on story telling …

A few months ago, I realized that I needed to go on an information diet. Just like in my physical life where I need to eat more fruits; veggies; and whole grains; and fewer sausages; Marie Calendar’s pie; and less processed meat, I needed to stop obsessing about the fiscal cliff, the sequester, some crazy ex-LAPD nut case, and all the rest and start putting happier and more inspiring things into my information diet. Just as I’m never going to be a vegan, I’m never going to completely ignore the important news of the day. I just needed a little better balance in my daily information diet.

Part of my information diet was that I decided to try to watch two or three Ted Talks a week for as long as I could manage it.  Let me tell you, Ted Talks have become this incredible launching pad for ideas that I’d love to share with students.  This afternoon while I was on the cardio machine at the gym, I watched a wonderful talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie on The Danger of a Single Story.

Her talk about the stories that we come to know about other people, other cultures, and indeed, I think, about the stories we tell about ourselves really made me think about what our kids are learning.  Our 8th graders do some pretty interesting research about different countries and cultures of the world, but I’m not so sure that they are even beginning to develop a sense of the multiple stories that exist in the countries that they’re studying.  We have them gather some demographic and economic data and put together travel brochures about the cultures and the people, but it all seems quite superficial in the end.

I, for one, would love to see them watch this talk, then be asked to “Write one of the stories from the country you’ve been assigned that you think most Americans probably wouldn’t know.”  Asking them to uncover the untold story would require them to identify the obvious story, but then to go deeper and uncover the one that isn’t so obvious to us through mainstream culture in the west.

Unfortunately, I don’t teach history so I don’t get a vote.  If I did, though, that’s what I’d do …

Sometimes being “just a librarian” can be a really frustrating thing …


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