Story Serves as a Pontifex

Culture in Story Telling

Pontifex is Latin for “bridge builder”. It is primarily known for being used to address Roman Catholic high priests, or the Bishop of Rome because they were (and still are) considered to be the bridge builder in all things, but especially in the people’s relationship with Jesus Christ. They are the teachers and the listeners.

Story, then in the same sense, can serve as a pontifex. In a recent article I read, it discusses the way in which story telling becomes a bridge builder between different cultures:

“Hearing another’s story has the potential to deflate our self importance, making room for other perspectives.”

This article continues to expand upon how important it is to have diversity in the classroom, and how important it is for everyone to read stories from different cultures. When readers see themselves being represented in a story, they realize that their experiences matter. Every one should have the opportunity to be represented.

When we read about different cultures, the author is building that bridge so we can walk across and see what its like on the other side momentarily. When we listen to the author’s words, we gain knew perspectives to take out into the world. I’ve said it multiple times, but truly, one of the most beautiful things about literature is how it is able to represent all cultures and the fact that we get to read and enjoy those cultures.


Photo CC-By Theo Q.

The Canon, Censor, & Common Core

So then, how do we bring different cultural works into schools? I read in another article about the struggles of tackling the Canon, censorship, and Common Core Standards in Young Adult literature. It’s difficult to maneuver between these four “C’s”. Everyone thinks they know best, but when it comes down to it, teachers need to incorporate multi-ethnic reading material.

“Traditional censorship will most likely always exist, and standards like Common Core, will create lists that must, by nature of being lists, include and exclude a variety of texts. We as ELA teachers can find ways to ensure that what we bring into our classroom represent the contexts, voices, and the purposes of not only the future college students and workers in our care,  but the students sitting before us in the here and now.”

This is a call to action. To ensure that what young adults are reading is going to offer a valuable learning experience. Multi-ethnic reading offers that very thing. It’s not all about what one person judges as being the “right thing to read” by the Canon law. It’s about what the students are really going to benefit from.

Like I said, it’s important for ALL readers to feel like they are represented in texts. It’s even more important that readers learn about different cultures through different cultural texts. By creating more diversity in the classroom reading materials, students become better equipped citizens for communicating with different cultures because they have a better understanding.



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