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Creative Commons 2.5

Storyliving: The Stories We Live By

Enduring human truths still reside primarily in myth... I do not believe that we learn much about ourselves by discovering that we are of a certain 'type.' Instead, each of us must try to comprehend the specific nature of our unique life course and personal journey if we are to know who we are and how our own life may be made most meaningful.

Though we may act out parts of our personal myth in daily life, the story is inside of us.
- McAdams, Dan. The Stories We Live By

Dan McAdams invites us to ask the questions:

  1. What do we know when we know a person?
  2. What do we know when we think we know ourselves?
These questions draw us toward our inner world of personal identity and the making of self while embracing our collective experiences in life...

I particularly like the underlying focus of McAdam's ideas:

Like the religous and cosmic myths that humankind has created across the ages, a personal myth can carry forward something about humankind that is worth preserving and improving. The stories we create influence the stories of other people, those stories give rise to still others, and soon we find meaning and connection within a web of story making and story living. Through our personal myths, we help to create the world we live in, at the same time that it is creating us.
- McAdams, Dan. The Stories We Live By

Probing answers to the question, "How do we learn the things we value most?" has a close connection to ideas about myths, narratives and stories. In McAdams world, a story is something "we live by." In other words, the stories he speaks about are not mere entertainment or recreation (although they may have those qualities), but they represent essential elements in our thinking about ourselves and others. In another sense, these kinds of stories may be seen as an underlying ground for the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes. They provide context for how we live our lives.

If we accept McAdams perspective on how we create identity through "story making" and "story living" then we create new opportunities for thinking about learning and education. I think it would be interesting to consider this idea about stories as a source of design for curriculum and instruction. If we were to embrace the development and presentation of knowledge through the experiences in people's lives it may be that we would also encourage more possibilities for making meaning and creating relevance, rather than acquiring information.

In any case, ideas about "learning" cannot be separated from McAdams ideas about "story living" - the two are interdependent.

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