Kirsten Olson

I'm writer and educational activist. I work in public, charter, private, unschools. I'm here for the learning revolution.
Kirsten Olson has written 27 posts for Cooperative Catalyst

Students As Freedom Fighters

Driving back from a school leaders conference yesterday, I had a wonderful conversation with Gwen Lowenheim, a partner in transformational work using play and improv in schools.  Gwen mentioned something she heard recently, from someone who had done a lot of work in both prisons and schools.  This person said,  ironically, people in prison may … Continue reading

What’s The Purpose of Education?

Last night I was part of a webinar designed to explore the purposes of education, sponsored by Nipissing University and Carlo Ricci.  At the heart of the webinar were the questions:  what do you think the purpose of education is, and are your ideas expressed in the work you are doing, or the learning setting … Continue reading

Seeing Waiting For Superman

As the lottery balls roll at the movie’s climax, and the absurdity of a system in which a child’s future depends on whether his or her number is called, there was hardly a dry eye as we discover whether or not the five children profiled are admitted to the local charter schools to which they apply. Continue reading

One Inviolate Hour?

What if every teacher in the United States had one inviolate hour every workday to think? Continue reading

What Makes It So Sticky?

In spite of evidence everywhere that it’s old, defunct, dysfunctional, the Industrial Model of schooling hangs on.  What makes it so sticky? Everyday we read blogs, look at videos, attend conferences, read research, watch Comedy Central, tweet, talk and write and think about how the Old Industrial Model of education is killing us.  In my own … Continue reading

What The Revolution Looks Like, Elsewhere

Today I was talking with my great friend and school redesigner Antonia Rudenstine about the slow pace of the educational revolution in America.  How even among large school districts and folks who have a lot of policy muscle, the vision is still pretty small, pretty conventional, pretty much about teacher-centered instruction, using test scores to show … Continue reading

The War On Kids

At the AERO Conference this past week we screened the movie, THE WAR ON KIDS. I’m interested in your opinion. The documentary, which is 95 minutes and has 8 segments, basically makes the argument that middle class schools, for white children, are a lot like prison.  It opens with an examination of “zero tolerance” policies, … Continue reading


What must we do to transform schools into places of authentic, democratic learning? 1. Adults in school should experience joy in learning every day. This should be the goal:  to give yourself over to the delight of learning something, or pursuing something you care deeply about, or are curious about, every day.  Because if you … Continue reading

Whom Are You Following?

My life as an activist feels more involuntary than voluntary–like Paula it seems I was born to it rather than “chose it.”  This natal gift however, has not always been comfortable.   (And as someone who abhors “innateness” theories, this explanation also doesn’t seem very satisfactory.  Paula, this is a little bit of a lazy woman’s … Continue reading

If You’re Not Causing Trouble You’re Not Working On the Right Problems

How do we act as catalysts of change within our present circumstances?” I’m worried about getting a rep for being too patsy over here at this discussion, so I want to say first that I’m all about acting up and making trouble.   I had a conversation with Herb Kohl recently (someone who is a mentor … Continue reading


I’m posting a little late, and I’m sorry.  I was out this evening giving a talk on pleasure in learning.  I’d love your comments. I’ve  spent time on the blog today reading around and I’m blown away by how thoughtful and deep-thinking people gathered here are.  In fact, people are so passionate and deep-thinking that … Continue reading

Jumping in

Folks, I just want to say how awesome it feels to be here with you, such a group of thoughtful and powerful teachers and educators.  I am really drawn to the specificity and reflectiveness of the posting here, and want to join in full tilt. As to the question, “How do we support students developing … Continue reading

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,096 other subscribers

Comments are subject to moderation.