The power of fiction in promoting multiculturalism

Thinking about language learning in our international school context, I couldn’t agree more that “We have the ethical responsibility to create schools where multilingualism and multiculturalism are not simply respected but promoted and where authoritarian leaders who demand conformity to past traditions of linguistic culture and privilege are replaced by those who hold a pedagogical approach that is inclusive and open to all other cultures” (Gallagher, 2009).

In our DP Literature class we explore a number of works in translation, allowing us a privileged window into cultures other than our own. One of the novels we look at is set in Egypt, and while sharing our knowledge of the country and its people prior to reading the text, it is clear that there is a tendency to stereotype.

The Turkish author, Elif Shafak’s, Ted Talk on the Power of Fiction was an ideal springboard for class discussion around stereotyping, cultural differences and international mindedness. Having been a student in an international school environment herself, Shafak comments on language acquisition (in her case English) and how the language of fiction connects us all. Her idea that we shouldn’t be teaching students to write about what they know, but about what they feel is an interesting one.