When we reach upper level literature courses, we quite often feel bogged down by the rigid literary analysis instructors require. We’re asked to read between the lines – to assume hidden meanings that the author may or may not have actually intended. Everything’s got a moral if only you can find it(2), but the moral is often quite easier to find within our favorite childhood stories. Winnie the Pooh, for example, is full of rich quotes and lessons. Just a few pages yield several lessons on education, friendship, compassion, work ethic, and more. Some of these lessons are chapter specific but most continue to develop throughout the series.
My middle school history teacher “hated” Winnie the Pooh. She said Winnie the Pooh has poor spelling and grammar skills. While this is undeniable, I think she may have missed the point. Winnie the Pooh is no more than preschool age. He’s still learning. He loves to sing and count, and he’s brimming with curiosity though curiosity often leads to trouble(2). While some may argue that Owl has dyslexia, it really is quite common for children to swap letters or even write them upside down until the age of 5 or 6. He’s still learning and, more importantly, he hasn’t been taught. It isn’t until chapter five that Christopher Robin starts school at all, so it’s no surprise that the friends of the Hundred Acre Woods misunderstand his note,
Winnie the Pooh and friends fear for Christopher Robin’s life. A Backson? Owl is sure that Christopher Robin has been kidnapped by a ferocious creature – one that enjoys torturing others. Eventually, the friends are relieved to discover that Christopher Robin was simply away at school and would be “Back Soon.”
Of course, Christopher Robin has only just started school, so his note is quite impressive for a child of maybe 5 years old, but he still has much to learn and share with his friends. If you are going to be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you always imagined, there’s always more to learn(3). Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved(3). Learning is a lifelong journey of discovery and understanding. It is not about memorizing facts or following procedures. The most important attitude that can be learned is the desire to learn(4) – to truly learn – to learn how to think – to understand – to both ask and answer questions.
(1) EB White, Charlotte's Web
(2) Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
(3) AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh
(4) John Dewey