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Why “The Hunger Games” Should Be Taught In School

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 17, 2012

Since the movie The Hunger Games has been released, many of my 8th grade students have seen it but have not read the book by Suzanne Collins. Not often do I see the movie after reading a book, (the movie rarely lives up to the book, in my opinion) but I did with this one because so many of my students and also my daughter, Autumn, wanted to see it. I have to admit, the producer, director, and/or screenwriter did a fairly good job of sticking to the story. Some characters were left out, I assume for financial reasons, so it had to be tweaked in a few places, but other than that I could only see one major change made by Hollywood.

They made the event seem like a video game.

A lot of kids are desensitized to violence. Many spend countless hours playing video games and watching television shows with murder and profound criminal attacks. After a certain amount of repeated exposure, this becomes less appalling and even acceptable. But it’s what kids like, and Hollywood knows it.

In the book, because it’s told through the eyes of the main character, Katniss, the reader experiences the games as she does. However in the movie, audiences see scenes which focus on the Gamemaker and depict the event as a huge video game with government workers at the controls, manipulating the landscape of the games and influencing the tributes as they fight to the death.

But I don’t want my students viewing this story solely as a live video game. Important lessons live within this tale; things youth and adults alike need to think about. My students, like most teens, can be very focused on their own circle of existence. Sometimes they need a reminder there’s a whole other world out there.

When I introduced the book in class yesterday, I asked some thought-provoking questions. Would you choose to die to save the life of a friend? Would you rather die of hunger or at the hands of your enemy? Should governments have the right to kill their own citizens? We talked about how, as citizens of the US, we don’t have to face those decisions on a daily basis, and yet so many people in other countries do.

When we finish reading The Hunger Games, my students will know it is a fiction story, but they will also know other human beings face life-and-death choices and oppressive governments every day of their lives. Hopefully, they will understand how blessed we are to live where we do.

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15 Responses to 'Why “The Hunger Games” Should Be Taught In School'

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  1. BK Jackson said,

    This book does teach a lot of valuable lessons and provide many thought provoking questions when we care to look. And yes, those lessons are very much for adults as well.


    • Yes, I’m amazed at how many adults say they read the books just to see what the hype is about and end up really enjoying them. Definitely not just for teens.


  2. Okay, maybe I WILL read it. So true about learning about the world outside of your circle. People often talk about Christianity as though it were no longer persecuted. How narrow. People are dying for their faith in many countries today. Thanks for the perspective.


    • You should definitely read it. I read all three in the series in less than a week. I highly recommend them.

  3. vbhtenery said,

    I haven’t read any books in this trilogy, wasn’t even aware of them until the movie came out and my kids started talking about the movie and I checked it out. May add these to my TBR list. Thanks for the information.


    • You’re welcome! Thanks for commenting!


  4. This encourages me to read the book. Some Christian friends said they didn’t want to support it because it was about children killing children. Glad to see your using it in the classroom for thought provoking discussions.


    • Thanks for the supportive words. I was opposed to it at first as well, but the movie really prompted me to use it.

  5. Emily Driggers said,

    Something cool we did while reading was…the kids traced out life size tributes…using a big kid for Thresh, small for Rue…as they read the book, they decorated the tributes with details…some had more than others but it was neat to see how the tributes evolved throughout the book. We did a ton with it. I work with two L.A. teachers and we read at different times so I have spent a lot (too much) time on the Hunger Games. Loved it!


    • Cool idea! I’m in a position where I want to spend a lot (too much also!) time on this unit, but I’m actually trying to squeeze it into my pacing because it wasn’t planned. But I definitely think it’s worth it. I may just have to drop something else before I start SOL review in mid-May. Miss you girl!

  6. marneymcnall said,

    This past summer I read this series. Like you said, only takes a few days. I agree the movie held true in many ways, but lost some of the real weight of the book. Really great questions you asked your students.


    • Thanks but I have to admit the questions were “borrowed” from the other teacher who has taught the book for two years. Seeing the movie, and realizing most of my kids wouldn’t look deeply into the story, really pushed me to make them think about those issues. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. carriellewis said,

    Linden,

    I can certainly understand your point of view and I applaud you for being able to bring a moral message out of a book like The Hunger Games. There is a great deal of value in understanding popular culture well enough to be able to contrast it with the messages of Christ.

    The only caution I would offer is that our government is already not only killing its own citizens but has convinced the public at large to take part in the killing. The only difference is that in The Hunger Games, the killing was public entertainment conducted in a public arena. The killing of which I speak is conducted out of sight in clinics all over the country every hour of the day.


    • Thankfully, our government isn’t choosing who must enter that “arena” like in the HG. Thanks for reading and responding.

      • carriellewis said,

        Not yet, no.


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