Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution

Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution

by Derrick Jensen
     
 

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A prolific critic of modern civilization, Jensen argues that schools are central to perpetuating the illusion that happiness lies outside ourselves. He describes how, as a teacher of writing in universities and prisons, he guides his students out of the confines of traditional education to find their own voices, freedom, and creativity. He does not provide an index.… See more details below

Overview

A prolific critic of modern civilization, Jensen argues that schools are central to perpetuating the illusion that happiness lies outside ourselves. He describes how, as a teacher of writing in universities and prisons, he guides his students out of the confines of traditional education to find their own voices, freedom, and creativity. He does not provide an index. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Writing teacher Jensen doesn't believe in the traditional grading system, which he calls "a cudgel to bludgeon the unwilling into doing what they don't want to do," so he opts instead to give his students at Eastern Washington University check marks: one check mark for turning in a piece of writing, four for editing that writing into perfection. For this opinionated offering on writing, teaching and the state of the world, Jensen deserves four checkmarks for courage. His ideas are always radical and often inspiring. He rails against the public education system frequently and with refreshing humor, telling students their papers "have to be good enough-interesting enough-that I would rather read them than make love." Drawing on his personal experience, he castigates what he sees as formal education's lack of creativity and flexibility for personal style. Jensen's strength lies in his honest, provocative, passionate approach. The rawness of his ideas is this book's virtue, but it's also its vice. When Jensen makes seemingly random forays into commentary on the demise of the environment or political consciousness (subjects he explored in earlier books like The Culture of Make Believe), his writing becomes long-winded and unfocused. He loses sight of his own seventh rule of writing, which he so dramatically relays to his students: clarity. But more importantly, Jensen's first, second, third and fourth rules of writing are "Don't bore the reader." In that effort, he succeeds masterfully. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
"As is true for most people I know, I've always loved learning. As is also true for most people I know, I always hated school. Why is that?" Jensen's book starts off with a bang and goes full throttle until the very end. He presents a strong case that public education results in people becoming inflexible and boring. He explains that most people love learning, but that they become defensive about education. In describing his experiences of teaching writing to college students and prisoners, Jensen stresses that there are few rules of writing, but the most important is that writers should not bore their readers. Through vignettes, Jensen describes writing exercises and how they have resulted in his students being able to freely express their creativity. The chapter titled "Giving Up Control" is especially intriguing because Jensen describes the Great Chalkboard War of 1995. It involved Jensen's written battle with another teacher via a chalkboard for several days because his classroom chairs were arranged in a circle instead of in rows. In one exercise, Jensen requires students to write about walking on water; some students stood in bathtubs while others walked across frozen ponds, and all were able to write about the experience. The author, who seems like a friend by the end of the book, presents his ideas in a humorous, radical, and upfront approach. Although useful for educators and librarians, this book is a true treasure for teens. It is highly recommended for public libraries, academic libraries, and budding writers. 2004, Chelsea Green, 226p.; Biblio., Ages adult professional.
—Sheila Anderson
Library Journal
Jensen (Culture of Make Believe; Strangely Like War) has written a meditation on education using his experiences teaching writing to college students and prisoners as a vehicle to illustrate the well-trodden thesis that schooling and education are distinct-and usually disconnected-events. What sets Jensen's analysis apart from that of other critics is his contention that public education fails students precisely because it succeeds too well in its real agenda of creating a submissive, uncreative, and, ultimately, dehumanized citizenry. Through a series of edgy vignettes, Jensen presents portraits of disenfranchised people whose inability to give voice to their lives has been exacerbated by their classroom experience. Bearing some similarity to Robert Pirsig's socratic discourse with his students, recounted in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the text seeks to tease out a long-dormant individuality from those who might otherwise be permanently relegated to the fringes of society. In so doing, he has a message for us all. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Ari Sigal, Catawba Valley Community Coll. Lib., Hickory, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

Publishers Weekly-

Writing teacher Jensen doesn't believe in the traditional grading system, which he calls "a cudgel to bludgeon the unwilling into doing what they don't want to do," so he opts instead to give his students at Eastern Washington University check marks: one check mark for turning in a piece of writing, four for editing that writing into perfection. For this opinionated offering on writing, teaching and the state of the world, Jensen deserves four checkmarks for courage. His ideas are always radical and often inspiring. He rails against the public education system frequently and with refreshing humor, telling students their papers "have to be good enough—interesting enough—that I would rather read them than make love." Drawing on his personal experience, he castigates what he sees as formal education's lack of creativity and flexibility for personal style. Jensen's strength lies in his honest, provocative, passionate approach. The rawness of his ideas is this book's virtue, but it's also its vice. When Jensen makes seemingly random forays into commentary on the demise of the environment or political consciousness (subjects he explored in earlier books like The Culture of Make Believe), his writing becomes long-winded and unfocused. He loses sight of his own seventh rule of writing, which he so dramatically relays to his students: clarity. But more importantly, Jensen's first, second, third and fourth rules of writing are "Don't bore the reader." In that effort, he succeeds masterfully.

"[Jensen]…deftly wraps his politics in humor, poignant teacher-student encounters and a clear passion for young minds. Jensen is an important, alternative voice of our times."--Mercury News

"The clarity and force of these ideas cut like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon, preserving the vital, removing the diseased. Mr. Jensen burns sharp holes in the dark places of those rituals we have been tricked into believing are education. We owe him a debt of gratitude for these transformational insights. Read this book!"--John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781931498487
Publisher:
Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date:
04/28/2004
Series:
A Politics of the Living Book Series
Pages:
226
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.76(h) x 0.83(d)

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