Jennifer James urges educators to tell their own stories at the Second General Session Sunday afternoon at the ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show.
Cultural anthropologist Jennifer James wants educators to tell a story, a story that embraces and reinforces their best values and passes them on to the next generation.
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She explained what this involves during her presentation, "The Human Face of Technological Change," at the Second General Session Sunday.
Cognitive Dissonance "Splits the Mind"
"We are changing faster than any culture ever has in the history of the world," James said. "We have never seen change of this depth, this breadth and this intensity."
The result of this dizzying change is cognitive dissonance.
"Cognitive dissonance splits the mind and causes rage because you can't reconcile it with reality," James said.
Imagine a 15-year-old boy surging with testosterone who feels no connection to his culture and therefore experiences cognitive dissonance. That feeling can cause incidents like Columbine and other forms of violence, according to James.
"Everything You Need ... in a Weird Cartoon"
To help children cope, James recommends that educators tell compelling stories about the future. These "stories" are told in the way the storytellers live their lives and in the decisions they make.
Nelson Mandela, for example, tells a moving story of reconciliation that made a positive difference in South Africa, while Slobodan Milosevic tells a 13th century story of revenge that created a blood bath in Yugoslavia and huge loss of life, James said.
In terms of popular culture, children turn to their own storytellers-popular cartoons. The Mutant Ninja Turtles teaches the value of being fast, assertive, adaptable and confident, and it teaches higher forms of consciousness, higher forms of communication, meditation, mediation, teamwork, stress reduction and ethics.
"It's everything you need for this new world in a weird cartoon," James said. "This is a lot better than the Three Bears."
In the daily lives of educators, they too can tell a story in the face of incredible change.
"You are guiding. You are leading. You are taking a generation across a bridge from the past to the future," James said. "When you get over that bridge, we will have moved to a higher level of civilization. You make an extraordinary difference."