Thursday, 8 September 2011

Teacher teach thyself

By profession I'm a teacher.  This week I found myself discussing the characteristics of legend and myth with students. Nothing too weighty or profound... we'd read the story of the Four Dragons, and then the traditional Maori tale of Rahi.  What are the indicators that tell us that stories like these, while immense good fun, are not meant to be taken as wooden fact?

You don't need to be an adult to work out the basics for yourself.  Stories like these provide colourful explanations for how something firmly anchored in the real world came into being.  The great rivers of China are no myth, but compassionate, talking dragons are.  Ki-o-rahi is a very real game, with traditional Maori roots, but a giant manned kite which carries a payload of moa eggs is just a tad less credible.  I even scrawled up the word aetiology on the whiteboard.  Not that I expect anyone in the class will remember it, but on the other hand why dumb things down?

We expect young people to recognise genres as a basic competency.  Star Trek, Pecos Bill, Gilgamesh: we'd all be impoverished if they disappeared.  They capture our imaginations and take us places where hair-shirted literalist fact fanatics fear to go. So why won't fundamentalists recognise them in the Bible?  Why can't they appreciate them for what they are, rather than trying to make them into what they're not?

Dunno.  It took me long enough to wise up, so what can I say?

Ah, whaddatheheck... anyone wanna make up a ki-o-rahi team?

(Wanna see how the game looks when the big blokes play?)

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