The answer to the question posed in the title of this blog is: I don’t know. I can’t imagine.
In fact, I don’t know how one develops imagination without reading fiction.
I have been told by several people who attended David Coleman’s lectures that he speaks disparagingly of fiction. That’s why the Common Core standards permit 50% fiction in the early grades but only 25% fiction in high school.
I don’t get it.
First, because teachers should make that decision.
Second, because I can’t imagine a well-developed mind that has not read novels, poems and short stories.
I love poetry. I compiled two anthologies–“The American Reader” and “The English Reader” (the latter with my son Michael)–in large part because I wanted to preserve and pass along the poems I love.
I love poems that rhyme and romantic poems. I love John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Barbara Frietchie” (“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,/But spare your country’s flag,” she said).
I love Whittier’s “Barefoot Boy” (“Blessings on thee, little man/Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!”)
I love Eugene Field’s “Little Boy Blue” (The little toy dog is covered with dust/But sturdy and stanch he stands”); it makes me cry.
I love Robert Frost’s “Road Not Taken” (“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.”)
I love Joyce Kilmer and Edna St. Vincent Millay and Countee Cullen, and James Weldon Johnson, and Langston Hughes, and Carl Sandburg, and…so many more.
There are so many novels that I loved and still love. When I was in high school, we read George Eliot’s “Silas Marner” and thought it boring and pointless. I read it as an adult and found it deeply moving. I also loved “Middlemarch” and so many other novels.
Maybe David Coleman thinks that education is wasted on the young. But how sad it would be if future generations of young people never read the poems and stories and novels that teach them not only how to think but how to feel, how to dream, how to imagine worlds far beyond those they know.