After reviewing the five issues that many adolescents face, which this curriculum will address, I realized that much of the entertainment that is developed for teenagers as the primary audience would incorporate these topics. Using material that teenagers would voluntarily choose to enjoy as a means of exploring these issues would be more effective than forcing them to use material they cannot relate to. There are many forms that could be utilized, and when developing my list I went to the experts for ideas, my students. As new songs and movies are released, there will be more to choose from. I have collected a sampling of materials that could be used. Even though students may have already enjoyed a medium we use, after analyzing it, they will enjoy it on a new level!
The materials will be divided into 5 core concerns: racial issues, family concerns, violence, school pressure and education, and responsibility and thoughts of the future. In each of these sub-groups there are different materials and resources that would work well to highlight the issue. The characters in each genre offer different traits to be examined which will lead to open discussions. Many of the materials overlap in the issues they deal with, but are listed under the topic they are best matched with. They can be moved to correspond with the students’ interests.
‘Remember the Titans’
This movie is set in the south during the 1970s. When a new black coach takes over the football team he finds that his players on the team stick exclusively to their own race. The coach decides that the only way to have a strong cohesive team is to break down the racial barriers and form a reliance on the teammates, regardless of their race and color. Even though it is a difficult transition, the team does break down most of the racial barriers that they began the season with. The coaching staff as well as the team members represent many different mentalities and personalities. Some of the characters adjust easily, some hold firm to their prejudices.
“In America” by Karisma Rodriquez (excerpt from
A fifteen-year-old Latino woman writes of her personal experience working in an office for the summer and the prejudice she was forced to deal with.
“Hurricane” by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan wrote this song in 1975 after the publication of Rubin Carter’s book,
, in which Carter explains his analysis of his imprisonment. “Hurricane” was written to gain public attention to the wrongful imprisonment of the boxer. A useful web site is: http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Studio/4909/hurricane.html. Here you will find bibliographical information about Rubin Carter. Also included is a quote by the boxer where he explains during an interview for Penthouse in 1975, “I’m not in jail for committing murder.I’m in jail partly because I’m a black man in America, where the powers that be will only allow a black man to be an entertainer or a criminal.” In order to provide students with both sides of the story, present them with information from the following website titled “Hurricane Carter: The Other Side of the Story: http://www.graphicwitness.com/carter.
“American Skin (41 Shots)” by Bruce Springsteen
This song confronts the dangers of living in our society. It highlights the prejudice that black males have faced when confronted with police. Talks specifically of Amadou Diallo’s death from 41 gunshots from four policemen’s gun.
“Raheem’s Father Comes Home” by Wiley Woodard in
Plays Without Endings
The play opens with the teenaged male character, Raheem, meeting with his long lost father Dennis. Raheem feels anger toward his father for not being around for his youth. The play ends with Dennis asking Raheem to put his life on hold to spend time with him before he dies of aids. This topic is one that students relate to, as most of my students grew up without a father in the household. Students are then able to discuss possible outcomes and write the ending of the play.
‘Zits’ by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman
This is a comic strip whose main characters are a mother, father, teenaged son and his friends. This medium is an amusing look at the differences between the generations and the relationships between parents and their children. It offers insight into the different perceptions of the same activity from the adult and the teen point of view.
“Parents Just Don’t Understand”
This song is an 80s hit by D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith). It uses the refrain ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ as it points out several points of conflict between parents and teens including fashion and driving.
This movie does not resolve around a traditional family, but instead around a daughter, her divorced father, and her stepbrother. Their relationship changes as a result of the interactions between them. The stepbrother’s influence on Cher, in turn is expanded out to her circle of friends.
A classic 80s movie about a teenaged girl struggling to find her place in her family. She must recognize the different personalities and her role amongst them. She also faces turning sixteen, her older sister’s marriage to a less than desirable brother in law, friendships, crushes and the clash of social classes.
“A Tiny Crease in the Silence” by Chana Joffe-Walt (an excerpt taken from
Written as an account of the emotions that the children may feel after a divorce. She writes about holding in the emotions, and wonders on the ability to release them after being bottled up for an extended period of time.
by S.E. Hinton
This novel deals with a group of teenage boys that bond together to deal with difficult family problems, peer social problems, legal troubles and violence they encounter. The characters embody a variety of personalities and show different coping strategies. Written by a 17 year old, students are able to readily identify with the characters in this novel. There is also a movie version available of this novel.
“Insomnia- A Journal Entry” by Anonymous (excerpt taken from
A poem written by a 15 year old in which she explains her inner turmoil and her experience with self-inflicted wounds. This poem is written as a way to bridge the gap with other teens that may feel similarly and as a warning to others.
“Coming Home” by Cynthia Benjamin in
Plays Without Endings
Play about a teenage male, Jamal who was able to make it out of his neighborhood and is home on vacation from his private school. His old gang members run into trouble by shooting a local shop owner, and look to Jamal to cover for them. Looks at the difficult position he is placed in, and how critical his response to the situation is.
“Children’s Story” by Slick Rick
This song is set up as a story to children before bedtime. The story shows the ease with which a young man slipped into a life of crime and violence, and ultimately ends when he is gunned down.
School pressure and education:
This is an 80’s classic where 5 students filling the high school stereotypes of nerd, jock, social outcast, preppy princess and the school thug, are stuck together in an all day Saturday detention. The students enter detention with their preconceived notions about the other members, but through the day are forced to open up their minds and really get to know each other. Shows how frequently people respond to the image of a person instead of making judgments based on the true person.
“The Façade” by Hilary Menges (excerpt taken from
An essay that describes the pressure the author felt, to appear in control while in high school. Sometimes just looking like you have it under control is not enough.
“Freaks and Geeks”
A television sitcom that portrays students dealing with different situations in a high school setting. Instead of focusing on the popular group like ‘90210’ did, this show follows a group of students who are outside of the privileged circle.
This movie shows an ex-marine turned teacher entering an urban school and the challenges she and her students face.
“Intelligence” by Isaac Asimov
This is a short essay in which the author ponders the idea of intelligence. As one that has scored high on all traditional intelligence tests, he feels that he is intelligent on the scale created by others of the same intelligence. However, he cites examples where his academic intelligence is of no use, such as when his car breaks down and he runs to an auto mechanic. An interesting piece that shows that academic smarts are not always the only important smarts to have.
Future and responsibilities:
“Son of the Grand Goblin” by Sandra Widener in
Plays Without Endings
A teenage boy finds himself in a difficult position. He learns that his father is the Grand Goblin of the local KKK. His father puts a lot of pressure on him to prove he is a man by joining the local chapter in outing a new family from the neighborhood. The play ends with Michael having to make a decision about what path he wants his future to take. Students can discuss the qualities that they believe are embodied by a man, and how they believe Michael will respond to the pressure from his father.
“Don’t Let me Get Me” by Pink
A song that explains teenage angst growing up not fitting in with the norm and trying to become something while being told “all you need to change is everything you are”.
“Hit and Run” by Chiori Santiago in
Plays Without Ending
Two male teenagers without licenses must decide how to deal with a fender bender they caused in a car they did not have permission to be in. They consider leaving and hoping no one saw them. An open ended play that allows for discussion about how they should respond and if they should take responsibility for their actions.
“Love Child” by Diana Ross and The Supremes
In this song the singer explains her hurt and shame at growing up the daughter of an unwed mother. She explains her past to her boyfriend to explain why she doesn’t want to go down the same road and wind up as an unwed mother.
“Responsibility” by Paul LaVasseur
This is a short poem that discusses the power to make positive decisions or negative decisions.