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Shared Narratives — Session 7

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Session 7: Dissemination of Shared Narratives

Presentation by David Harman (Bard College, Jerusalem).

DAVID HARMAN: Dissemination of narratives in the context of this gathering is an educational challenge: it is an exercise in learning and teaching requiring some understanding of the fundamentals of both.

A widespread approach to education – learning and teaching – distinguishes between three target domains: cognitive, affective and motor. Most of what we do in formalized schooling arrangements, from kindergarten right through to universities, concentrates on the cognitive and, to a degree, the motor domains. Notoriously, schools have not succeeded in coping effectively with the affective domain. It is, for example, exceedingly difficult to determine a curriculum that will imbue, support and reinforce values. One notable exception to this can occur in schools that serve homogeneous student populations and reflect values that are both ubiquitous and heavily reinforced in the community environment – conditions that are rarely met in most contemporary schools.

There are, indeed, many examples of instruction directed at the cognitive growth of students but which may conflict with aspects of already ingrained affective positions that are ineffectual due to such clashes. Over the past few days this point has been illustrated many times and has become abundantly clear. This, of course poses challenges and complications to the planning of educational activities. (Bloom, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives)

Another theory that may serve as a guide in this respect posits that learning is triggered in situations in which a dissonance is created, that is, when new information or input conflicts with previously held knowledge or positions. As the mind does not tolerate dissonance over time, there is a need to bring the two into balance, or to consonance, either by accepting one and discarding the other or through a process of conciliation. Disseminating different – divergent - narratives naturally creates such conflict and we should consider the potential consequences. One such difficulty is that rejection of one or another narrative can be counterproductive in that it serves to reinforce negative stereotypes. For example, “such and such is rejected because it is a lie”, whereby lying becomes a stereotype of the other.


To read the entirety of Session 7, click here


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