Saturday, June 7, 2008

J.K. Rowling's Commencement Speech on the Power of the Imagination

Why it's so important to open up the imagination in schools, discuss, learn, and understand other cultures, eloquently put forth in J.K. Rowling's commencement speech at Harvard. You can view the full video at the site.
Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's minds, imagine themselves into other people's places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.
When we fire teachers for being too Afro-centric in their teaching, when we attempt to pass laws that limit or ban multiculturalism in schools, when we attack schools like the Khalil Gibran International Academy, when we are scared to confront world realities in our classroom, we are choosing to live in these narrow spaces. 

But when we value the varied experiences of our students, when we study the horrors that can happen in our world, when we go beyond tolerance to challenge our heteronormative assumptions within our schools and classrooms, we choose to engage in the challenging, scary, risky, and wonderful spaces that fully employ our imaginative capabilities, ask us to change our assumptions, and push educators and students to grow together.

1 comment:

George said...

Such a brilliant, inspiring woman. She should run for Prime Minister!!