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Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution Hardcover – Feb 1 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green (Feb. 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931498482
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931498487
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.1 x 22.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 395 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,494,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From 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.
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Remember the days of longing for the hands on the classroom clock to move faster? Most of us would say we love to learn, but we hated school. Why is that? What happens to creativity and individuality as we pass through the educational system? Walking on Water is a startling and provocative look at teaching, writing, creativity, and life by a writer increasingly recognized for his passionate and articulate critique of modern civilization. This time Derrick Jensen brings us into his classroom--whether college or maximum security prison--where he teaches writing. He reveals how schools perpetuate the great illusion that happiness lies outside of ourselves and that learning to please and submit to those in power makes us into lifelong clock-watchers. As a writing teacher Jensen guides his students out of the confines of traditional education to find their own voices, freedom, and creativity. Jensen's great gift as a teacher and writer is to bring us fully alive at the same moment he is making us confront our losses and count our defeats. It is at the center of Walking on Water, a book that is not only a hard-hitting and sometimes scathing critique of our current educational system and not only a hands-on method for learning how to write, but, like Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a lesson on how to connect to the core of our creative selves, to the miracle of waking up and arriving breathless (but with dry feet) on the far shore.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nothing new on June 10 2004
Format: Hardcover
I eagerly looked forward to buying and reading this book. Having read Jensen's other books, I have come to appreciate his willingness to address the ills of this society. However, I was deceived by the title, which I felt would discuss revolution or solutions to the ills of this society. Here is the final line to the book, "There is much work to be done. What are you waiting for? It's time to begin". To be honest, I expected more. I could not shake the feeling that Jensen's recollection of the class discussions were half made up. If you are seeking a book that looks at how a teacher can institute a no grading policy in class while seeking to institute a non-hierarchal classroom, then this book MAY be for you. I say MAY, because being a teacher myself I have already played with these ideas and more. I liked at times how Jensen addresses the free-loader problem within the system he uses, and although he fixes this problem within his classes, he never discusses the ramifications of his solutions or the ramifications of letting a free-loader turn in more than one or two recycled papers throughout the semester. Hence, the disappointment of the book. I honestly found myself saying three-quarters of the way through the book, "What a waste" and "This feels like filler". To sum up, Jensen's previous books are wonderful because I knew what I was getting, this book I felt did not address the issue of change (revolution) and thus I was not satisfied. Be free thinkers and then what? Bring back the Renaissance era? What happened to the Hippies in the 60's? They got jobs. How do we negotiate idealism and realism? The solution must address both.
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Format: Hardcover
Derrick Jensen is truly brilliant. I've known it since I read the very first paragraph of "A Language Older Than Words". But, it's not just what Derrick Jensen says that makes his writing the best of our time--or any time--it is the way he says it. Reading "Walking on Water" feels like a personal journey into his classroom, a chance to learn how one teaches as well as how one learns (and writes). But more than that, Jensen's classroom is a place to realize what it really means to be human.
I'm there. I am the girl who always sits in the back--the one who has always gotten good grades but has never really felt smart or eloquent enough to speak up or answer questions, even when I am sure I know the answers. Seeing a bright red "A" has always been enough motivation for me to want to see another. So, I am at first uncomfortable when this new kind of teacher--who is, but isn't, teaching--suggests that grades will not be given or will only be given based on standards he won't solely establish. Up until this moment, I have been taught (forced really, though I've never actually realized it) to find my own value in the marks another person (more like a long series of other persons) would give me. But as this man keeps talking and encouraging me through exercises and activities that are unorthodox and unexpected, I begin to realize that he is really showing me a world way beyond this classroom or any other cultural confinement. And suddenly, I can hear the only important questions, first spoken in ink within the pages, then repeated over and over in my mind like the sound of his voice, and then, finally, whispered from every face and force around me: who am I and, more importantly, what am I going to do about it?
I no longer care to make the grade.
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Format: Hardcover
"Walking on Water" is filled with insight, wisdom, and humor by Derrick Jensen, one of the most important (although, sadly, not well known) thinkers, visionaries, and leaders of our time. This is a fascinating book -- provocative, intriguing, informative, entertaining -- albeit a bit scattered at times. Given what I know about Jensen (I have read several of his other books and belonged to his Yahoo discussion group for a while), my guess is that "Walking on Water" is a bit scattered because it is in part an interlude, almost a palate cleanser, for Jensen as he authors his next great "Radical Environmentalist" jeremiad.
And what will THAT book be about? Here's a hint: it's Derrick's third "R" after Reading and Writing. Or how about the following quotes from "Walking on Water": "I hate industrial civilization...[it] is killing the planet" and we need to "change the whole system." In other words, "Walking on Water," while excellent in and of itself, is most likely something of a warmup for Jensen's "bringing down civilization" book -- the book that will represent the culmination of Jensen's thinking, activism, and life work to date (I can't wait!).
As a warmup, though, if indeed that's partly what it is, "Walking on Water" is important because it focuses on the critical role played by our "industrial education" system, and the damage that this system does to to our souls, our communities, and our ecosystems. In other words, training people to think and act like unthinking, mindless, interchangeable parts coming off an assembly line may be a politically effective, cost-efficient way of holding together the industrial capitalist economic system.
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