The Danger of the Single Story

Today I showed this TED Talk video in class. It’s called “The Danger of the Single Story” by Chimimanda Adichie. Her thesis is that having a “single story” about a group of people creates stereotypes that are “incomplete” truths. The danger ranges from simple misunderstanding of each other to one powerful group’s disempowering another by creating the definitive, misleading single story about them. Provocative stuff about the power of storytelling.

My elective class will be writing Insider Essays in which they debunk the stereotypes of a group by explaining the multiple dimensions of its members, thus providing more than the “single story” of the group. Craig Ferguson does this affectionately about Scots in his memoir American on Purpose. Maxine Hong Kingston provides similar insights into the Chinese American experience in The Woman Warrior. It’s one of my favorite assignments of the year.


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