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Blogging On History, Science, and Education

A Friend Reminds Me of the Instructive Power of Stories

Signing books isn't easy. I always want to write something clever, or pertinent, or worth thinking about, but I’m not very good at it. So, recently, when my friend Lee Kravitz signed his book "Unfinished Business" for me, I was impressed by his personal comment. He said I was “opening people up to the instructive power of story.”
The “instructive power of story.” I love that phrase. And, yes, for as long as I’ve been writing books, I’ve been touting stories as the best way I know to teach. Traditionally stories have been central to the whole education process. Stories help make sense out of facts; stories provide a structure that can be analyzed and remembered; stories are seductive and intriguing. Cultures have always passed on their foundation ideas through stories, and history provides an ever-growing source of true stories. Why in the world have we dumped those true stories for textbook litanies of facts? I can’t find a good answer for that question, but I was pleased that a serious thinker, like Lee Kravitz, understands the “instructive power of story.”
Lee’s book, by the way, is a personal story. He was a major figure in journalism, editor-in-chief of Parade Magazine, a husband, and father of three children, when he lost his job. How did he handle this huge change in his life? There are lessons for all of us in this beautifully written, thoughtful book.
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