Lessons from Panem

By ch1c0nta@ctus 08.01.2012 blog

Almost everyone (we’re pretty sure it IS everyone, but we haven’t actually taken a poll of the planet or anything) loves The Hunger Games. First the books rocked everyone?s world ? spreading like fire (get it?) through word of mouth amongst dedicated readers everywhere, to people who prefer to wait for the graphic novel, to people who usually just wait for the movie, and yes, even for people who wait for the movie to come on TV, like your grandma. When the movie did finally come out, it reaped in  $155 million bucks the first weekend alone, a new record. And now — now it?s time for the DVD release. Let the frenzy begin! 

We’re serious about that. The great news about the DVD being out is now you can watch it over and over again. Also, as much as we love adaptations of Shakespeare from the ?70s (we mean that, we really love them), sometimes it?s nice to watch something a little…fresher…on movie Fridays at school. ?Cause the thing about The Hunger Games is you can learn a lot from it. Lots of teachers are using it as a part of literature and language arts lessons and with good reason — books and movies are educational (caveat: sometimes you can learn a lot about what NOT to do).  So, what can you learn from The Hunger Games?

Thought Control is Problematic. If you?ve read George Orwell?s 1984 you probably already spotted the similarities ? both set in dystopian societies ruled by totalitarian governments willing to abuse (to say the least) citizens to maintain control. They also unleash propaganda designed to get everyone to buy in to their goals. Those are big words and big ideas and your teachers want you to talk about them. And after reading either book, or seeing the movies, you?ll probably want to talk about them.

Geography Matters. The world Katniss lives in is pretty clearly a future, post-apocalyptic North America and District 12 is centered in the Appalachian region, rich with coal that provides power to the Capital, but that leaves little for the poverty-stricken populace. Citizens work in mines with the constant threat of being killed because of unhealthy, unsafe working conditions which regularly breaks up families like Katniss?. Other districts, however, are able to make better use of their natural resources to make life better. District 4 is a good example of this ? we know it?s not the wealthiest district but they are responsible for a vital food source for the Capital,  and their lifestyle is better for it, all because they happen to be located near the water. So what does living near water tell you about how people live in North America today? What about the people who live in harsher regions?

Survival Skills. Before you tune out because you think this is about to go all Doomsday Preppers, consider this. The Hunger Games set off a frenzy of teens who wanted to learn to shoot with a bow and arrow. Whether you find that particular activity a little summer camp kitsch or not, it?s still a cool thing to know how to do. (Plus, if you get good enough at it, you can go to the Olympics, like Geena Davis!) Know what else is cool? Knowing how to find food and water if you really need to. And while chances are you won?t need to find shelter for yourself in an emergency, people do get lost on hikes (that?s another show, called I Survived). What?s more, Katniss embraces another important survival skill. She remembers how much she loves her sister and mom and dad ? and family is something that most people rely on when things get a little challenging, like the first semester of college.

Finally, while we?re here, we wanted to take a minute to give a shout out to all the teachers that recognize the value of using a pop-culture moment like the popularity of this series in the classroom. Teachers can be great, especially when you find one that you really connect with. Now that we mention it, it reminds us that Peeta and Katniss wouldn?t have survived the games without the advice of an invaluable teacher, their mentor. 

With that in mind, we have a question for you: What is the name of Katniss and Peeta?s mentor? May the odds be ever in your favor! (You knew that was coming, right?)

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