Defense for Teaching The Hunger Games to Those Who Oppose It

As the popularity of teaching The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins grows, the opposition also increases.  The most common reason, I've heard, is the violence in the novel is inappropriate for young adults.  The trilogy is listed as appropriate for ages 12 and up.

I am not going to argue that there isn't violence in the novel because it is essentially a trilogy about war--and the horrors of war--so, of course, there is obviously violence.  What I will argue is that there must be a portrayal of violence in order to teach that violence does not solve our problems and is unethical.

Anytime a lesson is to be learned, the objectionable behavior must be displayed to teach that it is wrong.  For example, our school has staged a couple of Operation Prom Night reenactments to show the students what could happen if you drink (or text) and drive.  Students are shown doing these acts and suffering terrible consequences.  Without showing the bad behavior, the reenactment would be much less effective.

The same applies to creative writing: show me, don't tell me.  The violent acts against innocent children clearly sends the message that the annual Hunger Games is a horrific and immoral event put on by the Capitol.  Students understand that theme right away because Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year old narrator, is sickened by what she sees, what she is forced to do, and the compassion she cannot control for her fellow tributes.  In no way does the reader get the impression that the Games are fun; nor do they embrace the violence.  The violent acts are not glorified, whereas many products today for teens do glorify the violence (action figures, video games, TV programs--all marketed toward our youth). The reader sees Panem--specifically the Capitol--as a sick society who sends their youth to slaughter for not only entertainment purposes, but to send a clear message that the Capitol is in control.

Does any of that sound familiar?  For anyone who opposes this novel or its sequels, I would hope that you could see the connection between the Games and the Holocaust.  Teaching The Hunger Games allows so many opportunities to relate events and people to World War II and Hitler.

It also relates to our present society.  Who fights our wars for us?  Not those in office who vote for them.  It is our youth we send to the front lines, our youth who die, and our youth--as soldiers--we idolize, which, essentially, promotes violence.  Otherwise, GI Joe, army guys, and action figures wouldn't be such big sellers.

Please don't get me wrong--I am very appreciative of all our armed service people and have the highest respect for them.  I don't understand, however, why we as a society--or as a human race--embrace violence over peace.  If we promoted and valued peace talks over war, then it would be reflected in our children's toys, right?  But how many Ghandi, Mother Teresa, or Martin Luther King Jr. dolls sell each year?  Are they even produced?  What about Per Anger or Oskar Schindler or Eleanor Roosevelt toys? 

My point is, we do not have to look far into the future to see similar violent acts that are portrayed in The Hunger Games.  Just look into your child's toy box or turn on the five o'clock news on any given day.

If our students are old enough to be taught the Holocaust, ancient Greek and Roman history/battles, or the Civil War, then they are old enough to read The Hunger Games. Sheltering our young adults from these realities is not the answer.  Teaching them how to solve problems peacefully (or Peeta-style) is.  The Hunger Games trilogy offers excellent opportunities to promote peace and non-violence in a way that kids understand and embrace. And shouldn't we all give peace a chance?
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