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Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,155 ratings  ·  149 reviews
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 f
Paperback, 216 pages
Published April 28th 2005 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  1,155 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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Meredith Holley
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: reluctant environmentalists
Recommended to Meredith by: Tracey Coleman
When I was between the ages of seven and eleven, my father was particularly ready to start a militia and secede from the union. I say "particularly" because in one way or another he's always been a little paranoid and iffy on the subject of loyalty to his citizenship (except when republicans are elected to any office, then you are guarantied to see him sporting his American flag suspenders). My parents "home schooled" me for a few years (quotation marks indicate that you could take out the word ...more
Kate Savage
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is a book about the education system with little bits of writing advice thrown in. Jensen follows the tradition of pedagogical cranks and visionaries like Ivan Illich and Jacques Ranciere in the idea that schools exist primarily to teach submission. For Jensen, of course, this is just part of the beast of Industrial Civilization destroying the liveable earth. But suddenly, in between salmon die-off statistics, you've got a helpful tip about writing dialogue. Even if Jensen isn't the best wr ...more
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I borrowed this from the LIBRARY! at the behest of SteviePeace. I began reading it at around 1AM on a Tuesday morning. I didn't put it down until I had finished it - when the sun was high over the North End. I then wandered around my low-rent apartment mumbling to myself and hoping Derrick Jensen would stop by so I could hug him.

You get the picture. I love this book. It's a quick read and it's powerful.

Derrick Jensen shows beautifully how education, politics and writing are inextricable in the m
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: write-now
When I was in grad school, I taught two freshmen writing courses. Teaching those classes was a requirement, but no one bothered to teach us how to teach. Bear in mind this was a prestigious university. My students were paying thirty thousand dollars a year in tuition to sit in a room and watch me flail.

I dreaded every class.

I wish I’d read this book back then.

Derrick Jensen is like an amalgam of every Inspirational Teacher you’ve ever seen in a movie. Only he’s not full of shit.

This is a book ab
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
I received this book at our honeymoon, and years ago I read Jensen's A Language Older Than Words, which I found interesting but not entirely convincing. I suppose that's true in a certain way with Walking on Water, though I liked it much better, on the whole.

The center of this book is Jensen's experiences teaching creative writing at Eastern Washington University and at a prison--in many ways, we could see this book as primarily about teaching creative writing and about writing itself. Around th
Nov 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: teachers, writers, anti-school folks
Shelves: anarchism, teaching
this is a great book. a quick read, even though it's nonfiction. i read it in just a few days, which is fast for me. it helps that it's short.

it makes me excited to become a teacher, and has given me lots of ideas. and though i'm not a writer, it makes me want to write.

it also makes me hate school even more than i already do, and question whether i really should teach.

this book uses humor and creativity to discuss the role of teachers, how fucked-up institutional education is, and some rules for
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: teachers
Recommended to Melissa by: Kyle
Shelves: teaching
Absolutely best book for English teachers looking to change the system. Beautiful, inspiring, and novel.
Marisa Vandyke
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was awesome. It sparked my creativity in ways that no other book has done. I want to read it again soon!
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Probably my favorite contemporary text on teaching.
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wish I had read this while doing my Creative Writing MA.

Still, much food for thought.
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thinking
It was the right book at the right time for me. If you are or want to be an educator, it might be the right book for you too.
Colin Baumgartner
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I like many of Jensen’s ideas about techniques which encourage students to think and grow “into themselves”. I enjoy his rebellious spirit and his perspective on many things in life. Jensen is clearly very good at building rapport with his students and pushing them toward growth.

One thing that I am skeptical of is his hatred of schooling. He rails against public schools. It seems to me that he chooses not to think very hard about how and why schools are organized as they are. Certainly modern sc
Jan 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought Jensen was a bit pretentious for most of the book. I'm not sure I got very much out of it. The anecdotes about his students were entertaining though, and it was interesting comparing student experiences in a small university to student experiences in a prison. ...more
Jul 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This inspirational and joyful little book has taken the #1 spot from Stephen King's "On Writing" in my list of "best books about writing". It also happens to be a great book about teaching and how to make thinking fun, too. ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enjoying the authors stories of his classroom lectures! Excited to try a few in my high school Business Communications class!
Michelle Wang
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book for my humanity class and I end up really like this book. This book gives me new thoughts and views and really inspiring.
Jodie Schram
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First book I’ve read in a long time, which I have instantly wanted to reread!
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Stunningly gorgeous book that will help me deepen my “Why?” questions and more critically examine the nature and motivations of the industrialized world and those that support them.
Noah Nathan
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book makes you think

Good book. He is an English professor and also teaches in a prison. He shares writing strategies to make you a better writer.
Useful reflections, well organized lucid, provocative, entertaining and emotionally dynamic prose.
Milos Pazilov
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thought provoking!
Jun 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
An interesting read, worth the time I spend.
Adam Fletcher
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
(This review is quoted on the book's back flap.)

One of the most important components of both education and activism is contextualization. As Paulo Freire argued, learning must be rooted in the context in which education takes place. For a sixth-grader in the US, that would be their local community; for a elderly person, that might be their family. For Derrick Jensen, that place was in classrooms at a university and a maximum security prison, where he was taught creative writing to Washington sta
Nate Jordon
Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 is 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 ha
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
ah mr. jensen. if i were an aspiring writer what i wouldn't do to take a class from you. [maybe i'd even be willing to go to prison]

as a fellow educator it is quite easy to get distracted or disheartened in the classroom so this was a perfect end of the semester read. as a fine art teacher i feel so lucky that my classes are under 25 students so that i, too, can implement the kind of discussion and discourse than jensen so wonderfully illustrates. who wouldn't argue that our system needs fixing
Nick Mather
I recently had a prolonged epiphany regarding teaching, the environment, western civilization and the sense of self. The experience left me determined to change the way I teach. Even before my night of revelations, I was trying to think of ways to make my classes more experiential. This is my attempt to offer a true educational experience, one where I empty students out and give them the tools to learn on their own rather than fill them up with facts and dates. I try to get them engaged in the w ...more
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Whatever else Derrick Jensen may be, he's a very good writer.

The whatever else includes opinionated, with touches of arrogance and a dollop of self-righteousness. But he means well, I think.

That's a bit harsh, actually. He had a lot of very good points, and wrote a lot of things I agree with. What I wasn't particularly crazy about were his stereotypes. He makes a fairly big deal out of his accepting everyone for who they are, and then smugly lists numerous examples where he succeeded in converti
Jude Li-Berry
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: end-of-humanity
Jensen has a stylized manner of writing -- carefully clipped sentences with build-in suspense. It's highly rhetorical by the seeming lack there-of. All rhetorics aim to manipulate, yet there is still a difference: personally I prefer the overtly rhetorical writing, rather than those that show off by not showing off.

I also wish Jensen had come out at the very beginning with the issue of Work With The System or Against The System, rather than beating around the bush all the way till the last two
سارة العاصي
What I knew that schools are not fun or aim to educate me as my perception is that education cannot be at any way the false stuff they teach me at schools I want to be taught useful things why they didn't teach me how to know my self and be the real me. This book is a wonderful one that states clearly that schools are part of the power tools to make people know who have power and how we must treat them no matter if they work for our good or not. This is the real life and this is what we honestly ...more
Jun 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
One of the best books I've read about education that does a very good job of interweaving well-made arguments against industrial education and narratives illustrating what it means to be taught by a highly perceptive humanist (Jensen) who cares deeply about his students, even those primarily concerned with the next DVD they're going to buy.

I deeply enjoy Jensen's perceptions, thoughts and writing (I've now read three of his books). I'm giving "Walking on Water" four stars instead of five only be
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Derrick Jensen is an American author and environmental activist living in Crescent City, California. He has published several books questioning and critiquing contemporary society and its values, including A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, and Endgame. He holds a B.S. in Mineral Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Eas ...more

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