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Teaching that “Promotes Diversity”: The Potential of Disruptive Narratives

Crossroads of the Classroom

ISBN: 978-1-78635-797-7, eISBN: 978-1-78635-796-0

Publication date: 25 April 2017


Many literature teachers, operating with good intentions, include in their presentations of multicultural literature moral lessons on the importance of tolerating difference. Unfortunately, as long as teachers continue to label someone or some point of view as “diversity,” they reify the ideal of normal versus abnormal and keep the definition of the latter in the hands of the former. How can a teacher who is dedicated to teaching diversity respond to this problem? I propose that school leaders and teachers can address this dilemma through the medium of literature if reading instruction is utilized to shape students into novice narrative researchers. Working with a current teacher, I applied this approach to the graphic novel, American Born Chinese (Yang, 2006) constructing a unit for ninth grade students in a suburban, Midwestern high school. The curriculum – which infuses principles of narrative research into extant district and state guidelines for teaching literature – frames the text not as a lesson in tolerance, but as a disruptive and potentially transformative experience. I include a description of this process, a selection of lessons, and reflections from the teacher. Considering these elements, I end with a reflection on the potential for narrative and disruptive methodology to (truly) promote diversity. All of us – even teachers – find it hard to confront, accept, and appreciate differences in others, but these activities also have the potential to enrich our communities and lives. Thus, we, with eyes on the future, need to foster these capacities in young people.



Bossman, D. (2017), "Teaching that “Promotes Diversity”: The Potential of Disruptive Narratives", Crossroads of the Classroom (Advances in Research on Teaching, Vol. 28), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 119-136.



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