I smiled as I walked out of my office last week to find a stack of newly arrived copies of Homer’s Odyssey sitting on Mrs. Boughman’s counter. I knew I would soon see a few hallway-traversing sixth and seventh graders with timeless epics sticking out of their backpacks and peeking out from under their arms. Reading is so much of what we do.
But lest you think that our demand on their attention is to teach some lesson about painstaking tasks, it’s not…unless that’s the lesson that needs to be learned, of course. As author Alan Jacobs writes, “Attentiveness is worth cultivating: not just because it is good for you or because it can help you ‘organize your world,’ but because such raptness is deeply satisfying. It is, really, what Whim is all about; what Whim is for.”
Whim, Mr. Carr? I hardly find an assigned book whimsical! Ah, but whimsy has more to do with an unaccounted for change of mind than it does the object of its fancy! We desire that our students be en-rapt-ured with books that enrapture us. We doubt their ability to simply find them lying about in modern culture without help. How much do we as adults struggle capturing our own attention?
Tell me, Muse, the story of that resourceful man who was driven to wander far and wide after he had sacked the holy citadel of Troy. He saw the cities of many people and he learnt their ways. He suffered great anguish on the high seas in his struggles to preserve his life and bring his comrades home.
An odyssey awaits attentive children…and parents, too!