The Power of Story: Procrustes in the Land Between the Mountain and the Sea

Last fall I had the great privilege of making a keynote address to the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment at their meeting in Chicago, Illinois. Although I developed my presentation on different ways of knowing and the ways that contemporary practices of assessment relate to them with that audience in mind, this particular talk expressed information that I’ve learned is of tremendous interest to everyone. In particular, I focused on not just explaining, but demonstrating the power of Story as a way of learning and knowing. Story is, after all, a universal language for transmitting vitally important information. And Indigenous understandings of Story take our understandings of its power and even its very nature much farther than does most contemporary academic research.

I have now published this presentation as a new Tapestry Occasional Paper. The first paragraph is below. Please click the link at the end of the paragraph to read the rest, and to experience the images, music, dance, and (yes!) story that form the structure of this learning experience.

Let us begin our journey together today with one of Western culture’s favorite stories, as it was told in 1985: the really Western – as in “it has horses in it” Western movie — “Silverado.” (1) I will tell you right now, by the way, you’re going to see a lot of horses in this presentation. Learning always employs a vehicle. Mine happens to be alive and have four legs. You might actually start to wonder after a while, when you see the story return in other places, if I am in fact beating a dead you-know-what with this one movie. And maybe I am and don’t know it. But what I’m hoping to do is build up enough layers of complexity in your mind that a new understanding about the reality of Story will emerge. N. Scott Momaday (2) has said in “The Way to Rainy Mountain” that the most deeply mythic stories are about epic journeys “made with the whole memory, that experience of the mind which is legendary as well as historical, personal as well as cultural.” So let us begin with a short video clip that summarizes the movie’s opening scenes and then reveals its truly mythic nature.

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