Whose story is being told? Who is doing the telling? Who decides what is to be told?
By Paul Stein
Storytelling rests at the heart of teaching history, which instantly raises three important, interrelated questions: Whose story is being told? Who is doing the telling? Who decides what is to be told?
One cannot think about teaching history without considering the power and privilege embedded in its storytelling. Today, national debates rage about what students can be taught within the study of history, particularly as it relates to disenfranchised populations. At Schools for Children, we speak of the importance of inclusivity throughout our schools. That’s not just about who walks our hallways. It’s about whose story gets told.
History is brimming with proud moments and shameful ones, and all are lessons to be learned. A rich history curriculum has the power to engage, inspire, guide and even forewarn students. At its best, it sheds light on the future as well as the past.
History is so much more than learning historical facts and chronologies, although even that is important in building a student’s store of general knowledge. We want, too, for students to appreciate history’s power to shed light, even in dark corners. We want them to understand what brought us to where we are today. We want them to think of themselves as agents of history. Our teachers and students make history come alive.