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historical narratives seduce you into thinking you really understand what’s going on and why things happened, but most of it is guessing people’s motives and their inner thoughts. It allays your curiosity, and you’re satisfied psychologically by the narrative, and it connects the dots so you feel you’re in the shoes of the person whose narrative is being recorded. It has seduced you into a false account, and now you think you understand.
The second part is that it effectively prevents you from going on to try to find the right theory and correct account of events. And the third problem, which is the gravest, is that people use narratives because of their tremendous emotional impact to drive human actions, movements, political parties, religions, ideologies. And many movements, like nationalism and intolerant religions, are driven by narrative and are harmful and dangerous for humanity.
When our students read and write they draw upon their knowledge of stories – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. The language and words and patterns become known and understood, matched and linked together. Over time, students develop what we can term a ‘mental model‘. That is to say, the more we read, the more we understand, the more we develop a ‘model’ of different types of stories and their respective worlds.
We know that the earlier we read, and the greater the volume of our reading, the more fine grained and precise our ‘mental model’. For many children who join school, they are well on the way with being read to and the shape of stories – mental models – are already emerging in their minds. By secondary school, I can teach a gothic story, but most students could write a good attempt with little to no teaching. The shape of the story is already well formed in their minds.