Educating young people through stories

Educating young people through stories

Stories have always helped people to recount or teach lessons. They inspire us, they shape our decisions, they help us to relate to painful situations and to put into words things that we sometimes struggle to recognize and express.

They may be written with the purpose of entertaining, educating, or relaying important messages. Whatever their purpose, stories help humans better understand themselves.

With the passage of time, the way stories are told has also changed. Today, there are numerous tools through which we can tell a story. In addition to books – a classic – there are also films and TV series.

The stories most loved by today's youth

A survey launched by Familyandmedia in 2018 identified some of the youth’s most-liked works, including books, films, and TV series. September 24 and 25, 2021, at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, a group of young people, between 20 and 30 years old, joined the researchers of Familyandmedia to discuss the content of these works and to analyze how they convey fundamental themes in life, such as love and friendship. It was an important chance to exchange not only ideas, but also emotional experiences.

Friendship and love through stories

Among the works in question were the best seller Harry Potter and the film The Chronicles of Narnia, which placed the theme of friendship at the center of the focus group.

What strengthens a friendship and what undermines it? Is it possible to forgive a friend who we feel betrayed us? These are just some of the questions that moved the youth’s conversations along. The debate also covered topics like bullying, the difficulties that young people experience nowadays, especially at school, and the importance of the role parents and friends play in trying times.

The series Thirteen Reasons Why gave the group several opportunities to explore these issues. The talks opened with a viewing of some scenes from the sit-com The Big Bang Theory, bring up the prickly question: can men and women be friends?

Besides friendship, love was the other important element of this study. In this case, the debate was inspired by some scenes from the box office hit Titanic. The intense romance between Jack and Rose generated a deep reflection on what true love is, focusing their attention on the concept of idealization. Love was a delicate theme to discuss, as in today’s world, everything seems to be fleeting and a bizarre concept of freedom seems to lead to nothing stable and lasting.

Social networks and feelings

In addressing these topics, we couldn’t leave out a fundamental question: how much and in what way do social networks influence feelings and relationships? Today, we are surrounded with possibilities to connect to the virtual world. There is a risk of only living in this virtual dimension, made up of messages and notifications, without really developing a relationship with someone. Of course, we cannot help but think that thanks to these means of communication, we are able to be in contact with those who are far away. However, what’s the flip side – especially for those who depend too much on these digital means? The risk is to live an interpreted reality –always detached from the real reality. Not only that but masking oneself behind a screen without ever showing oneself for what one is can inhibit one’s ability to express oneself. Everyone needs to express his or her thoughts and feelings. It’s an art to be learned over time – not immediately.

It then becomes essential to develop a narrative intelligence, which allows us to go beyond the story itself and read and understand the "subtext" and the values that the narrator wants to communicate to us. The greatest love stories and stories about friendship are timeless and pave the way for new arrivals; they never wane because they capture what is always human about being human.

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