Families & the Community

Feeding ‘The Hunger Games’ Frenzy

By Liana Loewus — March 23, 2012 2 min read
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If you’re working in a school right now, this is probably all you’re hearing about today (I’m not working in a school and it’s been a dominant topic of conversation in my social circles).

The premier of “The Hunger Games.”

The Columbus Dispatch jumped on “The Hunger Games” hubbub to write about the many benefits of teaching the popular novel. According to the article, Andrea Garnett, a 7th grade language arts teacher who works in a district that has been using the books as part of the middle school curriculum for the last four years, said, “When I have a kid who comes in the classroom and hates reading and hates language arts, and I see them with this book and not want to stop reading ... it is a very satisfying experience that this is something that brought these kids into the world of literature.”

And Anna Soter, a professor of education at Ohio State University, told the paper, “If you want people to read enthusiastically and become readers, they have to see themselves in it. ... You can easily see yourself in [The Hunger Games] as a teen.”

But what the Dispatch fails to mention is that there’s also much controversy around whether the book and movie are appropriate for students. Makes sense, as the plot revolves around a pretty violent idea—a reality T.V. show in which kids fight each other to the death.

The Seattle Times reports on a middle school in which parent complaints led administrators to cancel a field trip to go see the movie. “We have received concern from families and it has become a distraction in our school community,” the principal of Wallingford’s Hamilton International Middle School, who initially defended the trip, wrote in a letter to parents.

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Donna Alvermann, a research professor of language and literacy education at the University of Georgia, wrote an op-ed strongly backing the use of “The Hunger Games” in schools, especially as a vehicle for delving into larger discussions. She said:

Rather than distancing themselves from "The Hunger Games," graphic novels or fan fiction, teachers and media specialists should consider treating pop culture and school curricula not as structured containers but as sieves through which social, cultural and political discussions animate one another in ways that improve motivation for learning school subjects.

Our teacher blogger Donalyn Miller has been a fan of having students read The Hunger Games for years. And if you look to our coverage as evidence, it seems like teachers are, in general, just pleased that the trilogy is motivating their kids to read.

What are your thoughts on this? Is most of the backlash around the books and movie coming from parents rather than educators? Do you have concerns about teaching a novel with such violent imagery?

As an aside: I think it will be interesting to see how the death scenes themselves are handled in the movie—something that hasn’t been shown much in trailers and could potentially change the conversation. (Though as curious as I am about this, I did turn down an invite to see a 3:00am showing this morning.)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.