The Hunger Games & Jus Ad Bellum

Yesterday I caught a snippet of a discussion on NPR relating the jus in bello of the current Israeli campaign into Gaza, what the acceptable amount of civilian casualties are and how America uses its political might to control situations in the Middle East. Pretty serious stuff.

But because my mind was still swimming in The Hunger Games, I quickly remembered a few of the reviews I'd read where the Bloggers warned that the novel was graphic, violent and should be approached with caution.

Should educators shy away from topics of violence and war? Don't kids get enough of that in television and movies?

My answer is a resounding No. In fact, I believe it's an educator's responsibility to pose tough questions, relate them to the student's world and delve thoughtfully and deeply into discussion of philosophical importance. Some parents will have a problem with this (and I suspect a small portion of the home schooling crowd home school for this very reason), but so many students lack the ability to think critically about the world around them. Television and video games spoon-feed violence without any context of reality, and that is fine for entertainment, but not for growing educated citizens.

(I'd better stop to clarify here, lest I get a crap-load of angry responses: It is NOT an educator's place to instill morals or values. It is an educator's place to create spirited thinking and creative problem-solving environments. An educator's personal opinions should be left at the door. I solved the legal fear by always providing my parents with an outline of topics & discussion with each novel through my class website.)

But back to The Hunger Games and the implications for discussing jus ad bellum...

The two main characters struggle with the desire to survive versus the desire to not take life, especially the male character, Peeta (this is one of the reasons I am in love with him). In a setting that's only difficult to imagine because of our fat American world, they must kill or be killed. The possible discussions on human psychology and philosophy of war are almost limitless and an educator's chance to tie this story to current events makes those discussions vital.

I am so in love with this novel. It has really reminded me why I chose to become a Reading Specialist.

Why are you still reading this? I told you already! Go. Buy. It. Now.
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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