9 May

Outline for The Importance of a Personal Story


Individual histories are important in helping people better understand the past and make the storytellers understand that their own story is important. We must first acquire the pieces before we can create a tapestry. The more detailed the pieces, the more detailed and beautiful the tapestry.

People, especially Americans, are becoming disconnected with history.

  • People are becoming disconnected with their histories and where they come from. They don’t understand how they have been impacted by their ancestors.
    • “Young Americans are looking to their roots – 83 percent of 18- to 34-years-old are interested in learning their family history. Following closely are the 35- to 54-year-olds at 77 percent and Americans ages 55+ at 73 percent.
    • Half of Americans know the name of only one or none of their great-grandparents.
    • Twenty-two percent of Americans don’t know what either of their grandfathers do or did for a living.
    • Although America is known as a nation of immigrants, 27 percent don’t know where their family lived before they came to America.
    • Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they are interested in learning more about their family history.
    • Fifty percent of American families have ever researched their roots (9)”.
  • We must know our family pasts to fully understand ourselves. Why else would adopted children sometimes search so hard to find their real parents?
    • “Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents each possess a lifetime of incredible, unique experiences that have shaped their lives and impacted our own. It’s important we take time to better get to know our family members and to share our stories” (9).


How history impacts us today.

  • In a world with so much progress and movement forward, it’s easy for people to believe that history is simply something that happened in the past and not something they need to care about now.
  • This is not the case. The past helps us to understand how to solve problems.
    • “It has been said that he who controls the past controls the future. Our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems” (1).
  • The past made you who you are today.
    • You learned your values from your ancestors, whether you realize it or not.
    • You live the lifestyle you do because of ancestors, which has shaped you.
  • There are so many people in our family tree and if we got rid of one, we wouldn’t exist today. (12)



Why it is important to teach history. (There seems to be some sort of view that people hold that they are so tiny and insignificant and that nothing they do will ever make a difference in the end. How untrue that is, I can’t even tell you.

  • Students need to see themselves in history and how their family fit in somewhere in that past.
    • “Elementary social studies education is important as it provides students the ability to recognize themselves as part of history, recognize and apply spatial relationships as analytical tools, empathize with other people and appreciate their activities as intelligent adaptations to time and place, and develop an understanding of continuity, change and chronology.” (11).
    • “enable students to learn content and patterns found in social studies; and help children learn content through using intellectual process skills such as observation and inference” (11).
    • “The teaching of only facts reduces their intellectual abilities and denies students the expressive potential inherent in their humanity” (11).
  • Show students how they will impact the future (which is someone else’s past)
    • “We have come to know that every individual lives, from one generation to the next, in some society; that he lives out a biography, and lives it out within some historical sequence. By the fact of this living, he contributes, however minutely, to the shaping of this society and to the course of its history, even as he is made by society and by its historical push and shove” (7 page 6).


The most effective way to bring history to life is through oral histories.

Oral History.

Talk about StoryCorps

  • Enhanced learning
    • Makes people more interested in history.
      • “Although stories of past lives, communities, and events might seem intrinsically interesting, Goodlad suggested that something happens to that material on its way into the classroom. As a result, students often find the subject dry, boring, and surprisingly unconnected to their lives” (2).
      • “I would argue that social history, whatever its merits, tends to flatten the narrative by focusing on groups” (2).
    • Students become more aware of their history and tend to think more critically about it.
      • “When students do an oral history project, they become historians and develop critical thinking skills as a result” (2).
      • “Helping students to see differences in historical accounts, including oral histories, and then to frame questions about why accounts differ, fosters their abilities as critical thinkers” (6).
    • Empathy
      • “Oral history fosters empathy by encouraging students to see the world through the eyes of another” (2).
    • Helping students to become conscientious students of the world.



History is dying off

  • Marie Wilcox, the last of the Wukchumni people (13).
  • Marie’s history dying off is pretty major, but there are people around us every day who have their own history and this history is also dying off. We don’t know what sort of information these people hold, what they offer.
    • “Almost always they would say their life was boring. But asking questions, bringing out good memories and being encouraging would bring out the good things.  I think they were happy to pass along what they knew (4)”
    • “I was always amazed at the life each person led. I never found anyone to have led a boring life (4).”




The importance of knowing an individuals story. The value of listening and the understanding that every story matters.

  • Positive effects of getting to know that person you interviewed.
    • The more you get to know a generation, the more you can connect to a generation.
      • After doing a project with his students involving them interviewing some elderly people the teacher found that “significant connections were made between generations” (6).
    • Positive effects of the person telling their story and being listed to.
      • “I always hoped that this interest in their lives would make they feel that their lives mattered. I think it did make them feel that way (4).”




















Why do people think that history is boring and unimportant? Why don’t people understand their place in history? Why have kids been disconnected from history? Why don’t children hold empathy for the people that lived in the past? Why has the oral tradition been lost? Why have


Instead of just focusing on how this loss of appreciation of history is effecting the current generation, also focus on how our lack of interest may be effecting the older generation.


People assume that history can only be found as recent as hundreds of years ago through people that have already died. Or maybe it can only be found in a speaker that comes to your school. The truth is, everyone has a history, and the older the person the longer the history. History does not need to be found in only major events.


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