“Each and every child has an imagination. Some are wilder than others, but all children have them.”
From the second sentence, I’m not sure whether some children are wilder than others, or some imaginations are wilder than others; but of course I know the student meant the latter.
The real stumbling block for me here is a reflection of what the student incorrectly saw as a stumbling block. It’s the on-the-fly second-guessing that can legitimately be part of the drafting process but shouldn’t remain in the final version. “Each and every child has an imagination.” YES! We recognize children’s imaginations, celebrate them, and then in the name of developing or channeling them we narrow or squash them. My student really doesn’t need the “each and every,” since both words count one by one and thereby do the same job: “each child” and “every child” are the same idea and the same entity. But “each and every” has become a cliché because it continues to serve a purpose for a writer or speaker by emphasizing the idea it expresses. So, okay.
And then the writer second-guesses herself—Am I being too emphatic here? Is this too strong a generalization?—and pulls back: “Some are wilder than others.”
And then the double-reverse, just in case the second guess has moved her away from the point she was trying to make: “but all children have them.”
So she’s back where she began, but now that confident step has become a totter, the idea has been vitiated, and the reader has lost some faith in the writer’s convictions.
This kind of drafting behavior is very common in student writers, and we who sit in judgment on their efforts probably exacerbate it. Maybe we unintentionally imply that good writing and wild imaginations are incompatible, that successful writing is all about caution. If so, we (I) have to communicate more effectively that we want students to take risks, to make bold assertions and then do the hard work of validating them rather than to offer tepid generalizations that aren’t worth the trouble of supporting.
I offer the post today in memory of Steve Jobs, who trusted his wild imagination and changed the world.