Jason is not a slow learner

I like how Vivian Gussin Paley describes her ‘boy who would be a helicopter’, Jason. He is the protagonist of this book, because “What happens to Jason in school is the mirror of its moral landscape” (p.xi). However, as she introduces him, she refuses to label him, writing instead: “There are labels that might be attached to Jason, but we’ll neither define nor categorize him. None of us are to be found in sets of tasks or lists of attributes; we can be known only in the unfolding of our unique stories within the context of everyday events.” (p.xii)

Later, she describes him in this way: “Jason is not a slow learner; he is a cautious researcher. He takes each new idea and collects data on its application until he is satisfied that he knows every response and reaction it might receive in the outside world. He expects mistakes and wants them to occur in his own controlled setting.” (p.135)

“‘Immature’ is the most familiar negative label throughout the school years.
For me, such labels are useless. A child is always at a certain complex point of development; like Jason, everyone, in every endeavor, will continue to use techniques from the past in order to understand and work out ways to live securely in the present.” (p.142)

Ref:  Vivian Gussin Paley (1990) The Boy who Would be a Helicopter: the uses of storytelling in the classroom.  Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England.

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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