top of page

Expanding the Boundaries of Transformative Learning:
Bell Hooks & Edmund O'Sullivan

Anna Chapman, 2021

In her text, Engaged Pedagogy, Bell Hooks calls for holistic approaches to education; taking into account not just the mind, but the body and the spirit of the student. Hooks intersects Brazililan educator and philosopher Paolo Friere’s notion of “conscientization” with Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nat Han’s framework of engaged Buddhism. “Conscientization'' embraces education as a tool toward freedom; to come into consciousness of one’s agency in the world. Both Friere and Han emphasize the importance of active engagement and reflection in the learning process, linking awareness with practice. Further, it is Thich Nat Han’s buddhist philosophy that offers a refreshing emphasis on wholeness; a union of mind, body, and spirit. This emphasis on wholeness helps cultivate knowledge about how to live in the world. Carrying notions of reflection and active engagement outside the classroom and into the natural world can have a huge impact. The outdoors become the teacher, forcing us out of anthropocentrism. Continuing this thread of holistic education as a means to address how we live in the world, I would like to carry us over to Edmund O’Sullivan’s text regarding Transformative Education.


A deep rooted shift toward sustainability, in the way that Nick Neddo exercises, entails a transformative criticism that is so immense, most people/institutions may not feel prepared or up for responding to. Transformative criticism, as defined by Edmund Sullivan, is “a form of criticism that calls into question the fundamental mythos of the dominant cultural form and indicates that the culture can no longer viably maintain its continuity and vision”...maintaining that “the dominant culture is no longer “formatively appropriate” (O’Sullivan, Integral Transformative Education).


There is immense capacity for healing to occur when taking up bioregional engagement at this level. That healing may happen on a communal level, for instance, working toward autonomy through direct connection to resources. It may happen on a personal level, such as the repairing of one’s relationship to their environment or the wide array of psychological and emotional benefits that are commonly appreciated to result from time spent in nature (see “ecotherapy” of “forest bathing” to learn more). And further, it may happen on an environmental level, such as the repair of ecosystems. 


When we talk about the growth and well being of any person, we must also recognize that their growth and well-being is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of the environment which they are embedded in. To not appreciate the health of the land is literally in-sane. In the least because we are demarcating ourselves from the livelihood of our future kin. Considering the fractalized sense of self/community and resource insecurity exacerbated by globalization it is necessity to take into account bioregional awareness in contemporary education. 

bottom of page