Feeding Their Passion: Discussing our World through a Dystopian Lens
What is so special about being a young adult is the passion that is still burning. Young adults have just transitioned out of childhood and that awkward middle age of figuring themselves out, and they begin looking out to the world. They develop political opinions, world views, and start to think and talk about how the world could be better—whether in a small community such as their own school, or wider-scale looking at the entire country or world. They’re still hot in their passion, often so sure that they have the answer.
Teachers should feed those opinions and that passion. Provide young adults with the tools they need to support their opinions, to express their opinions in an organized way so that others can understand and hear them. In this way, teaching and learning becomes meaningful for both the student and the teacher. Students can grasp how to better express themselves, the importance of credible research, and the importance of organizing an argument. Teachers get to see their students in a whole new light—as people who are ready to step up and make positive changes in the world.
Here is one idea I have for a unit which could be meaningful and engaging for young adults. My unit question: What are the fatal flaws of our society or humanity which may result in the downfall of our society, and how would you change our world for the better? To answer these questions, I would first have the students explore a collection of dystopian novels. While reading the novels, I would have students engage in discussions surrounding the connections between their novels and our world today. Real world research would also play an important part in ensuring that arguments made by students are based on fact.
Novel Discussion questions could include the following:
- What flaws in our society led to this dystopian world?
- How realistic is your novels portrayal of the future? Why?
- What conditions would lead to this future society?
- What aspects of popular culture do you see feeding this future society?
- Can you find any laws, regulations, or acts within our government that may suggest this dystopian future is on the way?
- What can we do to make sure this doesn’t become our future?
- What message is the author portraying about our society?
Students could each choose their own book to read. They could group up with others reading the same book, or they could group up with others reading other books. The same questions could be discussed whether students are reading the same or different material.
Follow-up activities could include writing their own dystopian or utopian short stories, writing persuasive essays about political change or social change which needs to happen, or writing a comparative analysis piece between the novel they read and the foreseeable future of our county.
Here is a title list of books to get you started, old and new:
The Adjustment by Suzanne Young. 2017. 9781481471329. 9-12.
All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. 2018. 9780373212446. 9-12.
Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch. 2017. 9780062383273.
Borne by Jeff Vandermeer. 2017. 9780374115241. 10-Adult.
Children of Eden. 2017. 9781501149900. 7-12.
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo. 2016. 9780802124647. 9-Adult.
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. 2018. 9781368022453. 9-12.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver, 2012. 9780061726835. 9-12.
Divergent by Veronica Roth. 2014. 9780062387240. 9-12.
Flawed by Cecelia Ahearn. 2017. 9781250104311. 7-12.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 2009. 9780439023528. 7-12.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. 2016. 9780451473134. 9-12.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. 2017. 9781770864863. 9-12.
Perfect by Cecelia Ahearn. 2017. 9781250074126. 7-12.
Rebellion by Kass Morgan. 2016. 9780316503037. 9-12.
Replica by Lauren Oliver. 2016. 9780062394170. 9-12.
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow. 2016. 9781481442725. 9-12.
A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay. 2017. 978076368360. 7-10.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. 2011. 9780763688370. 7-10.