Archive for the ‘Freire’ Tag

bell hooks: politics of difference through popular culture

bells hooks: cultural criticism and transformation

6-minute talk by hooks on the accessibility of popular culture items such as films, to engage people in critical thinking about society and difference.

I’ve been reading a bit of hooks’s work, particularly ‘Teaching to Transgress‘ (1994), as part of my MEd studies this semester, as we undertake an exercise in defining, describing, critiquing and writing about our own educational philosophical stance.

hooks didn’t see herself as a teacher, more a writer – but ended up a teacher writing about her teaching experiences and the (dis)engagement with learning along the way. She refers to Freire as an influence as well as feminist theorists, as well as her own learning experiences, as driving the development of her educational philosophy.

Paulo Freire

Image: Freire on Infed

She writes so that her thoughts are accessible to a continuum of readers or audiences. And, she sees learning as an expression of excitement and engagement for its sheer pleasure! A refreshing view these days. It draws suspicion when one shows an eagerness to learn – I’d add that it also exposes the teacher/facilitator to also rise to the challenge in (enthusiastically) supporting that eager learning (–you expect me to develop curricula on a shrinking resource base and low salary AND you want me to enjoy it too?)! “To enter classroom settings in colleges and universities with the will to share the desire to encourage excitement, was to transgress” (hooks 1994: 7, my emphasis).

hooks also notes the learning ‘struggle’ as a real and necessary part of learning, yet in the context of minority groups, means a highly stressful learning setting – and yet can still be exciting, if the will to learn is strong. As with Freire, hooks sees education as the practice of freedom.

To ask the ‘why’ questions can be confronting and at times show-stopping. How do you encourage your students to ask why?


Lifelong learning as calm learning?

I had a fabulous weekend in Bowral back in the last weekend of May, attending a Calmbirth workshop with my husband. Consequently, our first bub is now due in a couple of – ahem – days! 🙂

a labour of love

This is one reason I haven’t posted in a long while – too much going on and my brain has become more cottony than I had first anticipated! 🙂

Anyway, I’m moved to write following this amazing weekend experience as I see some links to lifelong learning, a phrase that seems to have dropped out of circulation of late (for whatever reason). Let’s first revisit the phrase and then I’ll draw some connections from the Calmbirth workshop itself. In essence, this is an ‘appreciative exploration’ of some thoughts really!

Lifelong learning, particularly as espoused by the OECD, champions the idea of learning for holistic personal, professional and workforce development, which occurs in various learning settings, informal and formal. Closer to home, DEST (now DEEWR) exercises a policy they claim is based on the OECD assumptions:

The lifelong learning policy agenda is built on assumptions about the importance of skills in the new economy. Almost all industrial sectors are increasingly ‘knowledge-based’ and economic returns are obtained from a range of ‘intangible’ inputs, one of which is workers’ skills. Participation in education and training is increasing and economic rewards are flowing to people with high skills…

…which in fact draws a parallel between productivity and further education, and extends further to lifelong learning and the ‘whole person’, especially where the VET sector is concerned. However, in today’s economic rationalist world we are not seeing this in its entirety. We are contending with the worker-learner and have yet to move to the whole person, in reality.

So how does this thinking link to what I experienced as ‘calm birth’ then? Well, from my view it means starting with the person, rather than the system in which the person likely operates. in essence it’s redefining what we have assumed to be learner centred approaches to teaching and learning. Still, we seem to take this as meaning providing options TO the learner to support and enhance their learning; rather, we should take the learner-at-the-centre approach and start there with their networks, their predispositions, their experiences, and so on. We require more discussion around the apparent preoccupation on separating ‘the system’ from the users/producers/agents (see for example, Mejias 2005).

person vs system

Thus, the science behind Calmbirth (as laid out in the workshop booklet and the various parents’ stories, where mums especially are co-teachers), contends with the human design, participatory methods, holistic therapies and healing work, beliefs and attitudes (e.g. Errington, 2004), cultural values and awareness, as well as the health sciences of midwifery and obstetrics.

So what is out there in terms of calm learning practices? How can we progress this to lifelong learning status? For example, Calm Kids, Smart Kids uses

…a mixture of:

  • Physical exercises proven to reduce hyperactivity & increase brain functioning and integration
  • Emotional stress release to help reduce anger and frustration, improve communication and increase self esteem
  • Unique Nutrition Plan identifies allergies and deficiencies specifically for your child.

What is of some interest here is the links made to factors that influence children’s ability to learning and grow, as discussed also in the Calmbirth workshop and booklet, particularly a stressful pregnancy, a traumatic birth, and medications and operations, as well as accidents, family trauma, and allergic reactions. As Peter Jackson stated in the Calmbirth workshop, ‘it all begins in the womb’. Check out Lyn Schaverien’s work on developmental learning (biological aspects of learning) too.

We may also draw links to appreciative inquiry (see also Cooperrider, et al, 2008) and inquiry-based learning which champions the inherent (and essentially positive) motivations of the learner from within. For me this also conjures links with schooling approaches such as the Montessori movement. We could effectively read open learning into this too. These approaches tend to focus on the learner’s self-guided interests, reminding me of a quote by Freire that champions the learner as teacher (as ‘learning by teaching’):

The teacher… is taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught, also teach.

I understand that I’m touching on a lot of potentially disparate areas of education here, but I think it’s worth noting that whilst we delve into supposedly ‘new’ thinking around learning and teaching, much has been developed in earlier times that remain credible and applicable today – in fact, possibly more so than they did in the past. The time for elements of schooling and education is ripe for change but not always to new and original ideas, but back to ideas that are now seen as befitting our current contexts.

Where can learning go from here? How do we continue to facilitate learning in ways that are relevant to our times? These are some loose connections which I hope to think more deeply about in coming months. I also see connections to networked learning here too, a draft essay of which I will post shortly (this essay picks up on action learning, ‘hot action’, and other action research frameworks that I’ve related to an investigation into VET pedagogy and practice).


Errington, E. (2004) The impact of teacher beliefs on flexible learning innovation: some practices and possibilities for academic developers, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41(1), 39-47.

Cooperrider, D, Whitney, D & Stavros, J (2008), Apreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change (2nd Ed), Crown Custom Publishing Inc: Brunswick OH.