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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How NOT to Teach - How to Be Human
Jensen cuts to the heart of the matter: "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?" Although I cannot presume to speak for others, this was certainly true for me. School sucked. It was like torture, five days a week, eight hours a day, seemingly without beginning or end. And...
Published on March 2, 2004 by J.W.K

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what you're expecting, somewhat of a throw-away from Jensen
I've so appreciated Jensen's other books, though I agree with other reviewers of them that a good editor would be really helpful--someone who could show him where and how to cut and distill. They're well worth slogging through, but there's definitely some slogging to do. I just skim past pages when it gets redundant and no longer helpful to his point. Not sure why this...
Published on August 24, 2010 by n brown


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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How NOT to Teach - How to Be Human, March 2, 2004
By 
J.W.K (Nagano, Japan) - See all my reviews
Jensen cuts to the heart of the matter: "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?" Although I cannot presume to speak for others, this was certainly true for me. School sucked. It was like torture, five days a week, eight hours a day, seemingly without beginning or end. And yet the end does eventually come, with much cap-throwing and fanfare, only to be crushed with the prospects of our work-a-day world and the ecological destruction it enacts on a daily basis.

Along with Jensen, I would have to agree that one of the primary reasons we put up with this system is because we have been trained to do so, both bodily and mentally. "Throughout our adult lives, most of us are expected to get to work on time, to do our boss's bidding...and not to leave till the final bell has rung. It is expected that we will watch the clock, counting seconds till five o'clock, till Friday, till payday, till retirement, when at last our time will again be our own, as it was before we began kindergarten, or preschool, or daycare. Where do we learn to do all of this waiting?" The answer, of course, is school. School is the "day-prison" where we learn to be "a nation of slaves" - and servile slaves at that.

To some, these statements might seem too extreme. To be sure, many of us enjoyed moments of school here and there, encountered truly inspiring teachers, and experienced enthusiasm and genuine learning amid the 18-year prison sentence we call formal education. But such is not the norm, nor is it the point. The point is rather to ask what education could be. "What are the effects of schooling on creativity?" Jensen asks. "How well does schooling foster the uniqueness of each child who passes through? Does schooling make children happier? For that matter, does our culture as a whole engender happy children? What does each new child receive in exchange for the so many hours for years on end that she or he gives to the school system?" The answer is not much, unless you consider obedience to the clock a high and noble aim. In light of the looming problems our society now faces - drug addiction, teen suicide, domestic violence, rampant materialism, ecological crisis - this systemic acculturation of obedience has become pathological. Yet as Jensen shows, the aim of education from the very start has been economic growth, homogenization, social control, and industrialization - not personal enrichment, individuality, creativity or even the creation of healthy communities.

Through a complex web of stories, anecdotes and personal experiences teaching both literal prisoners at California State Pen and figurative prisoners at Eastern Washington University, Jensen offers an alternative vision of education. This vision is reoriented to educe, draw out, and lead forth the native impulses and interests of students and teachers alike; and is predicated on our ability to listen to and follow our own hearts. As he says, "We need simply to be encouraged, to be given heart, to be allowed to grow our own large hearts. We do not need to be governed by external schedules - by the ticking of the ubiquitous classroom clock - nor told what and when we need to learn, nor what we need to express, but instead we need to be given time, not as a constraint, but as a gift in a supportive place where we can explore what we want and who we are, with the assistance of others who care about us also. This is true not only for me and for my students, but for all of us, including our nonhuman neighbors."

As with most of Jensen's previous works (Listening to the Land, A Language Older Than Words, and The Culture of Make Believe) Walking On Water is difficult to categorize. Despite the subtitle - Reading, Writing and Revolution - Jensen does not address any of these subjects specifically. Rather, he moves in and out of them while addressing the larger issue - which is how to be fully human, and how to allow others to be fully human, in an extremely dehumanizing world. An important book, for teachers, students, dropouts, and successful members of our industrialized mass culture alike.

j.w.k.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walking on Water - then writing about it., March 4, 2004
Well! Eco-William seems to have summed up all of Walking on Water very nicely. Whereas Jensen touched upon the effects and purposes of formal schooling in A Language Older Than Words (the only other work by Jensen I have read), it is the primary objective of Walking on Water.
I so desperately would like to toss this book to a few people I have passed by in life that have felt they were somehow wrong in their dreams, desires, and actions in life because of how they felt in school. Primarily that they do not like being in school. And thusly are inherently bad people. I myself did fine in school, but the more I distance myself from my pre-college years the more I am able to see just how much of my time was not spent learning, but spent killing my desire to think the fantastic and to stop offering such fantastic ideas to those around me. This is not just conveying ideas in proper grammar and well formatted essays or with the proper mathematical proof and the correct choice out of four on a test, but in being reminded for years on end that we must all adhere to certain "truths" that we are taught in school, and to question them is dangerous to our well being. For example: being an American who spent two of his college years studying abroad with scores of people from around the world I learned the miss-guidance, the nearly subconscious danger I learned in my youth from society (meaning school) that America is #1. Economically, militarily, in freedom, in happiness. These were truths; I felt it in my youth. Now I will not garner controversy to dispute the "facts", but I have since learned that such qualities should not and cannot be quantified.
A proper essay is thesis, argument paragraph 1, 2, and 3, and conclusion paragraph. An O is written from the top in a counter-clockwise direction. Maps of the Earth cut Asia in half. A person with an A in class is better than a person with a B and definitely better than a person with a C and there need not be any more argument to substantiate that. I could go on for pages with examples of how school trains us to "not make waves" and to "ever be complacent" but that is Jensen's job to do in his books. However it is thanks to his writing that I was able to identify this discontent I have with my youth and the time spent in school compared to the experience I have had studying on my own.
Meanwhile, Jensen uses Walking on Water to also tell tales and draw examples from his own creative writing classes that he has taught at Eastern Washington University and Pelican Bay State Prison. His advice on writing was very edifying and his tales of his adventures in teaching helped me appreciate Jensen the man. Even though A Language Older than Words is arguably a more personal book than this one, I somehow felt I could now meet Jensen in person and have a good chat with him after reading Walking on Water. He not just cares about the fate of our lives and civilization, but also about syntax use and sporting a healthy sense of humor. Very much appreciated.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What are you waiting for?, June 20, 2004
"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. But, treating people like this is certainly not conducive to their well-being or to the well-being of the planet, which is being rapidly destroyed by human greed and stupidity even as we sit here. This is why Derrick Jensen's "Walking on Water" is important, because it attacks this system based on Jensen's tremendous knowledge and insight, his deep personal experience with the education system (and with fighting the worst of the capitalist system), and his skill, passion, and courage as a writer, thinker, and activist.
At the risk of oversimplifying, what Jensen is (correctly) arguing and demonstrating here is that our education system is first and foremost designed to produce good worker bees for the capitalist economy, bees who will accept authority and "won't question country, God, capitalism, science, economics, History, the rule of law" or anything else, really. In other words, bees that collect honey but don't sting.
What Jensen is also arguing --and showing, through his own leadership and life example -- is that it DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. Thus, we see Jensen teaching ("Principles of Thinking and Writing") in a very different way than most of us are accustomed to, both at an actual prison and also at a metaphorical one (a state university in Eastern Washington). Some of the most interesting moments in the book are when Jensen collides with people who have obviously bought into the system to an extreme degree.
For instance, who knew that arranging chairs in a circle could set off such strife (the "Great Chalkboard War of 1995")? And who knew that encouraging students to think for themselves would lead one particular student, a fundamentalist Christian woman, to come to Jensen's office, to sit in his chair, to tell him he's "going to hell" (while taking "a lot of people with [him]"), and finally to drop down on her knees and start praying for him (as Jensen watches tensely to see if she's about to pull a gun on him). Finally, who knew that one-third of college students, at least in one classroom at one university in America -- answer in all seriousness that they have no interest whatsoever in thinking at all (this does, of course, help explain how 40+% of Americans can continue to support George W. Bush)?
In the end, "Walking on Water" is both encouraging and depressing. Encouraging because it demonstrates that it IS possible to help people break free of the mental straightjacket they have been placed in by the "industrial education" system. Depressing because it highlights that there are perilously few Derrick Jensens out there, and because those few brave souls are fighting such a huge, powerful, rotten system. As Jensen emphasizes through his words and actions, however, we must all fight for what we believe in while living our lives as if death is at our shoulder (which, of course, it is). To quote the last words of Jensen's book: "There is much work to be done. What are you waiting for? It's time to begin."
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leading us back to our hearts., March 5, 2004
By 
Huby7 "Curt" (Springbrook, Wi United States) - See all my reviews
I really think Derrick Jensen is one of the most important thinkers of our time. Walking On Water is another Jensen masterpiece that has reaffirmed this belief!
Jensen asks his students and readers to think the unthinkable and do what we think could've never been done. After reading Walking On Water I can only imagine how different our lives would be if as children we weren't coerced into participating in the industrial school system. I ask myself how different things would be if students were loved and accepted by their teachers like Derrick shows love and acceptance for his students. I wonder: would most of us be going to jobs we hate everyday? Would we be captives of a civilizational system that compels us to destroy the very ecological system that we depend on to keep us alive? Would the U.S. taxpayers be spending 400 billion to make war? Would we EVEN put up with this corrupt economic and political system?
"If one of the most unforgivable sins is to lead people away from themselves, we must not forgive the processes of the industrial education." Pg.216 D. Jensen. In this book Derrick has truthfully spoken to my experience in our industrial education system. I can remember sunny spring days, (I'm sure you can too) when all I wanted was to be playing outside with my friends, and having my mom and dad close by. But instead I was forced to sit in a hard seated desk in a block building with few windows. They call this a classroom. And this memory of my past experience is part of the unforgivable process of leading us away from ourselves. It's really sad to think that most of us have memories like this.
Time is short! And if you've been forced to sit at a desk wishing away your time(the most precious thing we as human beings have)waiting for that bell to ring, you will love this book. Once again Derrick has showed me things really don't have to be this way.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I had to put the book down to say "wow" at least every other page, April 3, 2007
By 
Benjamin Green (Heredia, Costa Rica) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution (Paperback)
No seriously, this book is phenomenally self-aware, and self-critical, while also making a strong case for totally dismantling institutionalized education. But Jensen doesn't simply condemn a system built to squash the human spirit, he goes far, far beyond that. For every page explaining the horrors of the traditional educational model and his problems working within it, he provides ten pages of real life examples of how he answered the toughest question of all, "what would you do instead?" The fact that he gives us a peek into his fantastic classes is tempered by his constant reminders that there is no one answer. Instead, we all must constantly probe our innermost depths to find our own answers. How will we confront systems of conformity and discover how to be ourselves?
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and beautiful!, June 21, 2004
By 
Nita Crabb (Harrisburg, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
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.
Jensen is a master at destroying destructive mindsets while opening and enriching the mind that was so set. He removes layers of mystification, peeling each one away with awareness and care. He teaches by showing us that we can learn our own lessons. This book does so much more than expose modern education systems as the tools (training camps) of modern civilization they really are. This book awakens and inspires the creativity that is alive in each of us that has so long been silenced or sleeping or waiting to be born.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another 5 star for Derrick Jensen..., January 19, 2006
This review is from: Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution (Paperback)
Every teacher and student should read this book. Especially those who are interested in reading and writing. It is a great study on the views and teachings of those who reside in our destructive culture. Its a short quick read, that will make you question even more the teachings of our culture.

Warning: This book will make you want to drop out of school and persue what ever it is you want to persue. It will also make you want to be a writer.

Derrick Jensen is one of the mose important writers of our time, and this is just another one of his masterpieces... A+++
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was blown away .. this really hit home, February 9, 2006
By 
Caelidh "Caelidh" (Cincinnati, Ohio USA) - See all my reviews
I read this book and throughout I laughed and I cried. No, I am serious. This was one of the most profound and intense and well written books I have read in YEARS.

Derrick Jensen's passion for the subject and the way he conveys his message is too the point and inspirational.

I have read LANGUAGE OLDER THAN WORDS (another excellent book) and I think I was expecting something different from Walking on Water. I didn't really expect it to be really about writing. Yet, while he gives great information about the writing process,he manages to instill an inspirational message about passion, and courage and love and the world around us.

I am impressed with Mr. Jensen overall. I was so inspired by the book that one evening I wrote a letter to him and he had responded by the next day.

I HIGHLY recommend this book and feel it is one of those "required" reading books.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what you're expecting, somewhat of a throw-away from Jensen, August 24, 2010
By 
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This review is from: Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution (Paperback)
I've so appreciated Jensen's other books, though I agree with other reviewers of them that a good editor would be really helpful--someone who could show him where and how to cut and distill. They're well worth slogging through, but there's definitely some slogging to do. I just skim past pages when it gets redundant and no longer helpful to his point. Not sure why this happens to every book of his--maybe the same editor? Anyway, I've read some other insightful critiques of the educational system and was eager to read his, so took a risk and bought it without having previewed it. It should instead be called "The great and provocative speeches I've given to my composition students." That would be a much more apt title. John Taylor Gatto has a blurb on the back--I'd suggest reading Gatto instead. Most of this book is a transcript of his composition classes. Sounds like he's a good and creative teacher, but it's just not how this book was sold. Sorry Jensen! I otherwise find your work deeply challenging and insightful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our Modern-Day Thoreau, April 15, 2009
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This review is from: Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution (Paperback)
Another amazing book, or should I say manifesto, from our modern-day Thoreau. An investigation into American industrial civilization and education, and the repercussions thereof. Of the many highlights I could share, here are a few:

"Here is what I do know: I hate industrial civilization, for what it does to the planet, for what it does to communities, for what it does to individual nonhumans (both wild and domesticated), and for what it does to individual humans (both wild and domesticated). I hate the wage economy, because it causes - forces is probably more accurate - people to sell their lives doing things they do not love, and because it rewards people for harming each other and destroying their landbases. I hate industrial schooling because it commits one of the only unforgivable sins there is: it leads people away from themselves, training them to be workers and convincing them it's in their best interest to be ever more loyal slaves, rowing the galley that is industrial civilization ever more fervently - enthusiastically, orgiastically - to hell, compelling them to take everything and everyone they encounter down with them. And I participate in the process. I help make school a little more palatable, a little more fun, as students are trained to do their part in the ongoing destruction of the planet, as they enter the final phases of trading away their birthright as the free and happy humans they were born to be for their roles as cogs in the giant industrial machine, or worse, as overseers of the giant factory/enslavement camp we once recognized as a living earth. Doesn't that make me, in essence, a collaborator? Hell, drop the in essence."
- Derrick Jensen -

"Mathematics, science, economics, history, religion, are all just as deeply and necessarily political. To believe they're not - to believe, for example, that science (or mathematics, economics, history, religion, and so forth: choose your poison) describes the world as it is, rather than acting as a filter that removes all information that does not fit the model and colors the information that remains - is in itself to take a position, one that is all the more powerful and dangerous because it is invisible to the one who holds it."
- Derrick Jensen -
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Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution
Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution by Derrick Jensen (Paperback - April 30, 2005)
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