2 Apr

The Importance of a Personal Story – Part 3

Once students have reaped the benefits of utilizing oral histories, students will then have a grown appreciation for history. Students can then apply this appreciation to receive the benefits that learning history in the classroom provides. The Ohio Department of Education discusses the importance of history and social studies education, and informs people that this education “provides students the ability to recognize themselves as part of history, recognize and apply spatial relationships as analytical tools… and develop an understanding of continuity, change, and chronology” (Ohio Board of Education). These tools enable students to find their personal place in history, as well as provide them with an understanding of how they will impact the future.

That is, education is vital in fostering students’ understandings of how them and their families fit into the past. Especially during their developing years, people often have a hard time finding their importance in the world and wonder why they are here. This connection can be particularly difficult if he does not fully grasp the fact that every person “is made by society and by its historical push and shove” (Mills, 6). Tim Urban reminds people that a person’s family tree is vast, and just 9 generations back includes about 4,096 people in that generation and over 8,000 people in the entire family tree (Urban). That’s only about 300 years ago, and if a single one of those people were missing, that person would not exist today. Without an understanding of the influence of history on their own life, a person may find it difficult to find their significance and how amazing it is that they are alive. This history becomes easier to relate to when a person looks at their individual family history, but learning about history helps a person put into perspective how they have been shaped by it in general. History allows the student to discover more about himself and his society.

Furthermore, the student will not only see their place in history, but teaching history to students aides their view of how they impact the future. C. Wright Mills states that a person “lives out a biography” and that by “living he contributes, however minutely, to the shaping of this society and the course of it’s history” (Mills, 6). Just like how the past contributes to a person’s present, a person’s present contributes to a future person’s past. With people being so interconnected, it’s impossible for any human not to make some sort of impact in the world, no matter how minute. If a person is not aware of how the past has affected them, it will be increasingly difficult for them to understand how they will affect the future.

So far, it has been made quite clear why it is important for people to study history, especially oral histories, but some people may wonder why interviewing the elderly has been emphasized. While it is still true that everyone has a story to contribute, collecting the stories of the elderly is a more urgent situation. An example of why interviewing the elderly is particularly urgent is shown in the story of Marie Wilcox, a Wukchumni Native American. Marie grew up speaking the Wukchumni language with her grandmother family, but, until recently, she never taught the language to anyone else. When she learned that she was the last person on earth who spoke the Wukchumni language fluently though, her urgency to teach became much greater. She began to write a dictionary, as well as create an oral version of her dictionary. She also began teaching her children and grandchildren how to speak Wukchumni so that her native language would not die off. Marie was born in 1933, so she is worried that if she does not work to teach other, her native language, as well as all the stories passed down in her language, will die off with her (Vaughan-lee). If Marie desires to pass along her language though, it will not be enough for her to make an effort, but other people will have to listen and learn from her. It is not a goal that she can finish on her own.

Marie’s story is similar to the stories of many other elderly people in America and how, without someone to listen, their stories may forever exist unheard. While not everyone carries a dying language with them, every person does carry an important story with them, even if they don’t believe they do. Helen Hohbein, who recorded the stories of many elderly people while she worked in a nursing home, stated that “almost always [the elderly] would say their life was boring. But asking questions, bringing out good memories, and being encouraging would bring out the good things… I never found anyone to have led a boring life” (Hohbein). Without the encouragement to share their stories, these elderly people may not have ever shared what they had to offer to the world. Their stories and experiences would have passed on with them. In a society that is often ignorant of their family pasts, this is an especially relevant possibility.

Understanding why is it important to learn history is one of the tools that this paper should have provided and will aid in creating the tapestry of history. The pieces, however, still must come from personal stories like Marie Wilcox’s. These stories are hard to retrieve though with America losing the oral tradition and their interest in history. People perceive history as growing increasingly boring as the years pass, but it’s not history’s fault. It is directly correlated with America losing the oral tradition and personal histories. By encouraging the practice of oral history, Americans may once again connect and relate to history and learn from it, as they should. The tapestry of history will become more complete.

Hohbein, Helen C. “Questions for Senior Action Project.” Message to the author. 4 Mar. 2016. E-mail.

Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford UP, 1959. Print.

“The Evidence Base for Social Studies: Social Studies in Elementary Education.” The Evidence Base for Social Studies: Social Studies in Elementary Education. Ohio Department of Education. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Urban, Tim. “Your Family: Past, Present, and Future – Wait But Why.” Wait But Why. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Vaughan-lee, Emmanuel. “‘Who Speaks Wukchumni?’.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

1 Apr

The Importance of a Personal Story – Part 2

The best way for people to learn history and appreciate its importance is to start learning it at an early age in school. It’s common to hear people complaining about their history classes. They say that history is not important to learn “because it’s already happened”, a mindset that is negatively affecting my community. The improper teaching of history has brought about this mindset. Many history classrooms only teach facts and “the teaching of only facts reduces [the student’s] intellectual abilities and denies students the expressive potential inherent in their humanity” (Ohio Department of Education). While there have been schools and teachers that are working to change this mindset, the idea that history isn’t important to learn in schools has already been engrained in the mind of the student and reinforced by the population of the internet through memes. Students have already stopped caring, so one of the greatest challenges is to convince them to start caring again.

One of the best ways to convince students to care about history again, and begin to enforce the importance of history, is to encourage the tradition of oral history. StoryCorps is an organization that is dedicated to recording the stories of people and they emphasize its importance by reminding people what is so important about history. On their about page, StoryCorps says they collect oral histories “to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters” (StoryCorps). It sums up why it is important for people to listen to each other’s stories. Without these stories people may begin to lose their empathy towards others and lose their place in the world. Oral histories work to enhance learning, nurture empathy and help students to become conscientious students of the world.

There are multiple ways that oral history enhances learning, one of which is connecting a name and face to history to make people more interested in it. One would argue that the “stories of past lives, communities, and events might seem intrinsically interesting” but when people only focus on groups while teaching social history it flattens the narrative and “students find the subject dry, boring, and surprisingly unconnected to their lives” (Crocco). When students are taught through oral histories though, the individual stories do not lose anything on their way to the student and retain their intrinsically interesting appeal. This encourages students to learn history by peaking their interest and enforcing the connection of history to the student.

History also enhances learning by forcing the student to think critically. This is especially true when the students collect the oral histories for themselves. In discovering multiple oral histories, students develop the skills to “frame questions about why accounts differ, fosters their abilities as critical thinkers” (Miller). Every person has a different story, and every person has an account of what they experienced during various events throughout history. When provided with these multiple stories, students are forced to think about the past complexly. It stops becoming a feeding of facts and becomes an interactive activity that stimulates the brain and a person’s passion for history.

Oral histories work to enhance learning, but also can be used to create empathy in a student. When listening to oral histories, students are encouraged  “to see the world through the eyes of another,” therefore creating an emotional link between the student and interviewee (Crocco). This emotional link was displayed in a study lead by Lee Penyak and Pamela Duray in Mexico City. The students in this study were asked to interview people in their community. By the end of the interviews, all the students reported having empathy for the people they interviewed and became increasingly active in the issue that they discovered the issue of with these interviews (Penyak). With this emotional link, the student will view past events with a fresh perspective that allows them to better understand the events and create a personal connection to them. This empathy can carry over into the emotions a student feels when learning the histories of other people. A student must learn empathy, but once learned personally through oral history, the empathy may grow and flourish rapidly.

Crocco, Margaret Smith. “Putting The Actors Back On Stage: Oral History In The..” Social Studies 89.1 (1998): 19. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Miller, Joan. “Migrant Memories: Creating An Oral History.” OAH Magazine Of History 23.4 (2009): 43. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Penyak, Lee M., and Pamela B. Duray. “Oral History And Problematic Questions Promote Issues-Centered Education.” Social Studies 90.2 (1999): 68. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

“StoryCorps.” StoryCorps. StoryCorps. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

“The Evidence Base for Social Studies: Social Studies in Elementary Education.” The Evidence Base for Social Studies: Social Studies in Elementary Education. Ohio Department of Education. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

31 Mar

The Importance of a Personal Story – Part 1

This section of the paper outlines what the issue is and why it’s important to learn about personal histories.


I grew up listening to my grandmother tell stories. They were mostly stories from books, but from time to time she would tell a short story of my father growing up, or one from her own childhood. These stories pulled from her memory sparked my imagination and brought to life my grandma’s past. It was always so strange to think of my grandmother as young girl in a world so different from my own. Looking back, I realize how important her individual history is in shaping my life. Individual histories are important in helping people better understand the past and making the storytellers understand that their personal story is important. Creating this understanding is like forming a tapestry. One must first acquire the pieces and tools before creating a tapestry. The more detailed the pieces, the more detailed and beautiful the tapestry.  Without these pieces, it is difficult to bring the past to life, which is exactly the problem occurring in America today. A decreasing interest in history is causing people to lose their sense of importance of the past as well as the benefits that come with knowing about the past.

This lost feeling about the importance of the past is causing people to become disconnected with history and their own pasts. Ancestry.com has seen this trend in America, with only “half of Americans [knowing] the name of only one or none of their great-grandparents” and with only “fifty percent of American families [having] ever researched their roots” (PRNewswire). These statistics apply to the community of Lincoln. Many people are not taking the time to discover their own family histories, and the story that made them who they are today.

This ignorance of the past causes people to forget how history impacts people today, which in turn causes people to lose the benefits this knowledge of the past provides. In a world that seems to be constantly advancing and looking to the future, it’s easy for people to believe that history is simply something that happened but now has no purpose in modern society. The president and CEO of The Generations Network, Tim Sullivan, reminds us that “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” (PRNewswire). The history that people choose to teach to “children is playing a role in shaping their values and beliefs” (Crabtree). Whether their past sounds good or bad, understanding how ancestors impact people today leads to a reassessment of how a person is currently living their life.

There is also a more practical reason for people to know where they came from. Many adopted children seek to find out who their birth parents are, but it’s not always for the heartwarming reasons movies might suggest. Often times, they do this so they can find out their medical histories and discover why they might act the way that they do (Betchen). The past not only shows people where they found their values and predispositions, but their personal pasts can show them why some of them sneeze because of pollen or why some of them end up with Alzheimer’s. The physical makeup of one’s ancestor’s bodies is what makes up their own body.

Going beyond just personal histories, it is important to look at the significance of history objectively. History in general is extremely important to know and understand the past because “our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems” (Crabtree). History has shaped the present that has made humans inescapably intertwined with the past. It has dictated current beliefs and shaped the issues that we face in this world today. If people do not acknowledge history and what it has already taught them “we will find ourselves fabricating a past that reinforces our understanding of current problems” (Crabtree). As people become increasingly disconnected with the past, issues may become more difficult to solve because no one has a proper understanding of its past and will therefore not truly understand how to resolve it. People will only ever look for solutions that they desire to solve the issue, not solutions that will actually solve the issue.

Betchen, Stephen J. “Why Adoptees Need To Find Their Biological Parents.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 3 Apr.      2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Crabtree, David. “The Importance of History.” Gutenberg College Great Books. Gutenberg College. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

PRNewswire. “Ancestry | Press Releases.” Ancestry | Press Releases. Ancestry.com, 6 Dec. 2007. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

30 Mar

The Importance of a Personal Story – A Series of Posts

This week I’ll be starting a series of posts on the importance of history for people and in schools.

In school we had to choose an issue in our community and try and do something to help ‘fix’ it. Another part of the project though was to write a research paper on the issue. My first idea was to help in nursing homes and with the elderly in general, but then I realized a bigger issue. While it’s important to give these people proper care for their sakes, it’s also important to record their stories for both their sake and the sake of everyone else. I realized the importance of having multiple stories on a subject, and the best way to get multiple stories is to ask multiple people. It’s about more than just getting the story though, but sharing the story so that the story teller realizes their story matters and the people that hear the story also recognize it’s significance. I especially wanted to focus on more historical stories and stories of the elderly as their stories won’t be with us soon and all the knowledge they hold will be lost and simply added to a text book as “people in this era tended to do…”. All personal relation we have to stories will disappear and the will become dry and devoid of emotion. This paper addresses this issue and some suggestions on how to fix it.