Sunday, October 14, 2007

When Last We Saw Our Hero . . .

. . . I had arrived in London but was not posting. Too much to do to set up CAGSE LLC UK (and US).

Happily, I can announce that after two and a half months, we have a full Latin program in place in at least three boroughs -- in primary schools, years 5 and 6, every week -- and a Storytelling program ready to launch.

Classic Approaches to Learning Along with the Classical

Latin is a bit more straightforward than storytelling as a course within the primary school curriculum. Furthermore, CAGSE's unique approach to Latin has already been discussed, so it's time to give the other program a go.

Storytelling and interpreting stories are no less rigorous activities than learning Latin. They sound like fun, and are. They also provide serious skills that run across the curriculum.

Here's why.

Tell a Story, Make a Choice

Every story, every situation within a story, every character is the result of a series of choices. Every choice works with the others to persuade the listener (or viewer) of a series of values and attitudes.

Sometimes the choices have explicit implications (eg Martin Luther King marched on Washington to protest racism) and sometimes implicit (eg Cinderella's sisters are ugly and bad while she is lovely and good -- ergo, sue me if you don't agree -- or at least the writer of the tale).

Hear a Story, Make a Choice

All stories situate characters in and hold them to ethical standards. For example, if the wolf eats a nice girl in red, he dies. He is punished for choosing to eat someone the listener likes.

The story simultaneiously situates the listener within the same ethical standards by attempting to persuade the listener that the standards are absolute to which the characters are held.

Who could like a wolf who eats someone with whom the listener has empathy when that same wolf seems to have no redeeming characteristics at all?

The wolf SEEMS to have no redeeming characteristics because the storyteller CHOSE to deny him any. That way, it's hard to side with him and easy to think him deserving when killed by a local hunter.

If the Wolf Had a Family . . . .

What happens if you tell the same basic story but make other choices?

Say a storyteller gives Red Riding Hood's wolf a name (Peter) and a family -- Mrs. Loop de Loup, little Romulus, and his baby sister who they affectionately call Pup.

The listener hears that the Loups have been hungry for weeks. We hear of Rommy's and Pup's weakness and see them fading from lack of nourishment. Deforestation and propagation of human suburbs will soon completely destroy their homes, and the homeless, particularly of the canine variety, are rounded up and put in pounds where they await execution.


Say Red Riding Hood's family historically has been active in the National Rifle Association and the Loup Klux Klan, believes that killing is fun, and, in particular, that killing baby wolves is a real hoot because a hunter can watch them die slowly.

Now whose side are you on?

More in the next post.

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