Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Rhetorical Power of Narrative in the Campus Tour

The New York Times recently ran an article describing a shift in College tours from mere fast-paced, fact-quoting, run around a predetermined course to a more leisurely, story-filled experience.

You can see the article "Colleges Seek to Remake the Campus Tour" here.

The thing that stood out to me is power of narrative - i.e. mythos, story, telling, etc.

"Something there is that loves a story
That sends the heart swell up to meet it
That perks the ears to listen
And opens the heart wide enough for truth to pass..."

Apologies to Mr. Frost, but the smell of universality is rich around the use of story.

I remember taking my daughters on college visits and the obligatory campus tours. There was one incident when my daughter said, "You wanna do something else with the rest of the day? 'Coz I'm not coming here." This college, which we will call "In Why You", belabored stats in a overly self-important manner.

Yet, on an other tour, the conclusion was "This is awesome - lets get a T-shirt!" (T-shirt being a sort of engagement icon.) The tour of this school, which we will call "Yell," was led by a young man who was a student there, and chocked full of stories - both historical and personal woven into a sort of, dare I say, Grand Narrative? (Gasp!) It ended on the spot where he had made his decision to attend that institution. He finished by reading the engraved words that he had read a few years before - "For God. For Country. For (insert name of school here)." I felt goosebumps and a lump in my throat - and not simply for wondering how much this would cost!

It was the power of the STORY, mythos, narrative!

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