From Pedagogy to Dramaturgy: bell hooks’ World is a Stage
You Say You Want a Revolution? Okay, But It Won’t Happen Overnight

Engaged Pedagogy? Count Me In!

bell hooks likens un-engaged pedagogy to an assembly line approach to learning. Receive-recite-repeat. She uses a banking metaphor. The professor deposits information. Fee-paying students withdraw it on an as-needed basis. (I liken it to paying a surcharge on an ATM withdrawal). Such systems - bourgeoisie, she calls them - promote a mind/body split. Knowledge, yes. How to live? No. She claims that professors show no concern for inner well-being. Their own or that of their students. The result, she continues, is control, not enlightenment. Professors rule over mini kingdoms; students serve as vassals.
She also dissects course content. Un-engaged professors offer information. The will to know. Book knowledge. They should offer information and personal growth. The will to become. How to live in the world. Life experiences. Connecting learning to life experiences results in what she calls liberatory education.
Liberatory education is a holistic model of learning. It demotes the mind/body split. Embracing it, students and professors evolve from passive consumers to active participants. They share in the full experience of learning. Here, critically-aware professors value student expression. They respond to students as unique beings. Linking confessional narrative to academic discussion might make a professor vulnerable. This would establish credibility in a student's eyes. The result? Mini kingdoms become hostels. This heals various rifts. Mind and body. Knowledge and experience. Life in the classroom and life beyond. And, ultimately, professor and student.
Of course, professors have to buy into self-actualization. This requires awareness. They have to acknowledge there’s a problem with the way they approach their teaching. This includes course structure, content narrative and classroom performance. Then they must make necessary changes. For starts, they must acknowledge that a doctorate does not signal an end to learning. They must use a two-prong approach. Make their teaching relevant to a student’s pursuit of a degree as well about the desire for a life well-lived.
How will students respond to newly self-actualized professors and reimagined courses? For that matter, how do we apply this to digital teaching, which presents a unique set of challenges? That’s Step 2 of our process. First, come to terms with Teaching to Transgress and its F2F assumptions.
The approach works well for an introductory art history course. From the student’s point of view, stress that there are no wrong answers when evaluating a work of art. Stress that a student’s understanding of a work of art does not come from a professor, a critic, or an art historian. It comes from within themselves. Stress that there’s only the student’s particular and unique response. At the same time, reinforce that the professor’s response to a work of art is just that, a professor’s response. Not better; not worse. Just one of many. The interpretation of art is open-ended. Art is life. It has as many meanings as it has viewers.


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