Book club, by Nathan Umstead, 6/​11/​07

As much as I love to read and write, my least favorite class in high school was English. I’m not entirely sure why, other than the fact that some of the teachers seemed far more interested in telling me what I was supposed to think about a novel than in finding out what my ideas and insights were. The focus of the classes was mainly on pure literary analysis, and there was rarely any relevance to the real world.

It appears there is some connection to life. Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist, speaker, and business guru, talks about how literature is being used in medical schools and residency programs. He proposes that the effects they see—notably a better ability to see things from other points of view and greater compassion for their patients—could apply as well to business.

Perhaps this could inform the way we teach gifted children about literature, too. There are certainly going to be some for whom the traditional literary analysis will be fascinating and enjoyable. I suspect, though, that there will be far greater numbers who will benefit more from looking at literature in the context of life. Gifted students often struggle with their identity and social relationships. Just as it is doing for medical students, literature can help lift the students’ eyes and give them new ways to see the world and their place in it.