Evaluation/Summary Oct. 4, 2002
Keeping Close to Home: Class and Education
I decided to evaluate an excerpt from the book The Presence of Others. This selection, entitled Keeping Close to Home: Class and Education, was written by Bell Hooks, and is taken from her book Talking Back, published in 1989. Hooks is the author of many other volumes, including Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984), Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994), and Remembered Rapture: The Writer at Work (1999). According to the co-author of The Presence of Others, Andrea A. Lunsford, Hooks is comparable to fellow featured authors Adrienne Rich and Mike Rose for their similar views on education being "the practice of exclusion" (93). Hooks displays this view in Keeping Close to Home by sharing with us her struggle in being "materially underprivileged at a university where most folks...are materially privileged..." (95), and by showing us how difficult it was for her to inherit the education that was being offered to her while keeping the values and beliefs she'd grown up with.
As a country black girl from a working-class family in Kentucky, Hooks felt out of place and frightened by the ways of the city. She points out the fact that it was "not just frightening; it was utterly painful" (95). The fact that her parents didn't want her to go to a predominately white school so far from home didn't make things any easier. Hooks didn't understand why her parents were so reluctant and skeptical about her studying at Stanford. She didn't understand that they were afraid they would "lose [her] forever" (95) to the ways of college life at Stanford.
Realizing that going to school at Stanford University was a rarity for people of her same background, she began to think about class differences at her school. She realized that this was a topic that most people ignored or "downplayed" (95), acting as though everyone at the university was from a privileged background. And for those who were not privileged but were accepted into the university, they were thought to already be in "transition toward privilege" (95). The education received at Stanford University was supposed to provide students "with a bourgeois sensibility" (96) and put them on top of the world, so to speak.
Hooks was different than most of the other students. As she points out on page ninety-six, "class was not just about money; it was about values which showed and determined behavior," and she had no intentions of losing her values. Although she didn't talk to anyone about her efforts to save money or share with anyone her disgust with the kids who disrespected their parents, she was always observing the other half, noting her lifestyle differences. She would often see the way most of the students acted or responded to certain things and set herself apart from them and their behaviors.
As time went on, Hooks made a conscience effort to remember her background and where she came from while obtaining her education. She also made it a point to warn others against this act of habit. She mentions that most young African-Americans are taught by the dominant culture that "assimilation is the only possible way to survive, to succeed" (97). But as she tries to exemplify in her everyday life, it is important for them to feel that they can "speak openly and honestly about our lives" (97) and not feel ashamed of where they come from. That they can continue to be educated, but not forget those who are not as fortunate as they are to have a good education.
It is also important for them to understand that by having these types of values and living by these standards, they will most likely be criticized by those who think and act differently. Hooks is often criticized for the way she presents her speeches. Rather than use eloquent speech while standing still at the podium reading from her paper, Hook prefers to speak directly to the audience, making eye contact and...
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