Education today is one of the most critical pillars of American society. It encompasses many aspects of everyday life, and often times a successful education is stressed as a necessity for advancing through the social ladder. Education, often associated with a student’s grades and GPA, is a main factor in determining which schools said student is eligible to enroll in and can determine what his/her future occupation will be, which is why it is deemed necessary by many parents that their children strive for the best in school through studying and doing homework.
However, one factor of education remains overlooked by both parents and students alike – stories. Today’s society chooses to focus on students’ grades and statistics rather than their experiencing life and learning morals and values via stories. Society is so inclined to teach book smarts that it lingers from conventional wisdom and forgets to instill traditional knowledge of the real world often akin to stories. Stories are meant to help expand a person’s mind and broaden their understanding of the world, yet they are often overlooked in schools today. This leads me to ask the question: how can a story impact the prospects of your mind?
To answer the surface of that question, I’d say that a story requires situations of everyday life that encompass morality and involve learning. Stories are told through various forms, some examples being through books, writing, vlogs, or even vocally, but conventionally they share a common theme – they aim to teach us about life and its values. Stories aren’t simply about listening and learning. To fully appreciate a story, you need to understand what the writer portrays through his/her writing. Understanding a story involves the same process as learning a concept such as math, and both affect the prospects of your life and mind similarly.
This became evident to me as I read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Throughout the book we read about the main character, Esperanza, and her experiences growing up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. She faces many difficult challenges while living on Mango Street, being enslaved to a society of people doomed to poverty.
“..he said it was his birthday and would I please give him a birthday kiss… he grabs my face with both hands and kisses me hard on the mouth and doesn’t let go” (page 55)
This scene serves as one of many examples of Esperanza’s life growing up in poverty – exposure to assault and abuse. The passage’s purpose was to demonstrate how easily people could be exploited, and this message is but one of many lessons taught through a book rather than formal education. As previously stated, reading alone doesn’t enforce learning – it involves you, and simply whether you understand what you read or not. Esperanza’s story of assault proves more effective at conveying the message over simply reading about it in a textbook since it seems more relatable and realistic. Overall, The House on Mango Street proves an effective written story, yet there are bountiful ways of expressing stories and their meanings. “Dear Mama” by Tupac is a prime example of another form of storytelling through song and how it can affect one’s mind.
Throughout the song, Tupac describes his life growing up. His mom kicked out at seventeen, his family stuck in poverty, and his sister having a different dad, Tupac hung “with the big boys, breakin all the rules”, resorting to crack and running from the police. He mentions that no matter how much he messed up in life, his mother was always there to take care of him. Although she worked a hard life and took many jobs, she never gave up on her family. Tupac notes of the gratitude and appreciation he has for his mother, the deep respect he holds for her, and the fact that “ain’t a woman alive that could take [his] mama’s place”. Throughout this song, we hear about the value of love and the lesson to never give up on loved ones. We may hear the song, but it is up to us to distinguish and interpret it to fully understand the message. This story isn’t one that will come easy if we merely read it in a textbook. However, we see the story through Tupac’s eyes, making the story more effective at impacting our minds due to its realistic approach. Similar to The House on Mango Street, Tupac vividly describes his experiences growing up, and this contributes to his effectively narrating the story as well as our better understanding of it and how it affects our minds. Again, stories have proven as useful as formal education since formal education wouldn’t have taught us about the hardships of life and possibilities of poverty, while Tupac’s story did just that.
“A picture is worth a thousand words”
Pictures matter because they too portray stories. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” ties in with the theme of stories and their teaching of morals and values since pictures carry their own stories. In the featured image, we see two arms of different-colored skin holding onto each other, with one arm depicting different outer appearances and the other arm depicting how the two share more similarities rather than differences. This picture speaks the truth of discrimination and racism, relating to my question since it can expand one’s understanding of racism more so than merely reading about white superiority in a history book. The picture is a great way to exemplify the message: stories, told through many different shapes and forms, are as vital to growth and the prospects of our minds as conventional book learning. Textbooks alone can’t educate the public mass on issues such as racism and the difficulties of growing up as a minority, which is why stories are important in how they flow with formal classroom learning by demonstrating themes and messages, all to improve our minds. It’s one thing to read about a recurring issue in history such as racism, but to understand it takes experience either by living and facing that issue or by hearing and understanding an effective story about it.
Stories matter because they teach us lessons and values which traditional educating alone won’t. While traditional education teaches us book smarts, it doesn’t prepare us for all the possibilities of the real world. It may prepare us for our future field of work, but it doesn’t prepare us for the situations we will come to face in life. That is the job of stories.