Using popular books to teach class is probably one of the most brilliant, yet incredibly simple, ideas I have ever seen. Using a series like The Hunger Games allows students to think critically while they read books that most teens find interesting. The Hunger Games also has a lot of parallels in our society and it opens the minds of our youth to how America can be perceived in a negative light. The way most of history or civics and economics is taught leads us to believe that America is perfect, which is just simply not the case. Using pop culture references to explain to students how America really works allows the ideas to actually permeate the minds of today’s youth.
It also gives students hope for change. So yes, the USA isn’t perfect like we all thought it was. But books like this help students realize that even though not everything is perfect, it has the ability to be fixed. That could lead at least one student on a path towards helping America be a better place. I know that is exactly what happened with me.
When I was in AP U.S. History, my class only skimmed the surface of problems in America. But it made me curious. It made me thirst for more knowledge. And while using a book like the Hunger Games isn’t going to inspire this kind of motivation in EVERY student, it could get through to at least one more than if it hadn’t been used. We also have this problem in America of using very dry, uninteresting literature to introduce ideas, which immediately puts off many students towards that area of interest. When students are shown that areas like this can be interesting to debate, THAT is when higher level literature should be introduced.
The reading curriculum in general is very lacking in topics that are of interest to the average high school student. And what students in one county might be interested in could be drastically different from the interests of students in other counties. Culture needs to be taken into consideration when choosing what type of literature to use in the classroom. And even students within each school are going to differ in their main interests.
Students should have a lot more choice when it comes to what they must read for class. As long as main ideas are still discussed in class, why should it matter what piece of literature cultivates those viewpoints? Students given a choice are more likely to WANT to read, rather than using SparkNotes twenty minutes before class starts. We should have a literature curriculum that cultivates the DESIRE to pick up a book and read, not the idea that students pick up on a few main ideas from internet sites to use on a standardized test. The point of English and Language Arts classes are to get students to read and comprehend material, but if students are given books that don’t interest them, why would they have any incentive to actually read the words on the pages?
While Shakespeare is significant, many students have difficulty reading and understanding it because of the language it uses. As they should, since that isn’t how people speak anymore. This kind of curriculum leaves a student disheartened from reading because their failure to comprehend required reading. Also, literature like this leaves a very small impact on students because they have a hard time relating to the issues within the books.
Overall, it seems that English classes would be a lot more effective if students could read books or articles about topics that interest them or at least be required to read books that cover more current issues in order for students to better relate to the material and to reading in general.