Imagination is a neglected quality, an attribute virtually never included on the list of educational must-haves, and yet, I would (and now will) argue that it is a central quality, a trait that every classroom should actively foster. So many folks tend to file imagination with creativity and the arts and fairy dust and unicorn farts and the whole universe of touchy-feely artsy-fartsy stuff and while I (and often have) argued for the value of the whole artsy-fartsy universe of stuff, we don't have to go there for imagination, which is supremely and critically practical.
Jack London (a decidedly non-artsy-fartsy writer) makes the case in his short story "To Build A Fire," which you may vaguely remember from high school English as the story about the guy who steps in a puddle and dies in the Yukon on a Really Cold Day.
London carefully avoids any great drama; there's no blizzard to fight through, no mountain to climb, no abominable snowman to chase our protagonist. It's just really, really cold. London lays out the unnamed character's many mistakes. He goes out in the first place, when an old-timer tells him it's a bad idea. When he steps in the water, he builds his fire under a tree and subsequently shakes loose snow that puts it out.
Readers might be tempted to diagnose the character's trouble as "lack of common sense" or "not very bright," but London takes a whole paragraph to explain.The trouble with him was that he was not able to imagine. He was quick and ready in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in their meanings. Fifty degrees below zero meant 80 degrees of frost. Such facts told him that it was cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to consider his weaknesses as a creature affected by temperature. Nor did he think about man’s general weakness, able to live only within narrow limits of heat and cold. From there, it did not lead him to thoughts of heaven and the meaning of a man’s life. 50 degrees below zero meant a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear coverings, warm moccasins, and thick socks. 50 degrees below zero was to him nothing more than 50 degrees below zero. That it should be more important than that was a thought that never entered his head.