Bell Hook’s “Keeping Close to Home: Class and Education” is a powerful essay that addresses the issue of class in America. Hook begins by discussing her own background as a working-class student who was able to get an education and eventually move up the social ladder. She argues that while education can be a force for good, it can also reinforce class divisions.
Hook points out that many working-class students are not given the same opportunities as their more privileged counterparts. They may not have access to the best schools, or they may not be able to afford college. This can create a vicious cycle where working-class students are less likely to succeed in school and more likely to remain in poverty.
Hook concludes by calling for a more equitable education system that gives all students the opportunity to succeed. She believes that this is essential for creating a more just society.
“Keeping Close to Home: Class and Education” is an important essay that raises vital questions about class in America. It is essential reading for anyone interested in education or social justice.
I chose to evaluate a chapter from Bell Hooks’s book The Presence of Others. This portion, entitled Keeping Close to Home: Class and Education, is taken from her 1989 book Talking Back and was written by Bell Hooks. She has authored several other books, 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).
In Keeping Close to Home, Hooks offers a personal account of her own experience with education and social class. She begins by describing her childhood in a poor, black neighborhood in Kentucky. Her parents were working-class people who valued education, and she was the first in her family to attend college.
Hooks goes on to describe how her experiences as a student at an elite, predominantly white university made her aware of the ways in which class and education can be used to perpetuate inequality. She describes feeling like an outsider in both her working-class community and her university community.
Despite the challenges she faced, Hooks found strength in her identity as a black woman from a working-class background. She writes that this allowed her to see the value in her own experience and to find a place for herself in the academy.
Hooks’ article provides a valuable perspective on the experiences of working-class people in education. She highlights the ways in which class can be used to exclude and marginalize people, but also argues that working-class people have the potential to resist these forces. Her article is an important contribution to the literature on social class and education.
Andrea A. Lunsford, the co-author of The Presence of Others, compares Hooks to Adrienne Rich and Mike Rose for their similar views on education: “It’s the practice of excluding” (93). Keeping Close to Home by hooks demonstrates her difficulty in being “materially underprivileged at a university where most people…are materialistically fortunate.” (95)
Hooks’ biggest argument in the essay is that education- as it was presented to her- was a classist institution that not only favored the wealthy, but also those who were white. She makes the claim that “the university functioned to perpetuate class distinctions” (97), and that people like herself, who came from working class backgrounds, were at a severe disadvantage.
In addition, Hooks argues that the way in which education is typically presented- as an opportunity to move up in the world and achieve social mobility- is actually a myth. She states that for people like her, “getting an education…simply meant learning how to survive in a world where I would always be marked as inferior” (98).
While Hooks’ essay is focused on her own experiences, she also delves into the larger issue of classism in education. She argues that the system is set up in such a way that working class students are at a disadvantage, and that this needs to be changed.
In particular, Hooks calls for more financial aid and support for those who come from working class backgrounds. She also advocates for a curriculum that is more inclusive of working class perspectives and experiences. Overall, Keeping Close to Home is an insightful and important look at how classism affects education, and how this can be changed.
Hooks felt out of place and afraid in the ways of the city as a black girl from a working-class family in Kentucky. She emphasizes that it was “not just frightening; it was excruciatingly painful” (95). Her parents’ refusal to let her attend a school so far away from home didn’t make matters any easier. Hooks had no idea why her parents were hesitant and doubtful about her attending Stanford. She had no clue that they were concerned she would “forever” (95) get sucked into college life at Stanford.
Eventually, Hooks realized that her parents’ working-class background had a lot to do with their reluctance. They didn’t have the same kind of education and they didn’t want her to forget her roots.
Hooks goes on to say that “the class system in the United States is such that one’s position within it is almost always determined by birth” (96). She points out that most people who are born into wealthy families will never have to work a day in their lives, while those who are born into working-class families will likely never escape poverty. This is something that Hooks experienced firsthand. Despite being a bright student, she was never able to attend college full-time because she had to help support her family.
Ethos is a writer’s use of tone and style to convey the message they want to deliver through their communication. “Class realities put me apart from my classmates” (Hooks 419). In most class meetings, class disparity was not a point of debate, and Hooks never discussed how she felt guilty when she considered the brown skin Filipina maids who were paid to clean college living areas or how she tried to make an effort to send money home so her mother could survive.
Hooks’ personal story about her experience with class guilt is relatable to many readers. The way she tells her story shows the reader that she is credible on the topic of class and education.
Hooks argues that in order for there to be equality in education, classism must be addressed. She states that “the American educational system has always been closely linked to economic class interests” (Hooks 420). In other words, those who have more money receive a better education, which gives them an advantage in the workforce. Hooks suggests that instead of trying to move up the social ladder, working-class people should focus on improving their own lives. This is because they will never achieve true equality as long as they remain in the lower social class.