Power of Story Rules! (truth both literal and literary)

24 05 2007

Everything I always thought I knew is true! 🙂
I could blog for months on the sheer power of “school” stories to limit and define personality and possibility, before kids are old enough to develop their own narratives — too much of kiddie lit and kid movies are all about School as Reality– and don’t even get me started on the power of Bible stories to indelibly stamp identity onto kids too young to create their own narrative paths.

Then as adults we turn all sorts of themes and facts and feelings into narrative devices, bent and twisted by every character in the book.
What defining stories are your children learning, and how well-equipped will they be to write new ones for themselves? What stories do you tell yourself about how you’re shaping their power of story with your own public and private narratives?


Which of your own storylines will you fit this blogpost into, as you read it??

(I bet I know what story Nance is telling herself — there she goes again!)
May 22, 2007
This Is Your Life (and How You Tell It)
By Benedict Carey

. . .“When we first started studying life stories, people thought it was just idle curiosity — stories, isn’t that cool?” said Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and author of the 2006 book, “The Redemptive Self.” “Well, we find that these narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.”

Researchers have found that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative construction. People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list, studies find; and they rate legal arguments as more convincing when built into narrative tales rather than on legal precedent.

YouTube routines notwithstanding, most people do not begin to see themselves in the midst of a tale with a beginning, middle and eventual end until they are teenagers.

“Younger kids see themselves in terms of broad, stable traits: ‘I like baseball but not soccer,’ ” said Kate McLean, a psychologist at the University of Toronto in Mississauga. “This meaning-making capability — to talk about growth, to explain what something says about who I am — develops across adolescence.”

. . .During a standard life-story interview, people describe phases of their lives as if they were outlining chapters . . .

In broad outline, the researchers report, such tales express distinctly American cultural narratives, of emancipation or atonement, of Horatio Alger advancement, of epiphany and second chances. Depending on the person, the story itself might be nuanced or simplistic, powerfully dramatic or cloyingly pious. But the point is that the narrative themes are, as much as any other trait, driving factors in people’s behavior, the researchers say.

. . . To better understand how stories are built in real time, researchers have recently studied how people recall vivid scenes from recent memory. They find that one important factor is the perspective people take when they revisit the scene — whether in the first person, or in the third person, as if they were watching themselves in a movie. . .



7 responses

24 05 2007

Most of what I posted in NHEN discussion was power of story. If the meaning of homeschooling can be clearly understood and protected, for example, it will be through power of story — how we hear and then tell the story to the public and legislators. Dictionary definitions and balance sheets are just fodder for the storytellers, and there are many stories to be made of them.

I got introspective about such meta-story power once, posting to a forum thread called “Homeschooling Changing Schools, Instead of Other Way Around?”

I debated where to post this New York Times story, settling on here instead of my usual “In the Public” forums. Its thrust imo is to reveal in an interesting (and perhaps unintended) way the major effect new options are having on how students take control of their own learning even in large traditional classrooms.
. . .Maybe this comment belongs elsewhere, but I’m noticing that the very process of needing to think hard about where something DOES belong, based on why I want to post it, what I mean it to communicate, is having positive effects that I hadn’t anticipated. For instance, this last NYTimes piece, about the wired students and complaining professors, had a big chunk of story about Ivy League law professors, like in the Paper Chase. That’s the part of the story I posted to Parent-Directed Education, with commentary that institutional schooling should be teaching students to deal with a wired society and in the case of law and medicine, a wired profession as well. Why hasn’t legal education changed to accommodate the world of technology? (And could that be why the law itself is having such a hard time catching up to the world of technology?)

Anyway, as I was preparing to post the story here, I thought about how to place it properly, and why. While doing this, I saw different ideas and angles in it. I wound up leaving out the law school paragraphs altogether (they seemed almost like two different stories when I got through editing — yet another important thing to remember here, no?and putting it here, where Nance and Pam have picked up on yet another theme.

And then, before I could say what I am now saying, I had to stop and wonder if it belonged in the Moderator/Use of the Boards section because it had to do with the forum itself — or if what I meant to say was really more of a commentary on thinking and learning. Where to put it became a integral part of “what” I was thinking! There wasn’t a “right” answer because it all depended on how that thought process came out. They key is that there BE a thought process!

Imo, these forums are stimulating of –thus compatible with– really free thought and conversation, whereas ironically the no-holes-barred, unorganized places often turn out not to be so free at all. In chaos and dark among strangers, I frequently make careless mistakes, fail to think things through, and find myself pushed and pulled into untenable positions (and uncharitable thoughts) that aren’t really “me” and don’t feel liberating at all. In fact, thinking through this aloud, I have just realized that what I’ve often felt on such “free” lists is trapped.

It just fascinates me, that’s all. It ended up making the “rigor” column decrying the forced march through Right Answer Land (which I posted in Articles/Statements) even more poignant for me. I have felt trapped in a few classrooms in my time, too! How and why we think as we do is much more interesting than objective lists of “what” we know. What we do here at NHEN, and what we do in our own homeschooling is all about human engagement, as Juanita’s sig line says, not about data collection.


3 06 2007
Religion News Is To School News « Cocking A Snook!

[…] sharper thinking; deeper history; thicker description; basic theology; real storytelling. […]

17 07 2007

I bought a book the other day, “The Cult of the Amateur: How today’s Internet is killing our culture” by Andrew Keen.

I expect it to be an argument that our public storytelling sucks these days, that between flame wars and YouTube inanity and millions of dumb blogs and sock puppets, we’re devolving into a new Dark Age of meaning and purpose. Bad news then, for the kids and what narratives they develop for their own real lives, but I’ll let you know . . .

19 10 2007
24 04 2008

What the presidential candidates are doing with lo, their millions and millions of dollars, for over a year now, is all about trying to impose their chosen narrative on “America” as being the most American (and presidential) — are we understanding that as we receive what they’re broadcasting?

“In broad outline, the researchers report, such tales express distinctly American cultural narratives, of emancipation or atonement, of Horatio Alger advancement, of epiphany and second chances. Depending on the person, the story itself might be nuanced or simplistic, powerfully dramatic or cloyingly pious. But the point is that the narrative themes are, as much as any other trait, driving factors in people’s behavior, the researchers say.”

24 04 2008

“What’s for Dinner? The Pollster Wants to Know”:

Supporters of Barack Obama prefer Bear Naked cereal.
Hillary Clinton’s fans like GoLean.
For John McCain’s supporters, Fiber One is favored. [natch!]

12 06 2008
What Can Homeschooling Learn from Our Present Political Stories? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] as I believe, present a last-chance opportunity to pull out of our democratic death-spiral, then we’ll need better educated and more thoroughly understood answers to who WE are, and who we aspire to be as […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: