TED : Ideas worth spreading

Review: The danger of a single story

Speaker: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
TEDGlobal 2009
Date: July 2009
Location: Oxford, England

Description from TED website:
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Select the image to go to the actual video.

My Review / Notes / Thoughts

Her talk is really thought-provoking. We have a tendency in this day and age, to stereotype others… and stereotypes are single stories. Can you think of a time where you were shocked or startled because the stereotype you had in your mind about someone was negated by their words or actions? That is what she is talking about here in this video.

I believe that this video would make for an excellent assignment and/or discussion primer for both high school and college students. If conducted correctly, I think it could give the students a more open mind when learning about others and help them to develop a tolerance for others and their ideas.

So here are some ideas off the top of my head.

Discussion and/or Presentation

First, come up with a list of generic stereotypes that exist in your local environment. Then you could have students break into groups and have discussions on the topics, having to research the truths and myths of the assigned stereotype. Then require that they give a presentation to the rest of the class on their research about that stereotype. I might even require that they each make a statement about what they personally learned through this project.


Similar to the discussion, you’ll want to come up with a list of stereotypes. Then break the students into groups. Half of the group would research truths about the stereotype, the other half would research the myths. They would then be required to debate the stereotype before the rest of the class.


One writing assignment could be a full-blown research paper. The instructor can either provide them with a list of generic stereotypes to pick from, or the students could submit to the instructor a stereotype that they would like to research (instructor should approve/deny the selection to ensure the quality). Students could then research:

  1. Where, how, and why the stereotype originated.
  2. Truths about the stereotype
  3. Myths about the stereotype
  4. Conclusions about the stereotype
  5. Suggestions for addressing the stereotype (for more advanced study)

For a more creative writing type course, there is the option of story writing. The instructor could provide the stereotype for the students to focus on, or allow them to select another one. The story’s main character should be confronted with the stereotype then have to learn about it and have to make a decision on if the stereotype is true or not.

These are just some random ideas I had while listening to the talk. I think any of these would be great for engaging students. What do you think? Are there other assignment ideas you have that you could use this talk with?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

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