History & Society

Conversation Guide

While historical narratives are often embraced as representing the “true history,” there is growing awareness of the degree to which they are, in fact, composed of specific interpretations of certain events (and not of others). As Winston Churchill stated, “History is written by the victors.” More than representing a specific version of the past, historical narratives are also oriented to the future. They create deep beliefs about who we are, where we come from, and what are the right prospects. They also construct images of the others and meanings of intergroup relations, describing others as enemies or allies, superiors or inferiors. Thus, historical narratives prescribe a specific course of actions and justify our attitudes and behaviors toward others. So let’s talk about it!

Let's Get Started!

This Living Room Conversation flows through three rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.

Before You Begin...

Please go over the Conversation Agreements with your participants.

Introductions: Getting Started/
Why Are We Here?

What interested you or drew you to this conversation?

Round 1: Core Values

Answer one or more of the following:
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are and what inspires you?
  • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?

Round 2:

Historical narratives and the future of a society

Remember that the goal of this Living Room Conversation is for each participant to listen to and learn about the different opinions within the group to see where you might share interests, intentions, and goals.

Answer one or more of the following:

Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals. Answer one or more of the following questions:
  • Have you seen any examples of history that conveys a certain overarching “story” in a way that felt either positive or negative to you?  If so, please share.
  • When you were taught history of your country or the larger world, were you presented with multiple views of historical events?  (Ex: winning and losing stories of a conflict)
  • What role do historical monuments play in sharing our history?
  • How have stories about history impacted you or someone you know?
  • Have you seen different historical narratives used to justify discrimination, exclusion or social divide?
  • If you were teaching someone the history of the United States, how might you present it (e.g., perhaps differently than how you learned the history)?

Round 3: Reflection & Next Steps

  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation?
  • What new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Name one important thing that was accomplished here.
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Please complete the feedback form to help us continue to improve Living Room Conversations.

Thank You!

Close Menu