Praise from teachers and students for Walking on Water and Jensen's other books
Part memoir, part teaching manual, part writing guide, part Luddite screed, Walking on Water is all ass-kicking for any interested teacher.
I hated high school—and I teach high school, so I already know that American education isn't so much about reflection or revolution or resistance as it is about regurgitation, recitation, reception. True education, Jensen notes, is drawing out; its lingual cousin, seduction, is leading astray. (Guess: which one do teachers usually succeed at? Right. Neither.)
Jensen captures the tension of working inside the system without becoming part of it. It's an everyday struggle. If you haven't had the stars plucked out of your idealist eyes, read this. If you've grown stale in your teacherly comfort, read this. If you have only two hours to steal away from grading papers, read this.
Review from Bibliocracy
By Jim Anderson
I'll cut to the chase, then give you some details. TEACHERS NEED WALKING ON WATER!
I teach first grade. Walking On Water gets my attention first thing in the morning and just before I fall asleep. I get to absorb it through my skin. Reading passages several times, processing them mentally, emotionally, I am stretching professionally (and personally) to a new level. Yes, some of my students are still working on letter formation, putting spaces between words, making their invented spelling correlate to real words. Many are turning one word "sentences" into complete ones. But they are in other ways similar to Derrick's college students. They need to be validated, to learn descriptive language, to have immediate experiences that set their pencils on fire. So as I read W.O.W. I keep asking myself, "How can I extrapolate this? How can I give my students their own version of what Derrick's students are receiving?" I love the challenge. I am now more alive in my classroom, not just while they are reading and writing, but all day, than I have ever been. And I have always been very engaged with my students.
Yesterday I attended a literacy training. I was able to snag a few teachers and tell them about my process with this book. Their eyes lit up. One is a fellow first grade teacher. I told her how refreshing it is to have a detailed picture of a college writing class that is ablaze. Her response was that she was hungry for this kind of writing. The other is a literacy coach in our building (we have funding for extra assistance because I teach a population highly impacted by poverty). ("Inner city" Seattle.) She has contact with lots of teachers. She may get this book as a Christmas present. Visiting Derrick's Web site was one of their top priorities when they walked out the door.
I just read the chapter, Giving Up Control. Every quality elementary teacher is dying for middle and high school teachers to provide their students with active learning experiences. After all, they now have our students! We (elementary teachers) take our kids on field trips and have them write about them, give them hands on science experiences and have them write about them, have them make a peanut butter sandwich and have them write about that. As I read this chapter I kept saying, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" (So now, how can I now take experiential learning to a higher level without over stimulating my class?)
I'm sure you're well aware that important things can result from students venturing to share secrets during writing. I taught third grade for several years. One year I discovered too late that one of my students was trying to seduce his fellow classmates into a type of gang. The entrance requirement for acceptance into the gang was hurting another child. He wrote about visiting his dad in jail. Once that hurdle was crossed he was able to tell me his mom and uncle were also incarcerated. As a result of this and some quality intervention by a specialist in the building, this reserved, defensive child began to smile more and participate in class more. His posture changed. He still had outbursts of anger followed by withdrawal, but could come back to center more quickly. I checked in with him from time to time about his family. He seemed to appreciate this. The beginning of trust developed. Reading about Derrick's experiences in the prison system woke up all my corpuscles. Teachers of children living in poverty need this book.
Bottom line? TEACHERS NEED THIS BOOK!
—Sharon Rings, first grade teacher, Seattle
I have found A Language Older than Words to be essential to the seminar I teach in environmental ethics. It does so much—it helps students understand the silencing of other voices that prevents them from making connections between actions and their consequences; it gives a vicarious experience of animism for students who lack those experiences themselves; and it helps to break down barriers among the students themselves. Students who are in a shell at the beginning of the semester generally emerge after having read Language.
Not only has Derrick written fantastic tomes that perform large-scale critiques of our culture (A Language Older Than Words and The Culture of Make Believe), but his cooperative efforts with George Draffan are also very insightful shorter works that address specific issues and relate them to the larger picture. And Walking on Water is the one book I recommend to students who want to become writers. My copies of all of Derrick’s books are constantly out on loan to students.
—Terry Shistar, Environmental Studies Professor, University of Kansas
Derrick writes with great thought and precision about things that matter to students who find today's world a perplexing place. His insights on history and the environment inform an understanding of several contemporary dilemmas, leaving the reader with a measure of both comfort and alarm. These are simple yet noble ideas that inspire discussion and, more importantly, protest and action.
—Del Jacobs, Professor of Media Studies, Manatee Community College
Hello Mr. Jensen,
I think your book was amazing. I am now even more knowledgeable about what is going on in the world than I was before. I am outraged with how our society is destroying the earth. Unfortunately, I can't do as much as someone older, but I promise to do all that I can. I will continue to fight the fight for our environment. Maybe one day our culture will, in fact, be back in touch with nature and all nonhumans. I will never look at the world the same as I used to before reading your book. Thank you for writing A Language Older Than Words. It has changed my way of thinking forever.
—Kayla, 14-year-old freshman in Chicago after reading Jensen’s A Language Older Than Words
I use A Language Older Than Words for a class on why we see nature the way we do. The book provokes students into thinking deeply about topics that they have not thought about before. Or, if thought about previously, to reflect on ideas more deeply and in a different way. Some have commented that Jensen puts into writing some of their innermost thoughts. Numbers of students buy additional copies to give to relatives and friends.
—Dick Hansis, Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California
A rich, sophisticated text, A Language Older Than Words should be required reading for every young person interested in understanding what makes us fully human. For a generation of people raised on consumerism and Ritalin, this text helps students understand and the roots of the emptiness and superficiality underlying our culture. Philosophy, History, Sociology, Psychology, and Natural Science students all should read this important work.
—Steve Miranda, teacher at Garfield High School, Seattle.
Derrick Jensen’s honesty, passion, and incisiveness define him as a post-modern Thoreau. In A Language Older then Words Jensen delves into the underbelly of our technocratic culture by examining the devastating destruction we have wrought upon ourselves and our world. Jensen brilliantly describes the toxic cultural tapestry that weaves our mental and natural landscapes together. Jensen argues that the only healthy and sane path forward is to create a culture premised on love.
—Prof. Scott Carlin, Long Island University
I have used Derrick Jensen's works—A Language Older than Words and The Culture of Make Believe—in college classes in human development for several years. Either work provides substance for a semester class, though I have used both in combination with other required readings. This semester I used The Culture of Make Believe as the sole text for a graduate seminar called Advanced Topics in Human Development with great success. Mr. Jensen's work evokes a strong response from students as they grapple with the "uncovering" process through which he leads his readers. I have rarely found a text which is as substantial and life-changing as The Culture of Make-Believe. By the end of the semester, most of my students are profoundly grateful for the transformative though difficult experience of seeing our culture from Mr. Jensen's uncovered and thoroughly documented perspective.
—Karen M. Fite, MA, JD, Senior Adjunct Faculty, Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, CA
In an increasingly bleak world of pavement and pixels, I have always found hope in my teenage student; the modern world hasn't yet hammered out their originality and enthusiasm. I found that Derrick's books always resonate with high school readers because they have the perfect blend of energy, open mindedness, and rebelliousness to be moved by his words. He's exactly what they need at exactly this time in their lives, because in a few years, it might be too late.
—Steve Jordan, high school English teacher