Page 21


hooks, continued from page 13 of the problem at hand andeven in a swing-for-the-fence effortavoid platitudinous pie-in-the-sky solutions. To pin down the main issue that hooks wants to address is no easy assignment. Rather than offering a thesis statement or a nut graph of some sort, hooks once again bucks the traditional norm and makes us pick up the main point in tiny fragments as we slog through prose that haphazardly meanders from sex to progressive education to spirituality to shame. Every piece of evidence, once found and cornered, has something to do with hooks’ unspoken premise that the central problem with education today involves the abuse of power, more often than not in the form of white supremacy. “When you grow up in a world of racial apartheid,” hooks explains, “where all manner of terrorizing assaults are used to keep white and black in their `proper’ place, white and black folks know intimately that race matters and they know the privileges accorded the white race via the institutionalization of white supremacy?’ Fair enough. But when manifested in the schools, this supremacy leads to, as hooks describes them, amorphous forces of oppression. We hear about “dominator models of education,” a bias for “ways of knowing informed by Western metaphysical dualism and dominator culture,” a curriculum shaped by “capitalist concerns to maintain power in a global marketplace,” and an environment where “authoritarian practices …undermines [sic] democratic education in the classroom?’ The conceptual weakness running through these developments is that they collectively posit the existence of a bogey man working behind the scenes to construct an unjust social reality that serves as a convenient explanation for all social ills. So, for example, when hooks raises the very good question as to why whites are rarely in the position of having a black woman “lecture to them,” the answer is too easy”the nature of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy as a system shaping culture and beliefs” dictates that it be so. “[W]e are merely pawns,” hooks writes, “in the hands of those who invent the games and determine the rules.” Such logic only undermines the agency she seeks. hooks’ solutions are equally unsatisfying. How to rid the schools of these problems, however amorphous they may be? Why not try out “a counterhegemonic liberatory [sic] practice”? Barring that, one might “think outside the box?’ We must remember to “nurture the self-esteem of all students” as a step toward undoing the reality that “[e]very citizen in a dominator culture has been socialized to believe that domination is the foundation of all human relations.” Never cease to “challenge the existing status quo.” Always “maintain integrity of being.” Students must discover “an awareness of their agency.” The teacher is obligated to “create a context for truth and justice in the classroom?’ Inequality is tempered by “striving to be mutual.” Salvation will come through “the decolonization of our minds.” The educational environment must become one that no longer “encourages competition?’ While some of these ideas are loony, most of them aren’t unreasonable. Some of them, in fact, sound fantastic. It’s just hard to imagine how they might be systematically applied in a way that effectively counters something as pervasive and natural to human existence as power. Needless to say, the future author of The Opening of the American Mind has her work cut out for her. But there’s one final lesson to learn from hooks’ book. hooks explains, “[w] omen of all races and non-white men have been the students that I see the most paralyzed by fears that their work will not be excellent. In such cases I always think it important to be less of a perfectionist and more concerned about completing the work on time.” Whatever her skin color, if the future Allan Bloom of the left needed any reason to ignore this advice, the proof would be in the pages surrounding it. It’s education we’re dealing with. We should strive for perfection while remaining down to earth. Contributing writer James McWilliams lives in Austin and insists that he still loves to teach. Texas, continued from page 5 had risen to six in ten. The crop was cotton, which has always swamped cattle in the Texas economy, despite all the blather about ranching. As Campbell points out, the cowboy and cattle drive period in Texas lasted for only a generation after the Civil War. And a cowboy’s life was nothing to write home about. Those who rode the Chisholm Trail were mostly underpaid teenagers who “plodded along with the herd”without guns, since, as Campbell writes, trail bosses worried that gunshots would cause stampedes. By the late 19th century, vaqueros had much in common with workingclass immigrant New Yorkers: In 1883, cowboys on five Texas ranches went on strike to protest their $40 monthly pay. \(Ranch owners broke the strike by It’s this kind of organizingespecially when blacks or Mexicans are involvedthat has always given white Texans the willies. Thankfully unlike Fehrenbach, Campbell devotes hundreds of pages to events from the late 19th century to just last year. It’s here that we learn how Southern racial and economic attitudes have made Texas what it is today. Animus toward Reconstruction, for example, with its state-financed, integrated institutions such as schools, “contributed heavily to the popular opposition to taxing and spending for public purposes that still characterizes Texas politics.” And when movements like agrarian Populism went multiracial, the powers that be got hysterical. That’s one reason Texas women didn’t win suffrage until the 21st Amendment mandated it in the 1920s. Before that, politicos in Austin always rejected suffrage because they feared giving females the vote would lead to the same thing for Negroes. Campbell’s chapters on the 20th century will give you a nice introduction to tycoons like Houston’s Jesse H. Jones, who grew rich off of New Deal and federal defense spending while chalking up his success to rugged individualism \(a phenomenon that survives quite robustly 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/16/04