Hunger Games or The Odyssey?


Katniss Everdeen is the hero of the Hunger Games series.

A rising junior, she’d joined an elite group of students for a summer enrichment program on a prestigious college campus. They were preparing for Advanced Placement English in the fall. She thought she was ready, writes Brooke Haycock for Education Trust.

The teacher asked them to pull out the first book they’d be reading that fall in AP in their schools.

The private school students’ backpacks unfurled as they reached for their copies of The Odyssey and works by authors like Emerson and Goethe.

“And we pull out,” she paused for effect, “The Hunger Games.”

The girl was used to listening to a teacher lecture and reading the text.

“Everything in this summer program, like, every single class is conversation. And just constantly, as you read, as you discuss, you’re taking deep notes. You’re constantly taking notes and learning.”

. . . “In this summer program, we read only original authors. So you’re reading Lucretius, you’re reading, um, Aristotle. Those are the ones we read in our one week there. Um, Metamorphosis of Plants by Goethe. And, to me, it was just so crazy, like, how many of those kids knew those things already and had been exposed to them.”

“We’re going to be taking the same AP test,” the girl said. “The exact same test. We need to know the same exact things.”

This is the real inequity: High-aspiring, hard-working, capable students are set up to fail in college.

Education Buzz Carnival

At the Education Buzz Carnival, host Steve Spangler is writing about connections.

As educators, we encourage our students to activate their schema – think of what they already know that they can connect to something new – with each unit, chapter, lab or problem set.

When we study science, for example, we are also studying mythology, Latin, Greek, history, and sociology. Astronomy cannot properly be studied without also studying mythology. A proper study of history is also a study of biography and geography. English is a combination of hundreds of languages. The ink in our pens. . . the alphabetical order of a keyboard. . . . the composition of our bread. . . . the etymology of our words. . . .the names of rockets and cars. . . . everything is connected to everything else. Oh, and by the way? All those weird punctuation symbols exist not only in writing class, but also in math and music as well.

Connections. Let’s make some!

Mark Bauerlein encourages teachers to teach unabridged literature.

And here’s the real challenge: to make 15-year-olds realize that The Odyssey isn’t drudgery, but in fact speaks to their egos and desires and anxieties a lot more meaningfully and entertainingly than does the latest episode of My Super Sweet 16.

Bauerlein reads stories from The Odyssey to his five-year-old son. Why did Odysseus taunt the Cylops? (Pride.) What happened (suffering and death).  Can a hero make mistakes. (Yep.)