The Untold Stories

How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?

a.) The lenses in which I see the world (white, female, hetero-sexual, cis-gender, middleclass) dictates how I read the world.  Thus, the literature I examined in school, which was predominantly written by white authors, did not disrupt or challenge my worldview. My schooling and upbringing shaped me to see people like me at the center of the world of literature and in turn, the center of the world. Moreover, I had few classmates who differed from me in skin colour or class standing. Because of this, it never seemed odd to us that we were reading about characters just like us, maybe with slightly more exciting lives. Therefore, I carry these biases and lenses with me still. I see Western culture as “normal.” My lack of exposure to non-Western stories limits my ability to acknowledge a multitude of stories outside of these societal norms. Although I had been exposed to books that did not fit into my societal norms, like Kumashiro mentions in Chapter 7, “merely including multicultural literature without a change in how we read can be a problem.” For instance, as Kumashiro mentioned, we must ask questions about the lenses and perspectives we have as readers and those that are being excluded. Further, what social problems are we allowing to go unnoticed while reading the story? Thus, to work against these biases is to interact with multicultural literature in a much more critical sense.

Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

b.) As I mentioned earlier, I had read multicultural novels in school. However, when we discussed the novels as a class, we often generalized the experiences of the main character. In other words, all other non-white stories that could be told, were “other” stories and consequently, a single story.  A story about a poor African girl told me how all girls in Africa live; a story about a young Indigenous boy living on “the res” gave me the whole story about Aboriginal families. In a sense, we were building feelings of empathy for the characters in the story, which is not outright a wrong approach by my teachers. However, we did not discuss that their might be other truths about the culture that were not being included in the story. As Chimamanda Adichie states in her TED talk, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” Understanding this creates an understanding between real people that can be reached through storytelling. Further, it teaches students to value the truths of others and not the dominant oppressive worldviews they, subconsciously or consciously, align with.

 

2 thoughts on “The Untold Stories

  1. Hi Kylie,
    I had a similar experience where the media I was exposed to in school only displayed a white perspective and I don’t think that I can even think of an instance off the top of my head where other races were a part of the narrative except for To Kill a Mockingbird, and in this instance I don’t believe it was gone into depth as much as it should have been. I appreciate your insight on how the literature you read shares about only seeing a single story. What are some other ways you think we can stop generalizing experiences?

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  2. I had pretty much the same upbringing and had similar experiences when I was in school as well. I feel now that you’re in university, it is your job as an educator to become more aware of the non-Western philosophies/ ways of knowing and to make yourself aware of ways that may seem not normal to you. I agree with you about the single stories presented in classrooms….My high school experience was similar in the sense that when we did learn about non-white stories, it was often just a single side to the story… like what you said about a poor African girl or a Indigenous boy living on the “res”….we’re not given the whole story and only are shown a generalized story.

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