Hooks and Amy Tan, Essay Example

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Essay

The excerpt from Bell Hooks’ Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom begins with a brief introduction into the many reasons which bring a person to select teaching as their career and to the shifts in pedagogical emphasis since racial segregation ceased. Primarily, the idea of education as freedom to realize an inner image of the self runs center to any point made. Together, these two articles form a fully realized conceptualization of education as a divisive freedom from the family identity which controls the majority of every person’s crucial developmental years.

Hooks mentions the ‘dualistic’ conflict of the family and school cultures and self images as a mere supporting detail of the big picture of freedom, a world of performance, pedagogy, theory, practice, and a significant amount of guesswork (295-296). Frankly, it is difficult to grasp the full complexity of this facet of educational freedom from Hooks’ brief mention, yet the link between the widespread belief “that the university was seen more as a haven for those who are smart in book knowledge but who might be otherwise unfit for social interaction” and the independence of the actualized self leaves lingering questions (303).

Hooks reiterates, the behavioral divide between the public and private spheres reinforces the expectation that technical and specialized knowledge, information from a book and specialized expertise, theory and practice, etc. are permanently separated by education (Hooks 303). Thus, scholarship awards are assumed to be decided upon a theoretical basis of the greater good, which considers income, race, gender, etc. or upon achievement only or upon the expected use of the person in a trade or an applied academic field.

Revealing a problem does little to address the causes, but Hooks states that “seeing the classroom always as a communal place enhances the likelihood of collective effort in creating and sustaining a learning community.” (299). In this context, the socialized learning which frequently reinforces negative behaviors for the classroom also bolsters the sense of community which stigmatizes extreme behaviors and publicly legitimizes the demands and rules of the teachers. Hooks bemoans the shifting perspective of her schooling once racial integration in southern schools was complete but failed to fully recognize the full significance (of the preexisting school community which she describes) as part of the public domain and as the bridge between the public and private domains.

Amy Tan in her essay Mother Tongue argues that we often judge someone’s imaginative and intellectual capabilities on the basis of his/her language skills. Amy admits that she is also guilty of equating her mother’s English language skills with the quality of her ideas (48). These variations in language skills have created an environment of systematic discrimination in almost every sphere of society. Tan’s mother became so used to these discriminatory treatments by the strangers that she started forcing Amy to communicate in her place. Tan also mentions that she had always been intellectually curious as a child but somehow never did as well on English tests as she did on Math and Science tests (49-50). This is because her language skills had been shaped by her family environment but that didn’t limit her imagination and quality of ideas in any manner even though English language tests failed to recognize that.

Both Hook’s and Tan’s essay demonstrate that the society places huge emphasis on formal rules. Hook and Tan believe that formal rules prevent us from seeing one’s true imagination and creativity because they encourage conformity. Hook’s essay helps us better understand why Tan’s mother received inferior treatment as compared to her more language-proficient daughter. This is because Tan’s mother didn’t speak English in a manner that was the norm in the society. Her limited language skills led others to perceive her as less capable and worthy of acknowledgment.

Even though both Hook and Tan believe that we can learn from others by liberating them from rules and conventions, Hook is a proponent of rules-free learning in an academic environment while Tan believes that everyone out there has something to teach us. Tan believes that if one is willing to be open-minded and attentive to others, learning becomes a round-the-clock experience for him/her. While Hooks focus on intellectual exchange among people gathered with the common purpose of learning, Tan suggests that intellectual exchange should include everyone which is why she proposes writing in a language that even those with limited skills can understand. She gives a personal example to illustrate her point when she mentions, “I knew I had succeeded where it counted when my mother finished reading my book and gave me her verdict: “So easy to read.”” (51).

After reading these two articles, the audience notices the minutia of where they came from and what impact that had on their journey through education. Teachers and parents could bridge this gap somewhat, encouraging both environments to embrace new learning and a genuine empathy for- and appreciation of- others. Nonetheless, like education itself, this line preserves the balance between individualization and generalized functioning. The greatest barrier to personal progress is the very status quo which once upheld its foundation. With this awareness, the reader appreciates the subtle balancing, interrelating process of moving through education.

Works Cited

Hooks, Bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom.

Tan, Amy. Mother Tongue

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