Manga High: Literacy, Identity,
and Coming of Age in an Urban
By Michael Bitz
(Harvard Education Press, 2009)
240 pp. $29.95
Kirsten Olson’s Wounded by School brought back painful memories of the time I hid behind my textbook in the 5th grade, hoping not to be called on, and the day in high school when I failed to make the National Honor Society and ran into the bathroom to hide my tears. These are some of the wounds of school that Olson writes about. She provides a list of wounds that, in condensed form, give the flavor of her argument against current practices:
• “Everyday” loss of pleasure in learning.
• Belief that we are not smart.
• Belief that our abilities are fixed and cannot be improved.
• Painful, burning memories of shaming experiences in school.
• Low appetite for intellectual risk taking.
• Tendency to classify others and ourselves into dualistic categories like smart/dumb.
Olson rightly places responsibility for these and other humiliations and blows to self-esteem on the nature of school in our society. She brilliantly analyzes the ways in which these wounds affect and damage teachers and parents as well as students, providing dozens of specific examples.