Oral Tradition

Imagine yourself sitting in a classroom…actually anywhere…and you are being taught a given subject. You begin taking notes in a frantic panic to capture what is being taught and what you will be tested on in the near and not so near future. Your hand tires and your notes begin to slip into an unintelligible scrawl that you cannot even decipher…and your brain holds the key-code …after all this is your hand writing.

Later as you return to your notes you realize that much of the material presented has somehow not been absorbed into your brain and your notes may as well have been written by someone else…and in Greek. You have been paying too much attention to note taking and too little to what is being taught. Is there a better way to teach and learn?

In Native American cultures class we were taught the teachings and lessons that go with them in by traditional oral communication…stories passed down from generation to generation for time immemorial. From the teacher’s mouth to your ears and out of your mouth exactly as you heard. Nothing is lost and all who heard retain the stories and lessons. We are asked by the teacher “Uhh?” Do you understand? Are you absorbing this…and our response “Nuh,” signals both that we are paying attention and that we are truly absorbing and internalizing the stories and lessons.

“Raise your hands if you can repeat the story and lessons.” At first there is a timid response, afraid of being singled out. “BE PROUD!…raise your hands, high. There is no shame in not knowing now, you will later.” You see we are taught in four different ways. The story and lessons are present four times in four different ways…we will all learn. And if not, those who do learn have added to the strength of the “community.” Those who have the strength of memory, will be selected for their strength and they will become the story tellers. They will be the ones who present the stories to the next successive generations. For what we learn and what we do, and what we pass on is for seven generations in the future. In this way the circle will always remain complete.

So close your lap tops, and put your note books aside, listen and repeat, learn from the four different presentations, because…

The stories and lessons will be passed on for “time immemorial.”




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