A critical analysis of bell hooks' engaged pedagogy: A transgressive education for the development of critical consciousness

Namulundah Florence, Fordham University


bell hooks proposes an engaged pedagogy to counteract the overwhelming boredom, disinterest, and apathy that so often characterize the way professors and students feel about the teaching and learning experience. hooks attributes student alienation in schools to discriminatory racist, sexist, and classist policies and practices in educational settings and the wider society. The study is a critical analysis of bell hooks' engaged pedagogy, its basis, challenge, and promise for the teaching/learning process. The study also assesses the relevance of bell hooks' critique of prevailing society and constructive strategies entailed in engaged pedagogy, to a Third World context. bell hooks' corpus of writing was analyzed to demonstrate the basis of her social theory. The author explored writings on or pertaining to hooks to illustrate the impact of her insights in the community of scholars. Since engaged pedagogy is a combination of anti-colonialist, critical, feminist, and multicultural theory, the author analyzed the scholarship to provide a context for engaged pedagogy. The analysis of hooks' writings provides a basis for her contention regarding educational policies and practices—curriculum and pedagogy—reflecting and perpetuating hierarchical social arrangements by reinforcing White supremacist, patriarchal, and capitalistic values in both the United States and the Kenyan system. bell hooks' (1994c) engaged pedagogy, explicated in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, goes beyond developing students to achieve a prescribed level of literacy, the development of professional skills and/or conformity to the status quo, to nurture a reflective and critical stance to social realities. The pedagogy calls for a re-conceptualization of the knowledge base, linking theory to practice, student empowerment, multiculturalism, and incorporation of passion, to make learning more engaging and meaningful. Engaged pedagogy is a “transgressive” pedagogy. The relevance of hooks' social and educational critique to the Kenyan economy is based on four primary similarities between Kenya and the United States: (a) presence of Blacks, (b) the impact of White civilization, (c) the patriarchal system, and (d) the association of social prestige to material acquisitions.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Educational theory

Recommended Citation

Florence, Namulundah, "A critical analysis of bell hooks' engaged pedagogy: A transgressive education for the development of critical consciousness" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975348.