Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal (amazon affiliate link), recently wrote an article titled Why Storytelling is the Ultimate Weapon. In it, he makes a compelling case for telling stories in the business world. He cites Peter Guber who says, “Humans simply aren’t moved to action by ‘data dumps,’ dense PowerPoint slides, or spreadsheets packed with figures. People are moved by emotion.” He goes on to point out that “when we read dry factual arguments, we read with our dukes up. We are critical, skeptical.” Gottschall says, “In business, storytelling is all the rage. Without a compelling story, we are told, our product, idea, or personal brand, is dead on arrival.”
These ideas seem to speak in direct contrast to the Common Core authors’ positions that argument stands on its own merits and that stories aren’t really useful in college and career. Appendix A suggests that argument wields power to convince based solely upon the soundness of the claim and the proof offered to support the claim as opposed to persuasion which often appeals to emotion to sway an audience (Appendix A, p. 24).Most convincing arguments, particularly our work lives, use some element of story.
If argument has no need for story,why do books rich with transformative stories, such as Daniel Pink’s Drive (amazon affiliate link) or Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick (amazon affiliate link), influence the way CEOs and high level managers think about reculturating workplaces, increasing productivity, and managing bottom lines? It seems that those at the pinnacle of college and career are relying on stories to reframe their work, communicate with workers, and market their products.
As you reflect on your current units of study in writing, look carefully at the anchor standards and the explanation of the recommended writing genres in Appendix A. As you do, you will see that that there are three writing foci supported by the Common Core, of which, one is narrative. In preparing instruction for the future, make prudent adjustments where your instruction over-emphasizes narrative but remember that while facts and figures may inform, story empowers. Without balance, we may wake up five-ten-fifteen years from now in a vast wasteland of data that means nothing because it has lost its context: story.