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“Education narratives haunt real classrooms like ghosts”

April 30, 2012

This was something that came up for me when reading about Harry Potter actually (there are a couple of articles which consider the image of education and learning in the Harry Potter series), but which seems entirely relevant to the fields of children’s and YA literature…

Marshall Gregory writes: “I want to advance a remarkably simple thesis. While the importance of analyzing education by looking at it through many different lenses such as race, social class, economics, gender, ethnicity, class size, parental involvement, teacher preparation and so on, has been long recognized, some [-p.8] of the most important lenses (and certainly ubiquitous) that influence the views of every person in any society possessing television and movies have received hardly any investigation at all. The lenses I refer to are the thousands of education narratives that swirl thickly in most cultures, especially western culture. In this essay I will argue that this thick swirl of education narratives has the curious effect of creating notions about education that in fact work against education. Education narratives haunt real classrooms like ghosts and invisibly distort all students’ and teachers’ notions about what education is for, how it should be conducted, and what kind of experience it should provide. My claim about the influence of stories may not seem immediately true or self-evident. Many people – academics most notably – strongly resist the idea that stories influence any of their serious views, but not only do stories influence everyone’s views and expectations about education, they do so much more profoundly than we might think.” (7-8)

Consider Bernard Beckett’s writing in this context…

Ref: Marshall Gregory (2007) ‘Real Teaching and Real Learning vs Narrative Myths about Education’ Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 6: 7-27

ABSTRACT: “All real classrooms are saturated in the fictional narratives about education from TV and movies that swirl about thickly and persistently in western culture, yet the influence that these fictions exert on real teachers and real students is seldom examined. This article argues that since these fictional narratives nearly always deal in recycled stereotypes of both students and teachers, and that since these stereotypes are both ubiquitous and compelling, and that since they seldom receive critical attention, the influence they exert on real teachers and real students is to mislead, confuse, and impoverish their evaluations of and expectations about the nature of genuine education.” (7)

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