On July 29, Hillsdale In D.C. hosted an evening discussion with Dr. Matthew Mehan about his recently released children’s book The Handsome Little Cygnet and about the future of education in America. Dr. Mehan is the Director of Academic Programs and Assistant Professor of Government in the Van Andel Graduate School of Government, and is bestselling children’s author.
“Children’s books have long been an important aspect of literature and have long been important to shaping the minds and forming the character of children. The significance of these books to political culture is without question,” said Dr. Mathew Spalding, Vice President for Washington Operations and Dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government, in his opening remarks.
The presentation began with an introduction and reading for the assembled audience by Dr. Mehan. Behind him stood large posters of the original water color artwork, illustrated by John Folley. After the reading, Dr. Mehan pointed out some of its major themes, including knowing the good, redemption, and family. He explained the importance of portraying the image of a stable father and mother.
After the lecture, several members of the audience asked questions about the book and about the state of K-12 education. One Hillsdale College alum asked if the Handsome Little Cygnet was a correctio of The Ugly Little Duckling. Dr. Mehan explained that he wrote his book as an update to the classic tale—one that teaches important moral lessons for our time.
“I loved seeing the original artwork at the event and hearing Dr. Mehan read his book. His book reminds us that we must have hope that beautiful art can spark something in the hearts of all that can begin a change that is transformational. Dr. Mehan’s book allows readers a chance to begin to see how that transformation can play out,” said Gabby Winter, a young professional attendee at the event.
“With today’s national debate about K-12 curriculum, I found it helpful to hear Dr. Mehan talk about the role that art, poetry, and imitation play in forming young readers. It was great to hear him explain the rich symbolism and careful thought he put in every word and image in his book. The Handsome Little Cygnet is sure to delight and instruct readers of all ages,” said Emily LaFata, a current Van Andel Graduate School of Government student.