WOUNDED BY SCHOOL

wounded by school | by kirsten olson | www.kirstenolson.org

“Kirsten Olson portrays the realities of modern schooling more vividly and convincingly than anyone since the prophetic school critic John Holt.”

-Ron Miller, editor of Education Revolution and author of What Are Schools For? and Educational Freedom for a Democratic Society

About The Book

blackboard writing

This controversial book says that the way we educate millions of American children alienates students from a fundamental pleasure in learning, and that pleasure in learning is essential to real engagement, creativity, intellectual entrepreneurship, and a well-lived life.

Based on almost a decade of intensive autobiographical interviews with over 100 "ordinary" students, teachers, and parents, Wounded By School describes some of the dilemmas of those in school now. Students talk about intensive boredom and daily disengagement, while knowing that school "matters" more than ever.  Students and teachers describe a grinding lack of meaning in their work, combined with intensive labeling, tracking and shrink-wrapping of learners based on cursory tests and poor understanding of many kinds of minds.

Wounded By School identifies seven kinds of common school wounds, and tells the stories of those who have experienced them...

  • Wounds of Creativity
  • Wounds of Compliance
  • Wounds of Rebelliousness
  • Wounds That Numb
  • Wounds of Underestimation
  • Wounds of Perfectionism
  • Wounds of the Average

These stories show that while reformers and policymakers tinker with accountability plans and annual yearly progress measures, millions of learners are intellectually and spiritually checking out--and gifted teachers depart the field by thousands--due to inhospitable conditions for learning and teaching.

leafIn addition to exploring seven types of common school wounds, Wounded By School also portrays a few individuals who have healed their learning lives and reclaimed their intellectual territory and self-possession. These stories of healing show that those who have been lacerated must be much more vocal and active in pressuring our educational system for change.

Fundamentally hopeful, Wounded By School finds much energy for reform, and an alignment with the larger business community that says American schools are not producing the kinds of attributes most needed in young adults and future employees.

An old-fashioned, outmoded institution, the American schoolhouse and concepts of learning and teaching were designed for an earlier time. These ideas no longer serve us well. This is a critical moment for individuals to band together to create change and reclaim our learning lives.

Stand up!

 

A Learner's Bill of Rights

Every learner has the right to know why they are learning something, why it is important now, or may be important to them someday.

Every learner has the right to engage in questioning or interrogating the idea of "importance" above.

Every learner has the right to be confused and to express this confusion openly, honestly, and without shame.

Every learner has the right to multiple paths to understanding a concept, an idea, a set of facts, or a series of constructs.

Every learner has the right to understand his or her own mind, brain wiring, and intellectual inclinations as completely as possible.

Every learner has the right to interrogate and question the means through which his or her learning is assessed.

Every learner is entitled to some privacy in their imagination and thoughts.

Every learner has the right to take their own imagination and thinking seriously.

-From Wounded By School

 

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What Are School Wounds?

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Healing Through Activism

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What People Are Saying About...

"Olson's book places responsibility for common school wounds and other humiliations and blows to self-esteem on the nature of school in our society and brilliantly analyzes the way in which these wounds affect and damage teachers and parents as well as students. She provides dozens of specific examples of the wounding. This litany of sorrows, however is jut a small part of her book, which is as much about healing wounds as about experiencing them. This is what makes the book valuable. Olson's suggestions about ways parents can support their children, teachers can help change their schools and support their students, and, especially, how students can develop support groups for each other as they develop survival strategies and advocate change, are valuable and workable, and also provide a vision of transition to democratic schooling. Just about every teacher, parent, and student should benefit from reading this book."

--Herbert Kohl, Rethinking Schools, November 2009

 

"Many professional educators will be stunned when they read Olson's new book Wounded By School. Olson dares to address the question that plagues many parents, educators and even students today:  Where is they joy in learning?"

-Laura Lloyd-Smith, Ed.D., Education Review,  January 2010


"
Whether you loved school or not, whether you blamed school or yourself for your problems, you will think differently about school after reading Kirsten Olson's compelling book. Olson's account of the wounds of school is unsparing, but it is also infused with hope."

--Howard Gardner, author of Five Minds for the Future and Frames Of Mind: The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences.


"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 of Dumbing Us Down, The Underground History of American Education, and Weapons of Mass Instruction



"Olson has written a brilliant, original, and important book. Wounded by School makes an eloquent and moving case for the radical re-invention of our schools."

-Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap and Co-Director of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard University



"Kirsten's vivid narratives - both of wounding and healing - not only provide the book with tremendous emotional power and urgency, they also provide the structure within which its important recommendations can be both understood and enacted. The result is a book that is not merely a technical repair manual for our broken schools, it is a guide to how to revive their purpose, their spirit, and their hope."

-David H. Rose, Founding Director and Chief Education Officer, CAST, Transforming Education Through Universal Design for Learning




"This wonderful and probing book is filled with powerful, poignant, passionate stories; stories that are at once fragile and strong, painful and enduring. They make us mourn the losses of laughter and opportunity in schools, weep at the lingering sadness and sorrow in schools, laugh at the absurdities; and grin at the moments of mischief and inspiration."

-Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Harvard Graduate School of Education, author of the Good High School, I've Known Rivers, and The Third Chapter



"Kirsten Olson has written a book that is at once intellectually engaging and replete with usable resources and proposals for action.... May this splendid book be read, discussed, taken to heart, and put into action by a growing company of educational ‘wounded healers.'"

-Parker J. Palmer, author The Courage to Teach, A Hidden Wholeness, and Let Your Life Speak



"I work in a small high school of choice that is often the last hope for many of our students. Their stories expose the wounds that Olson writes about---some fresh, some hidden, most scarred over by distrust and discouragement. It takes compassion, patience, and dedication to create a school environment committed to healing those wounds-a school where students feel valued and empowered to uncover the joy in learning. No matter what challenges students may face at home, on the streets, or in their communities, school should be the ONE place that instills hope in the future. Olson calls on all of us to challenge the institutional practices that harm our most precious resource-our children."

--Cindy McMahon, Ph.D., Assistant Principal, Havermale High School, Spokane, WA



" Wounded By School shines a bright light on an important but often ignored truth:  that the institution of school inflicts costly wounds on the wellbeing of all who enter. Olson develops a useful taxonomy of the many forms school wounds take, and she illustrates though story how schools, teachers, parents, and students act to acknowledge and heal the wounds of school. Wounded By School is a call to action. First we are challenged to acknowledge and heal our own wounds as educators, parents, and students. From that place of acknowledgement and healing, is there any choice but to abandon outdated institutions and ways of schooling that simply no longer serve anyone well? Finally, we are called to re-create schools whose overarching purpose is to engage, nurture and develop each student as the precious human resource he or she is, worthy above all of dignity, respect and care. I invite anyone invested in American pubic schools (and I hope that's all of us) to read this book and join hands in building schools that help every student not only heal but thrive."

--Terry Chadsey, Co-Director, Center for Courage & Renewal, Bainbridge Island, WA www.couragerenewal.org



"Wounded By School provides evidence that the problems that we continue to encounter in schools, such as student non-achievement, drop out rates, student discipline, unengaged parents, teaching quality--these things aren't the problems at all. They are the consequences of a deeper pervasive issue--a fundamental problem that is our relationships with one another. How do we create a safety net so that we can build these essential relationships of trust, care and truth? That is the question this book puts before us."

--Deanna Burney, Superintendent, LEAP Academy University Charter School, Camden, New Jersey



"Too often educators, parents, and policymakers fail to listen to the voices of the students - the most important voices in our education system. In this powerful book, Kirsten Olson beautifully depicts the stories of the wounded students and shows us alternatives to the broken system that has inflicted the pain. She asserts that we can establish caring school communities, and that teachers, parents, and the students themselves can and should advocate for the changes necessary to make schooling more meaningful, joyful, and engaging."

--Denise Pope, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Stanford University School of Education and author of Doing School: How We Are Creating A Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students



"Kirsten Olson gets to the core of why and how our educational system must change, and shift direction. Olson points to the urgent need for all of us to stand up and work together to create more relevant, caring school systems that foster social-emotional, ethical, civic and academic learning--towards promoting the development of competencies and attributes demanded by our 21st-century world."

--Deborah Donahue-Keegan, Visiting Professor, Wellesley College



"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 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. I give this a Grade A."

-Grace at Grace's Book Blog http://bibliophile23.wordpress.com



"Olson's book is filled with stories and anecdotes taken from thousands of interviews of people who had traumatic school experiences. Some are still recovering from the pain, humiliation, self-doubt and outright trauma of the situations while others have persevered. While a large majority of her focus is on those with learning disabilities. Olson pulls no punches when she states that our current school system harms everyone - from burning out the talented and gifted to ignoring the ones in the middle to alienated and ostracizing those with problems, behavioral, cognitive or other. If we continue to ignore these traumas, we will continue to produce a workforce that is unprepared both socially and mentally for the business world and stand to lose the potential of hundreds of thousands of students who just give up."

-Michelle at Master Musings http://mastermusingsbymichelle.blogspot.com



"Why should you read this extremely illuminating book? If you are a student that is not enjoying school, you will begin to learn why. If you are a teacher and feel frustrated by the system, you can read about and find colleagues who are thinking about their work in new ways. If you are a parent you can learn how to keep your children intellectually and spiritually safe and well in school and how to work with school systems. Schools need to reevaluate what their purpose is. Shouldn't the joy of learning, creativity and recognizing the differences in students be more important then trying to push all students into one middle of the road mold and teach for standardized testing? You will not be able to read Wounded by School without agreeing that our educational system needs fixing."

--Jennifer Wagner, Examiner.com


"Every once on a while a book comes along that puts a hammerlock on our brain. The author's words seem to transport with ease to our neural roadways and merge into the traffic of our thought - with little effort and extreme interest. Translation: we can't put the doggone book down. Reading Wounded By School is like a journey to discovering a treasure, except one picks up little treasures along the way so that by book's end our mind is holding the whole trunk of jewels."
--David Rothacker, Rothacker Reviews, July 2009

 

 

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Buy The Book

The book is available for pre-order from Amazon, you can get it by clicking here.

It is also available from the publishers website, Teachers College Press by clicking here.

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