Literature fosters change through encouraging subversive, profound, and daring thought. Its task is largely to provoke a reader’s mood, not to make a decision for her; instead of being cupped hands filled with cool water, literature is instead that climate of thirst, the physical and mental ambiance of want that makes that action necessary.
In his afterword to Writers Bloc, Hugh McLean focuses on this aspect of literature, highlighting its passive affects on education policy as strength. He writes: “The problem for fact-based disciplines is that insight and evidence are often estranged and when they are not, people believe whatever they will. Insight is crucial in literature but evidence can be replaced by trope, intimation, or imagination. This freedom, ironically, transmits a reality people are more likely to recognize and understand.” McLean argues that the essays in the series are written without having any obligation to affect the education policies of the various countries they represent. They are free to point out the fierce challenges and small triumphs of classrooms from Bosnia to Palestine, from India to Haiti, without offering concrete political solutions or alternatives.
That is simply not their place.
Highlighting the “perfect monsoon” of education in regions where war, negligent policy, and extreme poverty wreck havoc on even the most well-intentioned methodologies, McLean’s message is clear. As literature, the essays in the Writers Bloc series need not have a direct affect on the policy or pedagogy of the countries they represent in order to be meaningful. Alternatively, they are meant to foster reflection, discussion, and conversation. They are the impetus to cupped hands and cool water. They are written to make their readers thirst.
Read McLean’s essay here.