When humans sought to pass down their traditions and collective wisdom to future generations, did they do so through a dry government document entitled “20 Essentials of Sumerian Culture” or through a government-mandated curriculum written by a committee? No, they accomplished the transmission of their culture through stories. Stories were told by village elders, painted on walls, engraved on clay tablets, and written on papyrus. Many of these stories were so engaging they are still told today and studied by cultures far distant in time and geography from those ancient folk.
Stories are Important
To realize the importance of stories, one need only examine how God Himself chose to transmit His culture to His people. While the Bible includes poetry, prophecy, law, and history, it conveys most of its information through stories. Rather than a dry admonition about jealousy or covetousness, we get the stories of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, and David and Bathsheba. Rather than a textbook sentence like, “Paul was brave,” we get the story of Paul and Silas singing hymns while sitting in prison or Paul surviving a shipwreck. Stories inspire by reminding us that people have gone before us and lived through situations we too may experience. Stories teach about cause and effect and keep us from forgetting lessons learned by our predecessors.
All cultures have their heroic stories, both truth and legend. Families have their own stories, told at reunions, on holidays, and at wakes. Stories tell us who we are and why things are as they are. Stories convey hope, warnings, and information in an engaging manner.
To destroy a culture, therefore, one must make people forget their stories–or else convince them their stories were all wrong. There is a reason totalitarian governments burn books and control mass media. There is a reason they imprison or execute the most educated citizens when they take over. Stories are powerful! Plato understood that those who control a society’s stories control the society. In modern times, author Ray Bradbury said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Common Core Threatens Stories
The Common Core movement in public education has made it a goal to replace the reading of literature in schools (such as it is) with the reading of “informative texts.” Thus students may be presented with a government report or instructions for filling out a form instead of Jane Eyre or Oliver Twist. The literature they are given may not be the time-tested classics, but rather something picked because of its appeal to current political interests, without regard for moral content or historical accuracy.
According to Terrance O. Moore, author of The Story Killers, “the books being read to students are those published only a few years ago… They are wholly devoid of a gripping story.” Moore contends that Common Core aims to kill the great stories of our American and Western traditions in order to create a compliant, unthinking workforce that will obey the bureaucrats and industry elites directing their lives after graduation.
We The People Own Our Stories
Parents and concerned teachers can fight back by preserving our stories. They can fill homes and classrooms with excellent books and donate books to local libraries. They can work to teach literacy to students who have been failed by their school systems. They can also teach students to write, ensuring their own stories will be preserved for future generations.
The founders of the United States of America read the New England Primer, the Holy Bible and Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, not textbooks written by committees to satisfy bureaucrats. They had no Common Core standards, yet they achieved high levels of literacy in their colonies and states. They wrote masterpieces such as Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and The Constitution of the United States. Can today’s young adults do the same? Perhaps they could, if given the same education our founders received.
Our stories will survive as long as we continue to share them among ourselves and pass them on to our children through the gift of literacy. One of the most important things parents can do is to supply their children with good books: hardback, paperback, e-book, and yes, audio drama. The great stories are what keep children coming back for more. Those who would restrict stories are a threat to education and to freedom.