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if everything happens that can't be done

if everything happens that can't be done

by E.E. Cummings

Education Theme

The speaker in "if everything happens that can't be done" has something against books, and he talks about a stupid teacher. He doesn't seem to be much of a fan of school. Really, though, reading and writing are important, but teachers, schools, and textbooks have a way of making them seem mundane and torturous. And the speaker of this poem, writer that he is, seems to know that. Go listen to a bird, he suggests, and forget about reading those books for a while. You just might learn something new.

Questions About Education

  1. How would you describe the way the speaker feels about books? What, in the poem, helps you?
  2. Do you agree with the way the speaker feels about books? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think the lines between the second set of parentheses in each stanza are describing? What does that have to do with education?
  4. Time for a scavenger hunt: what else in this poem, besides the references to books and teachers, refers to education? Anything?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker in this poem prefers learning from the outdoors to learning from books, because the outdoors provides more knowledge.

"if everything happens that can't be done" shows us that true education happens after the school bell rings.

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