COLLEGE PARK, Md., Aug. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Dystopian fiction has taken off among young adult readers, and Hollywood has responded with film versions of "The Giver," "Hunger Games," "Divergent" and "Maze Runner." High school English teachers will draw upon the same genre this fall to spark conversations on enterprise and markets, using lesson plans developed July 26-29 at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
"High school students think a lot in terms of right and wrong," said Smith School professor Rajshree Agarwal, director of the Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets. "They think philosophically about what kind of world they live in, and what kind of world they want to live in."
Young adults confront these questions when they see fictional protagonists controlled by do-gooders who impose their values on others. "Dystopian novels provide a compelling way to teach important life lessons to kids," Agarwal said.
Rather than going to high schools to impart these lessons herself, Agarwal and her team bring master teachers to College Park for Enterprise Through Literature, a Snider Center workshop launched in 2015. "The teachers are our channels to future leaders," Agarwal said.
During the program's most recent iteration, 25 high school educators from 17 states and Canada collaborated on lesson plans aligned with the theme, "Individual Identity in Utopia and Dystopia." By the time the teachers returned home, they had material stockpiled for teaching "Anthem" by Ayn Rand, "1984" by George Orwell, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, along with books by other authors.
"It's good for me to see literature from a business perspective because I don't normally think that way," said workshop participant Narci Drossos, an International Baccalaureate teacher at Valdosta High School in Valdosta, Ga. "Anytime I can broaden my own perspectives, I can broaden the perspectives of my students."
Participants also welcomed the chance to network with secondary education colleagues. "I could actually have conversations with people who knew exactly what I was talking about," said Bianca Rodriguez, an English teacher at Harlingen School of Health Professions in Harlingen, Texas.
Gina Licciardi, a languages teacher at Archimedean Middle Conservatory in Miami, benefited in two ways. "I gained personally and professionally," she said.
Rather than shying away from difficult topics, the teachers designed lessons that will force students to confront competing values. Many teenagers resent being told what to do by authority figures, for example, yet they support rules and regulations for other people. "They're facing all kinds of conflicting ideologies that pit the self against the society," Agarwal said.
She said the themes align with the Snider Center's focus on the philosophical underpinnings of enterprise and markets. "How do you drive upward mobility? How do you create entrepreneurial individuals? It fits right in there," Agarwal said.
About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.
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SOURCE University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business