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Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing Up to Old School Culture Paperback – April 4, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0807749555 ISBN-10: 0807749559 Edition: 3.5.2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Teachers College Press; 3.5.2009 edition (April 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807749559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807749555
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Kirsten Olson's book is refreshingly unlike the general run of sludge I associate with writing about pedagogy: It seems to be entirely free of the familiar platitudes which replace thought when we read about school matters, is scrubbed clean of pretentious jargon, and offers up the twists and turns of Olson's analysis and citations with beautiful clarity. I can't imagine anyone not being better for reading this book Twice! --John Taylor Gatto, Author, Dumbing Us Down

Kirsten Olson portrays the realities of modern schooling more vividly and convincingly than anyone since the prophetic school critic John Holt. Through her sensitive interviewing and insightful analysis, Olson demonstrates exactly why this obsolete industrial-age institution is damaging to authentic human development. Policymakers, administrators and parents who have largely ignored the impassioned pleas of critics, homeschoolers and alternative educators for the past forty years need to read Wounded by School because this time they'll get it. We need to replace industrial schooling with more genuinely caring and humane ways of teaching, and Olson clearly shows us why and how to do it. --Ron Miller, Editor, Education Revolution Magazine

Kirsten Olson portrays the realities of modern schooling more vividly and convincingly than anyone since the prophetic school critic John Holt. Through her sensitive interviewing and insightful analysis, Olson demonstrates exactly why this obsolete industrial-age institution is damaging to authentic human development. Policymakers, administrators and parents who have largely ignored the impassioned pleas of critics, homeschoolers and alternative educators for the past forty years need to read Wounded by School because this time they'll get it. We need to replace industrial schooling with more genuinely caring and humane ways of teaching, and Olson clearly shows us why and how to do it. --Ron Miller, Editor, Education Revolution Magazine

Kirsten Olson portrays the realities of modern schooling more vividly and convincingly than anyone since the prophetic school critic John Holt. Through her sensitive interviewing and insightful analysis, Olson demonstrates exactly why this obsolete industrial-age institution is damaging to authentic human development. Policymakers, administrators and parents who have largely ignored the impassioned pleas of critics, homeschoolers and alternative educators for the past forty years need to read Wounded by School because this time they'll get it. We need to replace industrial schooling with more genuinely caring and humane ways of teaching, and Olson clearly shows us why and how to do it. --Ron Miller, Editor, Education Revolution Magazine

About the Author

Kirsten Olson is a writer, educational consultant, and national-level Courage To Teach facilitator. She has been a consultant to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Kennedy School at Harvard University, and many large public school systems and charter schools.

More About the Author

Kirsten Olson is interested in how education in this country may be changing, and helping to push along some much-needed changes. To write books she likes to listen to learner's stories--stories about how people of all ages learn both inside and outside of school--and lately, to understand better what makes learning pleasurable and go deep.

To write Wounded By School she sat with hundreds of people, listening to their recollections of learning in school. She found that many of us have very negative or self-defeating learning stories based on our experiences in school, and she asked why? What purposes do those stories have? Whom do these stories serve? Is your learning story serving you?

Kirsten is principal of Old Sow Consulting, an educational consulting group based in Boston, Massachusetts. Old Sow Consulting works with schools and teachers and students all over the country who are trying rethink what places of learning ought to look like and feel like, and whether they should be "places" at all.

Kirsten is writing her next book, and wants to know: what is your learning story? Where and how do you learn best? What makes learning pleasurable and (good) challenging for you? Let us hear from you.

Customer Reviews

In one of the few times she does cite a survey, the data does not support her conclusion.
Michael A. Kleen
As you can probably tell, this book had a huge impact on me and I think anyone who picks up this book would have a similar reaction.
Grace L
I highly recommend this to anyone, especially to parents with children in Special Education.
Sue Y

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By mjdicker on June 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
For me, "Wounded by School" is a breakthrough book. Based in both quantitative research and case studies, it is the first book I've seen that examines the psychological damage that school often creates in young people, wounds that stay with all of us unless we recognize them and work to heal them.

I disagree with the reviewer who said that this book wasn't well-researched and was based on personal stories. Olson, who has her doctorate from the Harvard School of Education, peppers the narrative with statistics, such as "Dropout rates are about 60% in some American cities and half of the public school population consider the work they do unchallenging, superficial, and boring." There are 10 pages of comprehensive endnotes in small print that cite this type of research and quotes from various education literature.

I think that this book is a must-read for anyone who has been a student -- that is, everyone -- and especially anyone who is a parent or teacher. If we do not acknowledge the pain we still carry with us from the past, it will influence the way we live our lives in the future. In addition, if we don't question and change the school system that hurt us when we were young, we will subject our own children and students to the damage that we suffered.

I related very much to the case studies in the book of adults and young people who graduated from school feeling worthless and empty. Though the people featured in the book felt this way because they struggled in school for various reasons (dyslexia, ADHD, exceptional creativity, etc.), I was actually on the other end of the spectrum as an overachiever.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anna Mulholland on April 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
Do you wonder why school was so tedious for you and for your children? Maybe you think that it's better for other people - Wounded by School provides compelling portraits of a variety of learners and the failure of school to capture the imagination of students, and worse yet the stifling of enthusiasm that results. But more than that there is a different way and Olson is an expert in mapping out alternatives to the deadening monotony of our current educational system, which is failing us both as individuals and as a society. Read this book - you'll be a better advocate for yourself and your kids.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Grace L on July 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
Wounded by School reflected my life and struck a chord within me before I even read a page. I knew the book would have an impact on me. I had no idea how much. The stories were heart wrenching and they illustrated the points well. It was also written very well and in a very engaging manner. You can tell that Olson feels very passionately about the subject and makes you feel passionate about it too.

I think all teachers, especially of the younger grades, should be made to read this before they ever enter a classroom. Some teachers are unaware of the lasting impact they can have on children.The system doesn't help either but the teachers have the most direct impact. I am going to recommend this to some of my friends who are going to be starting teaching soon and hope they pass it on. I would recommend this to anyone involved in early childhood education and parents of children entering school. As you can probably tell, this book had a huge impact on me and I think anyone who picks up this book would have a similar reaction.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By ReneeSuz VINE VOICE on July 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a former public school teacher and a current homeschooling mom, I was very interested in reading this book. I think the author makes good arguments for changing the way our schools educate our youth but first universities need to alter the way future teachers are prepared.
Reading Wounded by School has prompted me to make some changes in our homeschool. I have asked my children what they want to learn this coming school year. I discovered my eldest son would rather study US Government than a 3rd year of Spanish; I am letting him follow his interests. My youngest daughter wants to paint - so I'm looking for curriculum that will guide her interest since I have no artistic talent.
My eldest daughter (who is heading to college in less than a month to study to be an elementary teacher) grabbed this book from my to-be-read basket and loved it; I have been requested to not get rid of this one so it will be going to Mississippi University for Women with her next month. I have a feeling it will be passed among her college classmates.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Kleen on August 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this problematic book, Kirsten Olson argues not only that the ‘factory model’ of education is ineffective and even injurious to students, but that it is incapable of producing the kind of creative minds that our contemporary American workforce demands. Underlying her thesis is the notion that the emotion of joy, specifically the “joy of learning,” is the single most essential component to education, and that the experience of joy has been lost in the soul-crushing, day to day routine of America’s schools. Old School Culture, as Olson defines it, “is a set of old-fashioned ideas and attitudes in school that construct teaching as hierarchical, learning as passive, and the bureaucratic structures of school as about adults, not kids.”

Olson makes some very strong claims, accusations, and generalizations, which normally would require a foundation of objective evidence to support. If Olson had prepared a court case in which she sought to convict the public school system of wounding its students, her case would rest predominantly on personal anecdotes and circumstantial evidence. Her interviewees, some of whom had been out of school for decades, would parade up to the witness stand to tell their stories of being wounded by school, as well as their road to recovery. Then, dramatically, Olson would take the stand as an expert witness, telling about her work as a school consultant and how she observed the attitudes of students in many different types of classroom environments, and how, in non-traditional school settings, “learners” respond in an entirely positive way.

Olson draws broad generalizations about the American education system based on roughly two dozen interviews, which is hardly even a statistically significant sample.
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