Bell Hooks’ “Teaching Critical Thinking” and the Acquisitions Project

The aim for the acquisitions project was to identify a rare book that could be purchased for Special Collections for eventual use by classes or individual students who visited the collection. Specifically, I was searching for books with illustrations of antiquity. The three books that I was most interested in were Livy’s History of the Rise of the Roman Empire, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and a guide to Roman architecture published during the Renaissance, titled The Antiquities of Rome. Each of these books was profusely illustrated, so I was confident that they would serve their intended purpose of being accessible and interesting to students. 

I worked on the acquisitions while reading Bell Hooks’ book Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom. To me, the chapter entitled “Critical Thinking” seemed most relevant to the acquisitions project. Hooks says that “critical thinking requires all students in the classroom process to be engaged (p. 10).” After reading this statement, it occurred to me that the act of examining a rare book forces students to think critically. There is a multi-sensory experience that comes with handling rare books and that is absent when reading articles about rare books. As a result, students will inevitably have questions about the books. So, in addition to features like price, condition, and edition number of the rare books, I thought about whether or not a book would interest me if I visited special collections for a class. That is, if I wanted to learn something about the portrayal of antiquity in Renaissance-era books, would the book raise questions for me? Was there a variety of images? Were the images thought-provoking? In short, Hooks’ chapter “Critical Thinking” provided an additional lens through which I could evaluate the rare books I was thinking about recommending for purchase.

Owen Schuster