The danger of the single story

I’ve just returned home from two days of cultural proficiency training by Brenda and Franklin CampbellJones and Delores and Randall Lyndsey.  I will be posting more of my thoughts on my experiences, but wanted to whet your appetite by sharing one of the powerful closing videos by Chimamanda Adichie.

When have you been an agent or a target of a single story?

3 thoughts on “The danger of the single story

  1. Holy powerful batman – I had goosebumps for the first 10ish minutes!

    I too have had some (limited) exposure to Cultural Proficiency and found this a meaningful extension to what I’d learned previously.

    It also reminds me of other workshopping I’ve attended, Polarity Management, in the sense that the single story suggests a lack of understanding (as a function of limited information and/or lack of exposure) about a given topic or issue. Polarity Management suggests that while the solution to given challenges may seem to be black and white, it requires a deeper understanding of the issues at play and the factors that contribute to the problem in order to ‘manage the polarity’ and find effective solutions.

    Don’t think I’ve explained polarity management very well, perhaps an example might be in order…

    Kids not coming to school on time is often viewed as lack of responsibility on the part of parents. The black and white solution seems to be ‘leave the house earlier’. However, any number of factors might contribute to the problem (tardiness) e.g. no alarm clock, single parent getting 4 young kids ready, parents working late into the evening affecting their ability to wake and get kids ready in the morning.

    At the end of the day, it’s up to us as educators to seek to understand what the factors and issues are and address THOSE (to the degree that we can) in order for the problem (tardiness) to be solved as effectively as possible (by means of kids arriving at school on time) and accepting the fact that what we feel are ‘the ideal’ solutions aren’t always possible. It’s about how do we move kids and families forward instead of ‘fixing the problem’ (oh wait, doesn’t that relate to Shannon Smith’s post about grades?!)

  2. I think I need another crack at this…

    Upon further reflection (and a quick dig online), I realize that I shouldn’t have used the words ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ because by definition, polarity management doesn’t ‘solve’ ‘problems’, it ‘manages’ ‘perspectives’ which are not in and of themselves ‘wrong’. While a teacher might feel that a kid needs to get to school on-time and sees it as a unreasonable that they can’t, a parent might feel that it is unreasoable for the teacher to expect them to get kids to school on-time given the reality of their life (maybe dad works overnights and doesn’t get home until 8 a.m., mom takes the car that he’s just brought home to go out to work and dad is left to wake, dress, and feed 4 kids and get them out the door by 8:30 to get to school on time).

    According to polarity management theory, neither the teacher nor the parent’s perspective is inherently ‘wrong’, but the perspectives are polarities to be managed (and ultimately understood). It comes down to looking at a situation wholistically and walking in the shoes of others.

  3. I’m going to look into polarity management. So far, I’m totally behing its message of not looking at situations as having a right and a wrong, but perspectives in conflict.
    Thanks for broadening my outlook Jen!

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