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Hunger Games and High School

As Hunger Games fever heats up our movie theatres again, students should notice that there are many lessons to be learned from the story that are directly applicable to their survival in the hallways, classroom and other social arenas, be they real or virtual.

In the story, Katniss and crew find themselves thrust into a world where both brains and brawn are tested. Instead of being allowed to live like carefree teens, these young people are forced to fight to the death. From a student’s perspective, they are similarly condemned to a minimum of 11 years in the public or private school system. During a time when they are best equipped to be active, they are required to sit still and listen. When they are least prepared to navigate their way through the years of teenage wasteland, they are herded together with other hormonally charged, sleep-deprived, experientially deficient young people. Then they are expected to survive and to exit the school system prepared to be the next group of adults who will govern their world.

There are a number of life lessons that can be learned in high-school classes when a student is enticed enough to engage. There are great teachers who get their students’ attention and then drive home important points. However, more often than not, some of the best teaching is lost to the din of distraction. However, every now and then, a movie like Hunger Games is released and our young people are taught lessons about human nature, survival, and communication.

Included with the numerous lessons that are woven into the Hunger Games storyline are the following three emblematic of high school survival:

Leaders volunteer. For Katniss it was not a calculated choice. She volunteered for the Hunger Games because it was the right thing to do. In doing so she undoubtedly saved her sister’s life by placing herself in harm’s way. Then she used the circumstances that had mounted against her to fan into flame that spark of leadership that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Students need not wait to be selected; opportunities abound. Some young people find themselves obliged to perform court- or school-mandated community service. They often find themselves grudgingly enjoying the activities, whether it be helping the very young, the very old, or those with financial, physical or intellectual deficits. However, a greater benefit is reaped when young people seek out, of their own volition, those who need assistance. In doing so, they develop leadership skills that will serve them well later in life.

Manage your media. Once Katniss discovered the power of perception, she used it to her advantage. Knowing that she had an audience that had the power to influence the outcome of the games, Katniss did what was necessary to find their favour and endear herself to them. Today, as never before, young people have access to the power of social media. Some, like Justin Bieber, use it to propel themselves to fame and fortune. Others allow it to relegate them to mediocrity or worse. Students, what you post on YouTube and Facebook will come back to haunt you. Compromising pictures and clips of you performing in a way that you would be embarrassed to show your grandmother should not be publicly available. As in the Hunger Games, cameras are everywhere. Act accordingly!

Choose friends wisely. Being a natural-born leader, Katniss did not find it necessary to form alliances with natural-born killers. In fact, in the first book, she wisely befriended the one person who seemed to have the least to offer, Rue. By following her instincts, Katniss ends up bonding herself firmly with the entire population of District 11, from where Rue helms. Katniss saw beyond Rue’s diminutive stature. She knew that Rue was agile, smart, and that she could communicate without the verbosity of some of the others. High schools will always be divided into sub-cultures. Initially it might seem most desirable to be absorbed into the popular group. Remember that membership has its privileges and its fees. Students, you will find that real friendship requires time to determine and common experiences to develop. As you choose your friends, think about the following Henry Ford quote: “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

The social aspect of high school is a game that is a balancing act — one that requires strategy and cooperation, but also one in which chance seems to play a big role. In the famous words of Effie Trinket, “Happy Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favour!”

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