Challenging Existing Stereotypes
We find ourselves defining others because of their race, culture or
religion. But we are all human beings, each capable of loving and
wanting and working for peace. Stereotyping limits our ability to see
the truth and to appreciate our common humanity.
Read children's stories:
world, seemingly trapped by many xenophobic traditions, creates
impenetrable boundaries and images of other peoples limiting our ability
to focus clearly upon the common humanity that exists between us and our
common dreams that every human dreams for their children and for the
coming generations. Old stories and old ways of thinking are constantly
revisited often igniting the need for revenge. The recycling of old
behaviours perpetuates separateness honouring difference at the
exclusion of any acknowledgement of our common humanity.
Peace-building stories can assist in challenging the stereotyping our
traditional and old ways of thinking have established. Often this old
way of thinking leads to a path of distrust and war certainly not in the
creation of a peace-building consciousness.
world is blessed with many different and unique expressions of life all
worth honouring and celebrating. Humanity chooses to follow many
different faiths, traditions and customs. Judgements we make upon these
differences can lead to feelings that others are not as strong, not as
powerful, nor as wealthy or even as religious or democratic as others.
Perhaps by reading and sharing with our children stories that challenge
any fear based thinking that can arise from such feelings, stories that
open their hearts and minds to the incredible learning all cultures and
traditions offer, then these fears might dissipate. Exploration of
opportunities to create peace and friendship within and beyond our
communities might begin.
begin by sharing simple stories that do challenge similar beliefs, such
as ones that don’t betray all witches, werewolves and dragons as being
evil and dangerous. The understanding gained from these stories might
help counterbalance the fear created by the xenophobic stereotyping our
world perpetuates in via the media, or friends and families present to
peace-building story that challenges existing stereotyping is:
Knight” by Jenny Wagner
(Red Fox Sydney
This is a courageously written and delightful story for all ages to
enjoy and share together contains all the peace-building elements and
particularly challenges our beliefs and fears in relation to werewolves
and anything else we do not understand.
Feolf knew werewolves were frightening and scary animals for humans to
see so he carefully concealed his wolf like ways. Just because he was a
werewolf didn't mean he intended to deliberately frighten people. He
loved Fioran, a beautiful princess, but he knew he would have to tell
her the truth. But as tales such as these unfold the villain wanted to
stop the beautiful princess from marrying her beloved prince, so he
managed to prevent Feolf returning into his human form each morning.
Despite the sad turn of events the story did end happily. Love saved the
day, as did kindness and compassion. The happy ending in this story
allowed for truth to prevail. Feolf married his princess. But on some
bright moonlit nights he returned to his forest. Fioran, though, went
with him. Feolf, as Gandhi would have done, peacefully responded when he
was captured. Love and courage triumph. Characters challenge traditional
stereotyping. There is no mention of revenge.
questions to explore with children
English Literacy and SOSE year 6
to create a story that presents a different view of a stereotypical
character one that contradicts our original understandings ending
happily with everyone winning.
is a story that does challenge our thinking about werewolves, which have
always been cast as scary creatures of the night to be feared because of
their long sharp canine teeth and angry disposition. Children can create
their own stories, too, to share with others, as Laura did. It presented
her thoughts about how witches could be portrayed differently.
read Laura's story
Dragons in the tales from the western world are fought by heroic dragon
slayers who fearlessly risk their lives to save a damsel in distress or
a village and its people being threatened with annihilation. All fire
breathing dragons according to such legendary storytelling, must be
destroyed. The eastern traditions present dragons, though, in a very
different context, often as a symbol of good luck or hope. Challenging
western ways and reconstructing our understandings about dragons may
assist our reconstructing of our understandings about other stereotyped
images including those of other cultures or races.
Another peace-building story that challenges existing stereotyping is:
(Walker Books London 2001)
delightful story that challenges our western understandings about
dragons being dangerous creatures we should all fear, and its simple
words of wisdom are easy for all ages to appreciate and share together.
The story contains many peace-building elements but particularly reveals
the unfortunate negative consequences that stereotyping can often
present to our children.
Ignis was unable to breathe fire as all real dragons should. Unable to
accept his inabilities he began his search to try and find out who he
really was, because if he could not breathe fire then he could not be a
real dragon. His friends loved him despite himself and supported him as
he ventured out into the world. He found even more friends along the
way. Eventually Ignis found out who he truly was. The happy ending in
this story does involve our hero finding peace and finding himself and
his place in the world. Ignis is reminded of the importance of friends.
Friends support each other. Friends believe in each other. Friends are
always there for you. Ignis learns to appreciate and be grateful.
Critical questions to explore with children