This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Nicholas Basbanes, author of the 2020 literary biography, Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He shares why poetry – from the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer to Dante, Shakespeare, Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes – may well be the most influential, enduring form of written human expression. He then provides brief highlights of Longfellow’s life, and why he was often regarded as the most popular and recognizable “fireside poet” New England has ever produced. They discuss the tragic death of his second wife Frances Appleton in 1861, and his lasting importance as among our nation’s most celebrated poets, literary figures, and translators of Dante. They review Longfellow’s well-known poems, including “The Wreck of the Hesperus” and “Paul Revere’s Ride,” recited by countless generations of schoolchildren, and their wider cultural impact on interest in poetry in American schools. They also discuss Longfellow’s 1842 anti-slavery work, Poems on Slavery, and his close friendship with abolitionists such as U.S. Senator Charles Sumner; as well as other notable works such as “Evangeline,” and “The Jewish Cemetery at Newport,” that celebrate religious liberty and inclusiveness. Basbanes concludes with a reading from his Longfellow biography.

Stories of the Week: Many state education officials are seeking guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on how to meet the accountability requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act after COVID-related testing disruptions. In Utah, student achievement on state assessments has declined across all grades, subject areas, and student groups in 2021 compared to 2019 (tests were not administered during 2020).