this article.

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