Pedagogy Culture and SocietyVol. 20, No. 1, May 2012, 1–14
Restoring the Educational Balance: the need for narrative learning
Katelyn Beam, Katie Gallo, Emily Owens, Avan Price, Tevin Steinke
Students of English 302-M07, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA
The dominant forms of knowledge in academia focus on objectivity, validation, and largelyexclude experience-based content. As a result, students and teachers are missing out on the benefits of narrative study that will engage their identities and cognitive abilities in uniqueways. In this paper, we argue that general education courses should integrate narratives intotheir class material so that students in every field garner the social and educational advantages.We draw on interdisciplinary research and experience common to all human beings to supportour claims.
narrative; subjective learning; narrative theory; personal narratives; fictionalnarratives; narratology; identity; higher education; general education; literature
Scholars have noticed an illness spreading throughout higher education. No one critic has whollydiagnosed the ailment, yet the symptoms are clear: students are not receiving a well-rounded educationthat they find engaging, inspiring, and relatable. Rather, the sickly education they experience is alienating.Classrooms encourage students to conceive of ideas and concepts as if they had no creators, no humanhistories behind the inventions that assist in students’ connection to the material. Furthermore, thecontagion has affected the teachers, who, in their debilitated states discourage new and intelligentanalysis. Students are confined to language conventions that are already established and ideas that arealready established, stunting innovation and cognitive development. These customs rely on objectiveepistemology which, despite being integral
to a solid knowledge base, is imprecise and can be stagnating.After all, objectivity is impossible. Rather than the depiction of whole truth that it makes itself out to be,the objective knowledge tradition is one account of the truth, one person’s interpretation (Eisner, 1988).Subsequently, there is now a need for new voices and interpretations to balance out the supremacy of thattradition.Similar to the realm of academia, the first action that people in the real world take when they findthemselves unwell is to present their symptoms. They rely on story-telling because it is the form of communication most familiar to them. The world’s healers, therefore, rely on their study of narratives torevive their patients (Greenhalgh & Hurwitz, 1999; Davis, 2010). Ironically, though, academic