SOLSC #15: Feeding Imagination

Marc Chagall “The Blue Circus”, 1950

Today’s slice is more of a musing that began niggling away at me this morning after reading the introduction of Jane Yolen’s, Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfastand wouldn’t quiet until I purged my wonderings. When Jane Yolen speaks, I sit up and listen. One does not ignore the advice of such an esteemed author.

In her introduction, Yolen advocates for fantasy stating it is a genre in which,

“…you [write] about the real world and real emotions, the right-here and the right-now. [Fantasies] are a way of looking at what worries both writer and reader by glancing out of the corner of one’s eye.”

Fantasies provide realms that allow us to shed our fears, don our courage and fight off the many monsters that plague our days. Good triumphs over evil. Fantasy requires imagination.

Yolen moves on to confess that her imagination had all but dwindled by the time she hit seventh grade, “…books of fantasy and fairy tales I read were all that was left of my White Queening.” Yolen’s allusion to the conversation between Alice and the Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, in which the Queen expresses her dismay over Alices’s lack of imagination set me thinking.

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: Draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast…”

Why do games involving imagination become taboo as one gets older? Why do older children suddenly box up their imagination and hide it in the corners of their room – opening it up and playing with its contents only when they think no one else is watching? Why does it suddenly become ‘silly’ to believe in the impossible?

Yolen further states, “The reading of fantasy and the writing of it take…practice…It all comes easier the younger one is.” Imagination is the elixir of problem solving, it fuels our determination.

Does education encourage our youth to believe in “six impossible things before breakfast?”

Children are dreamy idealists eager to take on the challenges thrust at them. They are simply better equipped to tackle impossibilities as they are not bogged down with the “what ifs” and the “cannots.” Educators need to prevent the boxing up of imagination and instead nurture curiosity, feed imagination and encourage seedlings of hope that the impossible is possible.

With vorpal blade in hand, I shall fight the Jabberwock of anti-play in my classroom.