Frustrated Imagination

“… By senior year, Harold

became distant, his work increasingly angry …”

In a poem published in a recent issue of Poetry magazine, D. Gilson has re-imagined Harold – the creative child who draws his world into existence in Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Unlike the confident, charming boy (whose tale was featured in Working Class: Dream & Do and mentioned in the most recent producer’s blog), Gilson’s character is a frustrated young man lacking in motivation.

Harold’s world lost its hue. His color-filled imagination – misinterpreted by parent-blaming psychologists and academic dragons – wasted away. One of “kid lit’s” most innovative boys, Harold responded in anger to the dimming of his light, his creative nature.

I find a rock-hard bottom line in Gilson’s poem. Kids start out curious, excited about life and learning. What adults do, or do not do, can kill that curiosity and cause youths to abandon opportunities to become their own best individual selves.

When students see education as drab and lifeless, something is wrong. While we may try to appease our concerns with the idea that “standards” alone assure no student is “left behind,” we know in our hearts it is not true. Rote instruction, which does not inspire curiosity and creativity, leaves behind every child and every teacher that loses a zest for the experiences of teaching and learning.

When students see education as drab and lifeless, something is wrong.

I encourage the reader to spend a few minutes with D. Gilson’s poem and to consider what steps she or he can take to inspire creative schooling. Parents, teachers, and other adults who care can make a difference by nurturing a natural love for learning that exists in young minds.

The founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, Nolan Bushnell, told me recently in an interview featured in Working Class: Game On! Math Matters, “If the student doesn’t want to come to school or is bored in school, it’s our fault. We have to change what we’re doing … We really need to make sure that we are providing a banquet of learning as opposed to ‘You’re going to eat your spinach right now and you’re going to like it.’ I think that maintaining curiosity and passion is more important than academics.”

“If the student doesn’t want to come to school or is bored in school, it’s our fault.”

Nolan Bushnell

I invite teachers and parents who are interested in discussing these ideas to join me on November 30 at 9 a.m. at WVIA Public Media Studios in Pittston for a Working Class: Connecting Classrooms & Careers workshop. WVIA’s director of education Andrea O’Neill and Working Class director/editor Chris Leigh will join me in leading the workshop.

Join our workshop – Nov. 30 – WVIA Studios

If you would like more information or to register, please email me at

I want to thank poet D. Gilson (who asked, “Where, oh where, do the wild things go?” in another poem recently published by Poetry magazine), for his imaginative look at how beloved children’s book characters might be changed by their life experiences. I also want to thank Nolan Bushnell for committing his time, energy and legendary entrepreneurial expertise to the cause of making education more relevant for students in the 21st century.

We must do all we can to prevent young people from becoming disengaged and resentful of educational systems that  leave them behind, without the tools and imagination they need to create lives that are worth living.

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