Saturday 10 March 2012

Harold Rosen: On story in education

[This post is taken from this blogspot's sister blog]

In 'Stories of Stories' the postscript he wrote to Betty Rosen's book 'And None of it was Nonsense, The Power of Storytelling in School' (Ontario, Scholastic, 1988), Harold wrote:

"For a number of years I have been chasing the huge literature that has accumulated around narrative, and looking at narrative in the classroom. I've learned many things in the process. As I consumed scholarly books, research papers and articles, and grappled with complex theories of narrative, I became increasingly aware that as yet no major work has appeared which presents a coherent educational theory of narrative. Even more significant perhaps, we have no full accounts of narrative in the classroom by teachers who believe in it as a pillar of the curriculum and who have translated that belief into practice - the educational world doesn't accept that telling the tales of teaching as richly and honestly as we know how is a totally valid means of teaching each other.'

And later:

'The cry everywhere is for precise, testable outcomes for all curricular practices, tied to specific ages or grades. '

And later:

'We have been so mesmerized by the intellectual culture of our times, so intimidated by spurious claims for the superiority of what has come to be called 'expository discourse', that we are frequently disposed to be apologetic about narrative.'


HR asks of story in education:

' much of the curriculum can lay claim to the simultaneous interlocking of cognitive, emotional, social and moral involvement?'

He cites Jermome Bruner from 'Actual Minds, Possible Worlds' as saying that in story:

'There are two modes of cognitive functioning, two modes of thought, each providing distinctive ways of ordering experience, of constructing reality.'

One is

'....the landscape of action, where the constituents are the arguments of action: agent, intention or goal, situation, instrument, something corresponding to a 'story grammar''


'...the landscape of consciousness; what those involved in the action know, think and feel, or do not know, think and feel.'


'All that I have read of narratology (as it is now called) points unequivocally in one direction: we need to give greater space to narrative in the curriculum....As children move through typical school systems, spontaneous student-created narrative is at least marginalized or, more likely, outlawed. Story writing is edged out as other kinds of privileged discourse are installed.'


'Intellectual life is more and more haunted by a dilemma. On the one hand,it provides propositions, abstractions and principles which offer the seductive possibility of making sense of a chaos of evidence. On the other hand, such a formidable armoury often leaves a sense of dissatisfaction. The sense of the actual, the particular, the idiosyncratic, the taste of direct experience seems to get lost or buried or made to appear irrelevant.'


'Teaching and learning never change without a special kind of imaginative act,which all the curriculum guides in the world cannot render unnecessary. You may be persuaded that it is important to become more conversant with narrative theory.You may be inspired to turn your classroom into one where stories flow and become a major means of learning and developing linguistic powers. But then,  you need to translate your enthusiasm into day-to-day practices. How will you make your first move? How do you learn to tell stories? Where will you find them? How, in a phrase, do your principles undergo that amazing metamorphosis into everyday encounters? Only by your imaginative weighing of your students and their history, and yourself and your history. You must trust your own inventiveness...'