The Danger of a Single Story: Ted Talk


Students engaged in a unit around power and privilege. They watched movie clips and investigated selections of children’s literature. They engaged in a “privilege walk” and watched PBS clips showcasing children and youth growing up in complex environments, followed by poster walks and presentations.

The unit culminated by focusing on the understanding that we all need to do more to change the structures of power and privilege that have been constructed in our world. Students learned that a small step to help is understanding that none of us is a single story, and we all need to be aware of “The Danger of a Single Story” in perpetuating power and privilege.

After listening to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie share her story in a TED Talk , students wrote a response and a reflection. They considered questions such as:

  • What was one thing the speaker said, which really resonated with you? What did it make you think or realize?
  • Describe a “single story” that you feel is wrongly impacting others.
  • The speaker says that we must reject the single story, and that stories matter because they have the power to break or create dignity. Explain what this comment makes you think of.

In their reflection, they made connections to their own ideas and to the Core Competencies.

The Ted Talk is available at:



Student Work Sample

This TED Talk was about stereotypes which the speaker described as “single stories” – a single perspective about a group of people, based on very little information. The speaker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, spoke of several stories about being a Nigerian person in America, and meeting a lot of people who only had a single story about Africa. Some people thought that Africa was a country, or that Africa is supposedly filled with poor people and starving children. These assumptions are very incorrect in nature. The speaker talks about how a single story about a different culture or situation can really narrow a person’s thinking and alter their perceptions. That is why it is important to understand that to truly know something, a person needs to collect a lot of stories, and reflect upon the “single story” and hopefully deny the wrong ones. After all, the only way to know something well is to look past the stereotypes and accept the fact that every person is a unique individual and should not be generalized by any stereotypes.

I am not a single story in many ways. First, I do not fit into the single story of a Chinese or Canadian person. I don’t consider myself as being very smart or perfect at everything. I am also not very quiet for overly apologetic, nor do I live in an igloo in a place that snows all the time. I do not fit into most of the single stories about Canadian or Chinese person because I grew up between the two cultures, making me a unique mix between the two. I am shaped by many Chinese traditions, but I also speak up quite often and question traditions a lot. Sometimes, people who judge me based on the single story of a smart kid. They would expect me to know the answers to everything, or at least to have the capabilities to doing any assignment perfectly. This makes for a very uncomfortable feeling. I am different from that single story because I also make mistakes in my assignments, I am just like everyone else. I am also not really a bookworm; I only read books that I am interested in. I may be smarter than others, but that all comes from my own hard work, and a single story does not define my intelligence.

There are a lot of events that shaped me into who I am today. One of the biggest deciding factors of my personalities is how I always ask questions and ponder about almost everything I come across. I often contemplate peoples’ reasons for doing certain things, and I always disagree with opinions that are thought to be right by the majority. I also tend to analyze things very closely and tend to think more logically instead of using emotions. Sometimes those factors get me into conflicts, which causes me to reevaluate my beliefs once more. Since I was little, I was always told to be a reserved person, so as my life progresses, I learn how to speak up at the right times and make comments when appropriate. I used to get into a lot of trouble because I was blunt, which is why my personality changed to being more reserved and polite. Basically, most of the events that make me who I am today are mistakes and conflicts. I develop from them and change my personality, so I can avoid committing the same mistakes again.

Student Reflection

There a few “I” statements” that I believe connect very well here. The first one that I would like to speak to is the statement: “I understand that my identity is influenced by many aspects of my life” as well as “I am aware that my values shape my choices, and contribute to making me a unique individual.” It is true that identity is formed by many “stories”. These stories are the different events and experiences in one’s life. A person’s identity is not made of just a single story; it is made of many things that happen in life, as well as the many choices that are made. Choices influence identity in that some people might purposefully deviate from their culture and traditions; some people make choices that develop a different and unique identity.    

Another “I statement” to reflect on here is: “I can identify how my life experiences have contributed to who I am” and “I recognize the continuous and evolving nature of my identity”. It is very true that the events that happen in a person’s life can shape their identity. Even if a person is born into one culture and has that culture’s “single story” attached to them, different events in their life, such as moving to another country and adapting to the new culture, can impact their identity forever. Peoples’ identities are always changing, and that is why it is wrong to assume stereotype among them. People who choose to label others are not being fair. They do not know about their life, nor what events have occurred to make them that way. Therefore, it is very important to recognize that all life experiences create a person’s identity.

Profile Analysis



Conscience de soi et responsabilité personnelle

Identité personnelle et culturelle positive