I read “Ozymandias” with my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade writing students today. I was not prepared for the intense discussion that followed.
At first, they rolled their eyes that we were reading poetry. As we read the poem, we worked on finding the narrative and saying what we see. Twenty minutes later every student in the class–including my 7th graders!–knew what the poem was about and had very strong opinions.
We landed on the question, “Is it true that everything we do will be forgotten someday?”
One 8th grade student didn’t think so. His evidence? Michael Jordan. According to him, because Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever live, and because everyone loves his “Air Jordan” shoes, it was not possible for him to be forgotten. Some of the other students quickly pointed out the flaws in his example, but the question was still being contested when we finished class.
It’s always a strange moment for me when I see students become intensely interested in something as revered as Shelley’s poetry. But I also love these moments. Despite the tendency to compartmentalize learning, and then to categorize people as a “Math Person,” a “Literature Person,” a “Science Person,” etc., our curiosity is actually unbounded by such arbitrary delineations.
No one is actually a “Literature/Math/Science person.” We’re attracted to Goodness, Truth, and Beauty wherever we happen to find them.