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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Excellence in College Prep


Sophomore students in Mrs. Ashley Ventura and Mrs. Julia Janisko's English classes have been learning about dystopian literature, drawing parallels between these fictitious societies and the reality of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Students have chosen to read Feed by M.T. Anderson, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Uglies by Scott Westerfield, The Running Man or Firestarter by Stephen King for this unit. "Personally, my favorite is Ready Player One. I love the incorporation of the 1980's popular culture, but I think all of these novels do a great job of embodying social critique in literature," says Mrs. Ventura. "Each author approaches commentary through the dystopian genre in a different way. Regardless of their book choice, we've had some amazing conversations with our students about critique, style and the power of the individual within a society."

For fun, students have gone one step further and compared their dystopian literature selections to popular films and TV series that embody the same dystopian characteristics. Students have made connections to creative works such as Disney's WALL-E, Netflix's Black Mirror (similar to The Twilight Zone), the Divergent and Hunger Games novel series, The Giver, and The Road, all examples of works students have consumed without intentionally analyzing their dystopian nature.

Conversations have been a critical component in this lesson, discussing students personal connections with the literature of their choice and how they relate to characters based on their own experiences during these current events. "The pandemic has been used as an example of a turning point in history that could cause individuals to seek change," says Mrs. Ventura. "We've talked a lot about what it takes for someone to buy into a dystopia and ultimately lose their rights and freedoms of peace. When it comes down to it, dystopian literature states that the best way to control a society is through fear, that choices are based on what will make problems go away quickly rather than what's best for society, community or the world." This topic has also sparked conversations about selflessness, how to best serve communities in hard times, sacrificing selfish needs and wants to help others around us, and the power in numbers to make a difference.

"In a time when our current society relies on individuals to work together to promote change, our students' understanding of social consciousness is incredibly important as we build them up to become agents of change within a chaotic environment," says Mrs. Janisko. "One of the most inspiring and common themes amongst the dystopian genre is the power and resilience of 'good'within the human race. In many dystopian examples, humans live within a post-apocalyptic world and learn how to rely on the inherent good of people to stand up for what is right and against what is oppressive in their society."

"For our Edsmen learning from home, regardless if we're talking about a dystopian piece of literature, film, etc., it is important for them to have discussions together and know that it's not the circumstances that define us, but our reactions and choices we make in response to them," says Mrs. Ventura. "We must be resilient and driven to continue to build up our communities, families, and ourselves, even in moments of crisis."

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