Why inclusion matters and what heteroglossia has to do with it

Posted on 11th May 2022 in School News

Luanda International School looks at the importance of diversity and representation in Literature.

It is commonly agreed that a literary canon is a selection of authors, books and texts that are worthy of study. However, what are the criteria that determine what is “worthy” of studying in the 21st Century in an IB school milieu? And, equally important, what does the literary canon have to do with inclusion and heteroglossia?

If teachers aim to foster international mindedness, caring, principled and worldwise students, then maybe the traditional, white male dominant canon does not cut it. If most of the authors and characters that we study come from a similar background, then we are hearing one side of the story only, to the extent that it becomes the truth.

Our students are multicultural beings with even more perspectives on life than the cultures they come from and are entitled to see themselves represented in the literature, illustrations, short-film, and non-literary texts they are exposed to in school. Misrepresentation and non representation are both damaging and prone to the perpetuation of stereotypes. This is why the inclusion of works and texts that express a multitude of points of view on life is so necessary!

Mikhail Bakhtin’s definition of heteroglossia is complex, but in simple words the term refers to the language’s ability to contain multiple voices and points of view within itself. Through it, students are exposed to a diversity of voices and are led to appreciate words uttered from different professions, ages, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. By choosing the resources carefully and with the intent of strengthening the heteroglot side of the reader, we are letting ourselves invite the canon to bring the world in and allow these voices to be expressed through words of different, colours, flavours, tastes, and accents.

The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa once said: 'Be plural like the Universe!'

Within our role as teachers, is there a better way to promote plurality and fight monologism than to deliberately expose students to unmerged and unsubordinated voices that express multiple perspectives and carry their own validity within a narrative?

As a language teacher at Lis, I am proud to say that the Language & Literature department at Luanda International School has as its main goal the aim to review the MYP curriculum to identify gaps and opportunities for greater inclusivity, mainly in terms of representation and perspectives. By adjusting our resources to this intent, we will be opening the doors for our students to access a polyphonic canon where heteroglossia will allow each student to grow in understanding, empathy and Humanity.

Article written by Sónia Montgomery, MYP Portuguese and English teacher and DP Portuguese teacher.