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Walking on Water


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About the Author

Derrick Jensen is the prize-winning author of A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, Listening to the Land, Railroads and Clearcuts, and most recently, co-author of Strangely Like War (Green Books, 2004).


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.

'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

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.

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