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Home > News and Publications > The Sneetches - speech by Andy Haldane

The Sneetches - speech by Andy Haldane

13 May 2016

​Given at the Scottish Business Friends Dinner in aid of BBC Children in Need, Edinburgh on 12 May 2016.

In 1953, Dr Seuss published The Sneetches.   It tells the tale of an imaginary creature of which there are two types:  those with and those without stars on their bellies (Figure 1).  Star-bellied Sneetches are perceived in Sneetch society to be superior to those without.  Until, that is, those without discover a machine for adding stars to their bellies.  At that point the original star-bellied Sneetches, no longer distinctive, begin removing their stars to regain their special status.  And so it goes on in a merry-go-round, until the Sneetches collectively realise they are better off treating equally those with and those without.   

The Sneetches is a parody of status and discrimination.  It has been enjoyed by generations of children, so it has a particular resonance at tonight’s event supporting Children in Need.  And it has a happy (diverse, multi-cultural) ending.  But The Sneetches also shines an uncomfortable spotlight on a psychological flaw in us all - the desire to differentiate, to stereotype.  A half-century on, this flaw is one with which society continues to wrestle, not least in a world where the co-mingling of cultures, races and creeds has never been greater.  In practice, this co-mingling has not always had such a happy ending.

Tonight, I want to discuss some of the issues around diversity.  These are relevant to groups large and small, from communities and organisations to economies and nation states.  These issues affect all of us, children and adults, whether at school, work or play.  In keeping with the spirit, I want to discuss diversity by drawing on a diverse a set of disciplines to explore the lessons they hold.  And I will conclude with suggestions for some new directions in promoting diversity, in particular in organisations such as the Bank of England. 

Read the full speech here


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