Reasons for Using and Teaching Biographies
At the most basic level, biographies satisfy an adolescent’s need to know and a desire to find out more about a person, event, or topic. But there is more than that. According to Hurst (2001), biographies personalize history by focusing on the motivations and driving forces behind personal actions. Through biographies, adolescents can see that, while social constructs can be harmful to some individuals and helpful to others, these constructs can be challenged and changed (Taylor, 1996). By seeing the choices that others have made and how those choices determined the course of an individual’s life, adolescents can begin to realize that they too can make choices and that their decisions will influence their future. As Akmal and Ayre-Svingen (2002) note, if adolescents are to realize that history is more than the study of dead people, educators must use the connection between inquiry and biography to help young adults see the relationship between past events and the realities of the present.
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