What is reality? Understanding how history is constructed and the value of difference.

As i was driving this morning there was a fascinating programme on the radio about Troy. From the perspective of the mythology, the archaeology and documented history, they sought to build a consensus opinion of where the city actually was and how ‘true’ was the story. I enjoyed the discussion between the three academics: the mythologies had their own narrative, complex branching interlinked stories and characters. The archaeology was it’s typically abstract truth, fact, layers, strata, dates, tantalisingly real yet ephemeral. The written histories, having been decoded from their dead languages and cyphers, where they had been captured from their most ancient oral history roots, tied the pieces together, giving us hints of what was probably ‘real’ and what was probably made up.

The truth is an interesting thing, not always obvious, and this is as true of many modern things as it is the historical. Often we are not learning concrete facts, but rather ways of thinking, ways of acting, ways of being. These are not things that are parroted from a teacher, but rather things that we internalise and learn in our own language. Sure, we learn facts and figures too, but it’s the concepts and ‘truths’ that bind these together that interest me.

Take organisational culture: it exists, but can you define it? What makes this up and how do we learn it? Like the ‘facts’ of Troy, it’s deduced from hints, relics and stories. There is no book of the truth that you can read: things like induction manuals may give you the facts and figures, but they won’t give you the feel and experience. You pick this up from talking to other people, from living it, from sensing and even smelling it.

History is not fact: it’s memory and opinion. There are always multiple interpretations as there are with many stories. Sometimes i think that in our quest to achieve signoff, to be compliant, we strive for one ‘truth’, whilst in reality there are many. I enjoyed the experience of being taken on a journey today, exploring different viewpoints and different possible meanings. It reminded me that sometimes we should question what we are told, that sometimes different opinions are a strength, not a sign of confusion.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Age, Archaeology, Authority, Clarity, Complexity, Education, Experience, Fact, Fiction, History, Time and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What is reality? Understanding how history is constructed and the value of difference.

  1. Pingback: The Age of Digital History | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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