Single Stories

Another secret about my summer program: I love it because I have an uninterrupted 45 minutes each morning to read whatever I want on the train. Since I recently finished Gone, Girl by Gillian Flynn and don’t want to commit to another book just yet, I’ve been reading magazines. Up today: Rethinking Schools and an article about narrative and who controls the narrative by Linda Christensen. “The Danger of a Single Story” is quite compelling and totally fired me up to teach it this fall. She draws on Brent Staples “Walk on By” about Black men in public spaces, Chimimanda Adichie (Half a Yellow Sun and other fantastic works) and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow to help students use their voice to address systems of inequality.

Christensen writes: As I listened to their stories, I thought about the Daniel Beaty poem that laments the “lost brilliance of the black men who crowd prison cells,” and I thought about my moral obligation to tap into this injustice, this birthplace of anger and rage, to expose it and validate students’ experiences. But if I unleashed this rage and pain, I knew I had the parallel moral obligation to teach students how to navigate a society that discriminates against them and to teach them how others have dealt with these injustices. So I designed curriculum to address the needs of these black youth, and also the needs of all my students who feel singled out because of a defining feature that turns them into a target.

Again, another reminder that when we encourage students to “let it all out,” we best be ready for what that means, and we better be ready to help them do something with that “righteous rage” that can threaten to destroy them without some meaningful direction.

I’m excited to make this lesson my own. I’m excited to hear students write about self in ways that are critical and in ways that do something to make some change. Also, for those of us who are integrating the Common Core into everything we do, this is an excellent way to get critical, complex texts that kids will WANT to read into our classrooms. Brilliant!

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Filed under Teaching Writing in the Summer, Writing About Race

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