Luke Parnell: Storytelling

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Michael Patten for Art Mur: In the nearly five-century long history of colonization, de-colonization and post-colonization, it is rather surprising that there is no recognized aboriginal system of education in Canada. While the historical reason might have been to serve the colonizing strategy of cultural assimilation, notably with the founding of residential schools a few decades ago, the reason for this astonishing actuality today is the sign that their pedagogical system is still underestimated by many. The Canadian scholar Judy Iseke remarks that the central focus of Indigenous epistemologies, pedagogies and research approach is very different from that of the European tradition of magistrate teaching that prevails in our society. In fact, one common trait to most native cultures is the communication of knowledge through stories.

While storytelling as a system of communication may be ancestral— in fact myths and legends have been the keystone of teaching in most cultures – it remains an incredibly effective tool for teaching even today. Annie Murphy Paul reports in an article in the New York Times that neuroscience research has determined that parts of the human brain are only activated by narrative-based knowledge. Information is often remembered more sharply and for a longer continued period of time when it is associated to a narrative, as opposed to when it is delivered in a dry bullet-point form. Nevertheless, storytelling is still generally neglected by conventional pedagogy. As pointed out by Sandra E. Sherwin-Shields, we live in a world dominated by the perspective that knowledge is rational, irrefutable, and objective. Storytelling opens the door to a different kind of knowledge, one used to organize and interpret collective and individual phenomena as to make sense of personal and shared experiences, one that connects us to our environment and to others, one that takes into consideration our subjectivities.]

Read more on Art Mur.