History is a negotiated practice offering provisional knowledge. This necessary provisionality does not eliminate the possibility of ‘some truths prevailing for centuries, perhaps forever. And one of the responsibilities of history is to record both the survival and reformulation of old truths’ (Appleby, Hunt and Jacob, 1994, p.284). Story’s special relationship with education seems to me to be one such ‘old truth’ still useful to modern teachers. Even though contemporary practice offers ‘models of teaching in abundance’ (Joyce, Calhoun and Hopkins, 1997, p.25), it is tempting to think that the oldest may be the best. To stories I would add playing, observing, questioning and talking as equally attractive and anciently grounded learning and teaching strategies. This text frames them within stories rather than vice versa not because they are inferior, but to promote story as a particularly sustainable and humane educational tool. Story also permeates history: ‘In historical discourse, the narrative serves to transform into a story a list of historical events that would otherwise be only a chronicle’ (White, 1987, p.43). I therefore offer you a definition:
History is the construction and deconstruction of explanatory narratives about the past, derived from evidence and in answer to questions. This can be explained to children as finding answers to questions and questions to answer, by taking apart and putting together again real stories about the past.