A Lone Tale
In her TED talk video, Chinamanda Adichie discusses what she describes as "the danger of a single story." Her message is this: If we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. There is a great deal of truth in this conjecture with respect to education. Growing up in the American education system and now working in it as a teacher, I have seen how a single story is told in mathematics. Through the school mathematics taught in textbooks, students learn only one story, the tale of how primarily White men developed mathematics in Europe. Students learn the Pythagorean Theorem, but they don't learn that the Babylonians worked with Pythagorean triples a thousand years before Pythagoras was born. Students learn Pascal's Triangle and its properties for raising binomials to different exponents. But students don't learn that mathematicians Yang Hui, from China, Omar Khayyam, from Persia, and Halayudha, from India, were all working with Pascal's Triangle and its properties centuries before Pascal was alive. Because we only tell one story of mathematics, students generally do not learn about the important contributions to mathematics made by their ancestral peoples.
Documenting my journey through the credential program, my transformation from tutor to instructor, has enabled me to see more of what I've learned and how I have grown. This has allowed me to not only identify areas I need to work on, such as making more efficient use of class time, but has also shown how I have improved. There was a time when people in my life told a story about me, a story in which I would never make anything of myself, would attain any form of success. One of those people happened to be a teacher, of all things. Looking back on all that I have accomplished shows me what I've learned and how I'm building off of it. It also shows me that even though those people, who told their narrow-sighted, single story of me, were so certain they knew my fate, they really never had the authority to decide it. I think Adichie puts it best when she states, "Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity."
Adichie, C. (2009, October 7). The Danger of a Single Story. [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg