I had an amazing “teachable” moment last week during a book talk with students.  I read a short passage from HARE, and the students were really interested. They had lots of questions, but the one that almost left me speechless was this: “So, when the war came, did the huts all get blown up and burned – like,  totally destroyed?” I said, “Yes. With grass roofs, they would burn very quickly.  Why?”  To which the student responded, “Oh, that’s what happens in this game – Call of Duty (I think that was the name) Everything gets burned right to the ground.”

I seized the moment and we had a thoughtful chat about what a child like young Jacob, struggling to survive during a real war,  might think to see young people playing a virtual war game with many similarities to that child’s daily life.  I hope our discussion might make some of the kids in that class think twice the next time they’re involved in playing a virtual war game. Even better, maybe some of them will read HARE, or other books about kids living in crisis, and broaden their understanding of the world and come to realize that war is no game.

As a side note, I had another student tell me today that he couldn’t remember ever having watched a movie without violence! Isn’t there enough real violence everywhere in the world that kids don’t have to be exposed to it in movies and on TV on a regular basis? As entertainment? Yikes!

3 thoughts on “REAL WAR vs. VIRTUAL WAR

  1. I think a lot of adults think they are protecting kids when they deny them access to books like Hare… and news of what’s going on in the world, not thinking that in doing so they are failing to protect them from the desensitizing, dehumanizing effects of the games they are playing. I’ve seen evidence that kids who grow up exposed to the harsh realities that others experience are often motivated to want to do something about it. Congratulations, Jan, on taking hold of that ‘teachable moment’ and not being derailed by that student’s apparently cavalier attitude to the tragic circumstances that real human beings, younger than him, have had to endure.

  2. Hi, Kathy:
    I was reading for a teen writing competition named after my late mother this afternoon, and it was interesting to see that a few of the young writers had chosen to write pieces about war and its effects – I suppose their writing was most likely rooted in something they’d seen on TV, but maybe from something they’d read as well. It was encouraging anyway to see their interest in worlds and realities outside their own.

  3. kathystinson

    That’s great to have found that in the young people’s stories, Jan. I think far more kids have interests that extend out into the world than many people give them credit for – if they are given access to it. A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk will give many young people a window on a situation they might not otherwise have any awareness of. Again I congratulate you on a great book.

    How lovely to have a teen writing contest named after your mom. Was she a writer too?

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