Divergent

Not rated yet!
Director
Neil Burger
Runtime
2 h 19 min
Release Date
14 March 2014
Genres
Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Overview
In a world divided into factions based on personality types, Tris learns that she's been classified as Divergent and won't fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it's too late.
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PJ Media Staff4
PJ Media



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • PJTV's Trifecta Goes to the Movies: Libertarian Themes Hit the Screen in Captain America & Divergent
    PJ Media var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Trifecta Goes to the Movies: Libertarian Themes Hit the Screen in Captain America & Divergent', 'videoType': 'Original' }); In this three part series, Trifecta reviews the latest movies and notices some new themes emerging on the silver screen. In part one, Trifecta reviews Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in addition to Divergent. The gang notices distinct libertarian themes in both films and wonders whether these movies are a direct response to President Obama's overreaching agenda.PJTV subscribers click here to watch; an embeddable YouTube version is also available. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/blog/trifecta-goes-to-the-movies/ ]]>
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  • 5 Movies Shamelessly Ripped Off by Divergent
    Lifestyle var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'DIVERGENT - Trailer - Official [HD] - 2014', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); This week’s derivative new dial-a-blockbuster is Divergent, which stars Shailene Woodley (George Clooney’s teen daughter in The Descendants) as a teen girl living in post-apocalyptic Chicago, where the remains of society have amicably organized into five factions in order to survive against an unseen enemy outside the walls of the city. Watching the movie, which is based on a novel that sold when its author Veronica Roth was 21, is like browsing the shelves at the video store, because almost everything in it seems like something you've seen done better elsewhere. Here’s a partial list of films that Divergent ripped off/was influenced by:1. The Breakfast Club and teen movies in general.Divergent (as you’d expect of such as young author) is firmly anchored in a high-school conception of society, which is divided into brains (called “Erudites”), student-government nerds (“Abnegation”), jocks (“Dauntless"), special-needs kids who play in the dirt (“Amity”) and chronic truth-tellers (“Candor”). In Roth’s conception, what matters most is finding a clique to belong to because the untouchables of her society are the lost souls wandering the perimeter who have no “faction” at all.Question: Who thinks about cliques as anything but a dumb high-school thing, much less an organizing principle for humanity?Divergent even gives each clique its own limited color palette, with the brainiacs using cool blues, the jockish Dauntless in tight, athletic black gear and the rustic, gentle Amity in autumnal hues suggesting harvest time. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/3/21/5-movies-shamelessly-ripped-off-by-divergent/ previous Page 1 of 5 next   ]]>
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  • Where's Our Mockingjay?
    (”Divergent” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    PJ Media var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 "Burn" Trailer (2014) - Jennifer Lawrence Movie HD', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 opened in theaters around the world over the weekend and earned a hefty $275 million. In a year where domestic box office has been down overall, the film also earned more money in its opening weekend than any other film in 2014. The popularity of the Hunger Games series can’t be disputed, and has prompted a handful of similar franchises like the Divergent series and this year’s The Maze Runner and The Giver.With plucky rebellion against dystopian tyrannies all the rage, an opportunity exists to draw some comparisons between these popular fictions and the real world. Indeed, the film has become a touchstone for protestors in Thailand. Fox News reports:"The Mockingjay movie reflects what's happening in our society. ... When people have been suppressed for some time, they would want to resist and fight for their rights," Nachacha Kongudom, 21, one of [three students detained at a screening], told AP. "Going to the cinema is the basic rights of the people. I'm here today to call for and to protect my rights."On Wednesday, five university students were arrested in northeastern Thailand after giving the three-fingered salute [from the film] during a speech by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup [against the elected government] as army commander.It’s easy to see parallels between the Hunger Games stories and reality when you live under a military dictatorship. Panem, the fictional nation where these tales are set, operates as a fascist state where the individual languishes under subjugation. Dissent is brutally put down, and the enslaved populace is forced to offer up their children in tribute to a capitol which pits them against each other in a vicious death match.Life in the United States is far from that portrayed in Panem. However, when the root issues at stake in the Hunger Games saga are identified, it becomes clear that Americans have much worth rebelling against.At the core of nearly every policy pursued by the current administration has been a profound subjugation of the individual to the will of the state. Young people stand particularly victimized, forced to sacrifice their present and future happiness to fund promises made to the sick or the old, promises which actually benefit those in power. How does the individual mandate in Obamacare differ fundamentally from the slave labor in Panem? Sure, instead of the lash, we have the IRS. But the effect proves the same, individuals forced to feed the state.In these years between elections, the opportunity exists to define the stakes in such terms. Young people may be socially liberal, a fact not likely to change. But they retain a sense of individual liberty which fiction like The Hunger Games stokes into conviction. Let’s build on those themes to present a vision for the nation where the pursuit of happiness becomes sacrosanct again. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/blog/wheres-our-mockingjay/ ]]>
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Plugged In3
Focus on the Family



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Divergent
    DramaSci-Fi/FantasyAction/AdventureWar We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.Movie ReviewBeatrice Prior has a choice to make. And, frankly, it's not a choice that the 16-year-old wants to make. She'd rather just keep living with her parents and not worry about where she "fits" in society. But that's not how things work these days. It's been 100 years since the war that wiped out most of humanity. The last remnants of civilization now live behind a giant wall in what was once Chicago. And in these trying times, survival of the human race demands structuring things a bit differently. To best help society, everyone is told, a person's role must be made clear early on and remain consistent. And so Beatrice must choose one of the five so-called factions in which she'll spend the rest of her life. She can remain in the Abnegation faction with her parents, a group that sacrificially serves the world around them. Or she can opt for the Amity faction of kindhearted farmers, the honest Candor faction of judges, the Erudite thinkers and scientists or the Dauntless faction that bravely protects all the rest. It's obviously a huge decision. Fortunately there's a test that helps figure out each individual's genetic and psychological strengths. You simply drink a serum, lay back, have a hallucination or two and let a special machine read you like a book. That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. In Beatrice's case, it doesn't. When she comes to, the attendant looks at her nervously and suggests she slip out the back door right away. "And don't tell anybody about this," the woman warns her. Beatrice's test, you see, suggests she's equally adept at three different skill sets, that she could happily find a home in any of the three related factions. Now, you might think that would give her an advantage. But in this society, that makes Beatrice something odd. Something dangerous. Something destabilizing to the well-defined social order. Something … divergent. In short, Beatrice is the kind of person the factions can't easily control. She doesn't feel dangerous. But she is. She's an anomaly that can threaten the whole system. And so she has to make sure she keeps her added abilities under wraps and not draw any attention to herself. Because the so-called Divergents actually don't get a choice. They get to be … eliminated.Positive ElementsBut Beatrice does choose. She keeps quiet about her differences, picks the Dauntless faction of fighters and renames herself Tris. And though she struggles to keep pace physically with other trainees, Tris makes up for it by outclassing them when it comes to strategy and planning. All of that puts her in a position to make a difference when one of the factions stages something of a civil war. Tris isn't as mentally pliable as other Dauntless members, and she makes brave, self-sacrificial choices to protect literally thousands of innocents―circumventing a genocidal massacre. A fellow Dauntless member named Four also puts his life on the line, stepping out of the ranks of soldiers to fight against impossible odds to support Tris' heroic efforts. He also makes one of the movie's most important speeches, declaring he would like to not just be brave, but also selfless, honest, kind and intelligent. It's a mindset all of us can and should admire, not allowing ourselves to settle for just one quality characteristic, but aspiring to master them all. Elsewhere, Tris' family members repeatedly voice their love and support for one another. And when things get dangerous, both of Tris' parents offer their lives to protect her and to save the lives of others. It's said of their sacrifice, "They loved you. For them there was no better way to show you."Spiritual ContentDivergent is set in a completely secular world, and there's no real spiritual content to speak of. That said, the ceremony at which young people choose their faction has the feel of a religious rite. When each person's name is called, he or she walks to a raised platform where five bowls represent the five factions. The choosing of a faction is done by taking a ceremional knife, cutting one's hand and dripping blood into a bowl. The ceremony is meant to reinforce the idea that a person's primary allegiance is now to a faction and no longer to a family. Accordingly, we repeatedly hear the phrase "Faction before blood." Sexual ContentNew Dauntless pledges, both male and female, must all sleep in the same common area and use the same open shower area. We never see them do so, but we do see Tris, who's clearly uncomfortable with the coed living arrangments, trying to change clothes while keeping as covered as possible. We very briefly glimpse her in a bra as she changes shirts, and others in the background are seen changing as well. When she slips off her jacket in another scene, a Dauntless teammate crudely yells at her, "Take it off!" She also wears a formfitting, cleavage-baring tank top at times (as do other Dauntless females). Tris and Four (who's her group leader), fall for each other. They hug and passionately kiss before she tells him, "I don't want to go too fast." At that point he backs off. Later, while under the influence of a hallucinatory drug, Tris envisions Four forcefully throwing her on the bed and moving toward her, then getting on top of her in a sexually threatening manner. (She knocks him away and escapes.)Recommended ResourceA Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About SexKevin LemanEven the bravest parents feel timid about discussing sex with their 8- to 14-year-olds! This resource offers reassuring, humorous, real-life anecdotes along with reliable information to help you with this challenging task.Buy NowViolent ContentTris is a plebe in the soldiers' ranks. As such, we see her and others go through painful training meant to shape them into unstoppable fighters. For instance, they bloody and bruise one another with vicious one-on-one beat-downs (including several guy-on-girl pummelings). Three hooded trainees threaten to throw Tris off a high cliff (before Four steps up to slam the offenders' faces into a rock wall). A young woman is purposely left to dangle by her fingertips over a deadly precipice (to supposedly prove a point about never giving up). Another has her ear sliced by a thrown blade. In some cases, cadets are shot at close range with neuro-darts that simulate the writhing pain of being shot with a bullet. They jump on and off fast-moving trains. Initiation rituals include jumping several stories into a dark pit and rocketing down a precarious zip line between Chicago skyscrapers.  Part of the Dauntless training also includes a drug-induced psychological test. In these ominous hallucinatory visions, trainees are threatened with raging fire, smothering quicksand, attacking canines and birds, forceful drownings, slowly closing and crushing walls, and men with belts and bludgeons. We also repeatedly see needles being injected into people's necks in order to administer the drug. In two cases, test subjects are forced to shoot innocents (even loved ones) in execution-style killings. (The fatal shots are delivered offscreen.) Once the civil war breaks out, things get deadly in real life, too, with scores of soldiers and civilians alike getting shot and killed. Tris ends up having to kill one of her own friends by shooting him. She shoots and injures a teen guard to make him reveal a key logistic. Throngs of men, women and children are forced to their knees with guns to their heads. A woman has her hand impaled by a thrown knife. In a relatively bloody fight with drug-addled Four, Tris puts a gun to her own forehead as a means of shocking him out of his hallucination. A young man's body is pulled up out of a watery pit after he commits suicide. (His face is distorted and bloody.) A woman sticks her finger into Tris' bloody shoulder wound. We see other wounded and bleeding victims die.Crude or Profane LanguageOne whispered f-word. A half-dozen misuses of God's name accompany two or three each of "a‑‑hole" and "b‑‑ch."Drug and Alcohol ContentMany people receive injections of the dream-inducing drug that can also completely control them, removing their capacity to question or to disobey murderous orders. During a group celebration scene, several people raise the simple tin cups they drink from as if toasting someone.Other Negative ElementsA particularly sadistic Dauntless leader named Eric takes pleasure in treating several new recruits (especially Tris) cruelly throughout the movie. (But not nearly so severely as in the book.) Not surprisingly, Eric is exactly the kind of soldier who's easily manipulated by the film's real power-hungry villain, a faction leader named Jeanine. Members of the self-sacrificing Abnegation faction are often mocked by the other groups because of their simple, pleasure- and vanity-eschewing ways, so much so that other factions use the slur "stiffs" to demean members of the group. One of Tris' Dauntless teammates attacks her, then begs, "Can you ever forgive me?" Tris angrily replies, "If you even come close to me, I will kill you." He then commits suicide (offscreen) by leaping off a tall wall.ConclusionLike the atomic bomb-laden sci-fi flicks of the past, today's young adult, book-based movies offer themselves up as something more than just simple entertainment. In addition to a suspenseful, plot-driven story, they also offer broad allegories, fantasy filters through which viewers can ruminate on real-world issues. In the case of Divergent (based on the novel of the same name by 25-year-old author Veronica Roth), it's a teen in a dystopian future wrestling with her fate: being an outcast who can't seem to figure out how to fit in. She frets over the fact that everyone wants to label her before she's had the chance to figure herself out. And she grapples with high-stakes decisions in a high-conoformity world where you're judged by every action. Thus, I suspect most teens who see Divergent will readily nod and say, "Yep, I feel ya'." Like Slate film reviewer Dana Stevens says, "It's not a mystery why so many young-adult best-sellers (and the lucrative movie franchises based on them) would take place in post-apocalyptic societies governed by remote authoritarian entities and rigidly divided into warring factions. The word dystopia comes from a Greek root that roughly translates as 'bad place,' and what place could be worse than high school? Adolescence is not for the faint of heart. The to-do list for the decade between ages 10 and 20 includes separating from your parents, finding your place among your peers at school, beginning to make decisions about your own future, and—oh yes—figuring out how to relate to the world, and yourself, as a suddenly and mystifyingly sexual being." Admittedly, Divergent's futuristic dystopian premise feels stretched to the point of being ridiculous. I mean, who's really going to swallow the idea of a society where everybody has to fit into only one of five primary-color categories? Still, if a movie showcases the right stars, delivers the right CGI action and adds in the right kind of romance … well, as the old movie line goes, "If you build it, they will come." And from that perspective, Divergent delivers exactly what teens seem to be coming for. Is it a truly immersive moviegoing experience, a film that will inspire viewers to greatness? No, not quite. In fact, the misogynistic pummeling of its female lead can feel more than a little disquieting at times. Like the Hunger Games movies before it, one can't help but wonder if the teens-beating-teens cinematic tack shouldn't have been avoided altogether. (A few other moments in the film, including some wince-inducing images of wounds and mass atrocities, as well as a glimpse of the film's young star changing clothes, also need to be called out here in terms of content worth considering before heading off to join up with your own faction.) Then again, this is an allegory, a fantasy that throws a young woman into the roiling waves of figuring out who she is, how she fits, and what's right and wrong. It ultimately shows her meeting those challenges with a heart of self-sacrifice and heroism and an impassioned concern for those she loves. And it advocates for us all to be more than one-dimensional beings, to strive for well-roundedness as we practice a wide array of positive characteristics. As allegories go, that might not be very, um, divergent from the norm, but neither is it all bad.Pro-social ContentObjectionable ContentSummary AdvisoryPlot SummaryChristian BeliefsOther Belief SystemsAuthority RolesProfanity/ViolenceKissing/Sex/HomosexualityDiscussion TopicsAdditional Comments/NotesEpisode Reviews]]>
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John Hanlon2
John Hanlon Reviews



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Divergent
    In the new film Divergent, visit this young people are divided into five groups. There’s a group for the selfless, one for the military, and one for the intellectuals and so on. After taking a test, youngsters are told what category fits them...
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  • The Movies of 2014
    (”Divergent” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    The end of 2014 is quickly approaching. With that in mind, page I went back and created a list of all of the films that I reviewed this year and the different ratings I gave them. Of course, this this isn’t a complete list of all of the films I saw this year. It’s...
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Michael Medved1



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Divergent
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Debbie Schlussel1
The New York Post



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Wknd Box Office: Divergent, Grand Budapest Hotel, Bad Words, Enemy, On My Way, Veronica Mars
    Blog Posts Movie Reviews On My Way [Elle S’en Va]“: This French movie, with English subtitles, is yet another long, boring waste of time, in which nothing really happens. And I couldn’t care less about what does happen. Catherine Deneuve plays a senior citizen and aged former French beauty pageant winner, whose life is falling apart in all ways. Her seafood restaurant is struggling to survive, she lives with her annoying, very senior citizen mother, and she’s just learned that her married lover of decades has finally left his wife, but not for her (for a 25-year-old lover he’s gotten pregnant). She is also struggling to keep her house, where she and her mother live. She decides to just drive and go on a road trip, where she gets drunk at a bar, has sex with some young stranger at a motel, and ignores all cell phone calls from her mother and her employees frantic to keep the restaurant going. Soon, she gets a call from her estranged, unemployed, loser daughter, demanding that she watch her grandson, while her daughter travels for a job. But, while on the road with her insolent grandson, she loses him, runs out of money, and encounters other problems. So, desperate for food and lodging, she goes to a reunion of all the French regional beauty pageant winners, something she’d been hoping to avoid. Then, she falls in love with the paternal grandfather of her grandson. The end. Again, another waste of time that goes nowhere and is extremely pointless. TWO MARXES ]]>
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Society Reviews1
Society Reviews



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Maze Runner: The Death Cure Review
    (”Divergent” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Thomas leads some escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions that the Gladers have been asking since they arrived in the maze.

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The Federalist Staff4
The Federalist



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Why America Is Obsessed With Survivalism
    (”Divergent” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lately we’ve become somewhat obsessed with movies, TV shows, books, and video games that envision a post-apocalyptic world. This October, “The Walking Dead” will premier its seventh season on AMC, while its spin-off “Fear the Walking Dead” debuts its second season in April. Although zombie movies have been around for decades, it’s only been in the past 15 years or so that the post-apocalyptic tale has become an important cultural touchstone in America, particularly in imagining what life would look like in the aftermath. What does this fixation on the idea of survival say about our society? And more importantly, what does it say about ourselves and how we interact with our own mortality? The Apocalypse Craze Has Lasted More than a Decade The recent zombie-pocalypse craze began in 2002 with Danny Boyle’s acclaimed “28 Days Later,” a story about a man who wakes up in a London hospital only to find out that a virus has wiped out most of England and perhaps the world. Those infected are like crazed zombies. “World War Z,” a personal favorite, is an adaptation of a novel in which the United Nations tries to find a cure for a zombie virus after all major world cities have fallen to the lightning-fast “zekes.” Video games like “The Last of Us” allow you to enter into these kinds of worlds and try to survive. In all of these stories, something disrupts regular life for everyone on Earth. Zombies aside, countless post-apocalyptic tales have utterly captured our imaginations in recent years. In films, we’ve had major productions like “I Am Legend,” “Children of Men,” the Planet of the Apes series, and last year’s Oscar-nominated “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Young adult fiction features an endless supply of these kind of stories, from the Hunger Games series to “Maze Runner” and “Divergent.” In literature, there was Cormack McCarthy’s harrowing novel “The Road,” which was adapted for film in 2009, and Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel “Station 11,” which features a virus that wipes out much of the world and breaks down society. In all of these stories, something disrupts regular life for everyone on Earth. People are no longer going to their jobs, playing sports, or watching TV. Perhaps most importantly, no one is spending time on computers and smartphones. The Meaning Inside Fighting for Your Life Many of these narratives contrast a main character’s otherwise struggle-free pedestrian Western life with the disaster that is soon to strike. They are thrown suddenly into a chaotic world of roving bands of criminals, zombies, or government agents. They depict man going back to a near state of nature. He must recreate organized society, even if that society is made up of only the few people with whom he has thrown in his lot. They have to start over wherever they are. Water is scarce and must be fought for and protected. The survivors make their own clothes and grow and hunt for their own food. Life is hard but in some ways straightforward. Existence is so easy, especially in the West, that it disconnects us from our humanity in some ways. Here we get down to the kernel of why we are so drawn to these stories. They show people having to fight for their very life. They aren’t checking Twitter or posting a selfie on Instagram. They aren’t picking out their favorite variety of cruciferous leafy greens at Whole Foods. They’re just trying to make it one more day. We, as a society, are utterly out of touch with what it would mean to live every day with only one goal: survive. We work hard, sure, but it’s not the same. Everything is easy. The water just comes out of the pipe. The food is sitting at the grocery store for us to pick up. What’s more, much of our existence is made up of leisure time. So we wonder what it was like when people used to have to work from morning to night just to keep their small household going. What if, like in “The Walking Dead,” my social network shrunk to just the people within a few miles of myself? What would it look like if everything in my life suddenly changed? Somewhere deep down, perhaps we are aware of the superficiality of our day-to-day life, so we crave having to struggle for our survival. It puts us in touch with our own mortality, not by provoking fear and insecurity, but by awakening a desire to touch our human frailty and really feel it. Existence is so easy, especially in the West, that it disconnects us from our humanity in some ways. The numbness of modern existence becomes a burden. On some instinctual level, we want to fight for our life. In Distress, We Drastically Simplify to What Matters These days, we are overwhelmed with media and information and leisure. Surely some part of us wants to go back to basics, without cell phones and social media, gossip and politics. In most of these post-apocalyptic books and movies, technology has broken down completely. The stories appeal to us because they show people returning to the fundamentals of existence, struggling to meet their physical needs and maintain real human relationships—offline. The stories appeal to us because they show people returning to the fundamentals of existence. This phenomenon manifests itself, increasingly, in the survival industry and the more than 3 million real-life “preppers” in America who stockpile food and water, and sometimes guns and ammo. Some even take survivalism courses on how to hunt for food, do basic first aid or get clean drinking water. They aren’t restricted to the militia crowd, and they aren’t wackos out in the woods. They include professional upper-middle-class men and women who want to be ready if disaster strikes. It wouldn’t be fair to say these people are hoping for such a calamity, but some part of them yearns for things to be hard yet simple again. There is a certain excitement in people’s voices when they talk about a possible EMP attack, or when Ebola first appeared in the United States. It’s not sick morbidity or ungratefulness for this prosperous Western life. Nor is it golden-age syndrome. It’s just a desire to put one’s finger on the pulse of life. To know and acknowledge our mortality in a society that constantly tries to shield us from it. So we watch “The Martian” or “Revolution,” or play “The Last of Us.” We stockpile water and ravioli (high in protein and vitamin C to fight scurvy). And we imagine what it would be like to fight to stay alive. ]]>
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  • Beware The Loss Of Literature
    (”Divergent” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    The Ides of March occurred Sunday. Most people are familiar with the date because it’s when Julius Caesar was murdered, and Shakespeare made the infamous event more so when, in his tragedy, the soothsayer warns Caesar to “beware the Ides of March.” Has anyone under the age of 30 heard that phrase or read Shakespeare? Between the boom of bestselling Young Adult (YA) fiction like “Hunger Games” and Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum mandates, it appears while classic literature hasn’t been tossed out the window altogether yet, it’s slowly disappearing from high-school and college classrooms. That’s a mistake. It’s not that kids aren’t reading. According to the Association of American Book Publishers, “Sales for children’s and YA books rose by 20.8% to $1.9 billion for 2014, while children’s and YA e-book sales soared by 33.7% to $227.3 million, making up 12.0% of sales, up from 10.9% in 2013.” This is great news. Even if these numbers fail to reflect a sales in classic literature—and think about what’s prominent on displays at Barnes and Noble or online, not much Mark Twain—being a purist when it comes to reading, however delightful that sounds in its “Dead Poets Society” nerdiness, proves unnecessary here. Taste in literature, just like music, movies and people, can change and improve over time. “Hunger Games” can be a gateway to more complex and classic books like “1984” or “Animal Farm.” But if children rarely pick up a book, whether it’s “Star Wars” or “The Fault in Our Stars,” that development doesn’t even have the chance to happen. Youth Literature Isn’t Very Good However, with that said, the quality of literature on sale, and that teens are reading, is disappointing, to say the least. It’s not like it’s the only alternative. Books like “Twilight” are among the usual litany of YA books critics hate. With its weak protagonist, scrawling and silly romanticism, and ridiculous plot, it’s a wonder the thing became as popular as it did. “Divergent” is another popular YA book and it, too, is just as trashy. “The Fault In Our Stars” is a huge success as a book and film—in 2014, 10.7 million copies of the book had been sold. While the plot is more developed, the characters more dimensional, and the writing improving upon many in its field, it demonstrates a classic flaw in YA fiction that, as another writer who used to have a column called “YA for Grownups,” described thusly: “At its heart, YA aims to be pleasurable.” Our kids should be held to the highest possible standards, and their education should reflect the knowledge and values we want our next generation to inhabit. An element of that seems to have translated into school syllabi as well, no doubt driven by Common Core’s ELA standards. Many conservatives are vehemently opposed to Common Core standards but not sure why. I’m not expert in the entire smorgasbord—the guidelines are thick—but at least in the area of English literature, the current standards are disappointing as they are confusing. Please hear this: That’s neither an ideological judgment nor a politically-driven statement. If our tax dollars are funding a national educational standard (whether they should is another piece), then our kids should be held to the highest possible standards, and their education should reflect the knowledge and values we want our next generation to inhabit. After all, they will inherit this country. The guidelines state these standards will make all students college-ready, and their prescription for this is to suggest a heavy load of nonfiction reading, rather than, as this Heritage Foundation article describes, “a concentrated study of complex literature in the secondary English class will.” Sure, in college one reads more nonfiction than fiction, but that doesn’t mean reading it will make you better equipped to understand it. “In fact, the history of the secondary English curriculum in 20th-century America suggests that the decline in readiness for college reading stems in large part from an increasingly incoherent, less challenging literature curriculum from the 1960s onward. This decline has been propelled by the…assignment of easier, shorter, and contemporary texts—often in the name of multiculturalism.” Methinks Shakespeare would say, of the Common Core ELA, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” A personal anecdote: With my sights set on law school, every single attorney I worked with at a reputable firm told me to major in English, not pre-law, because that was the only major that accurately reflected the amount of reading and writing I’d do in law school. (Thanks guys. I became a writer instead of a lawyer, whew.) Reading Quality and Assignments Decline In 2013, a company called Renaissance Learning discovered, through a study of what kids were reading through their Accelerated Reader program, that most books kids chose to read were well below their grade level. Their educational research director, Eric Stickney, said, “The complexity of texts students are being assigned to read has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years. A century ago, students were being assigned books with the complexity of around the ninth- or 10th-grade level. But in 2012, the average was around the sixth-grade level.” Even in the 1980s, high-school students were reading Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Emily Bronte, and Edith Wharton. ‘The complexity of texts students are being assigned to read has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years.’ Not all high-school teachers or college professors are eschewing the classics. I found a few Advanced Placement high school English syllabi online and observed several wonderfully packed schedules of complex, dense, mind-broadening literature, including Shakespeare. I saw just as many, though, that admitted while the coursework would include a “Catcher in the Rye” or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the rest of the work would be non-fiction. There’s nothing wrong with studying the Gettysburg Address or the Declaration of Independence. Those are immensely valuable pieces of historical and cultural significance to our country. But studying only that type of non-fiction while disregarding broader, more complex works of fiction fails to develop certain analytical thought processes as one only can while dissecting a work of fiction. Where else can one study the syntax of sentences, the rhythm of poetry, the vocabulary of words, universal themes of humanity (greed, jealousy, betrayal, love, loyalty, honor, courage), the power of imagination, and political implications? People can find many elements of these in non-fiction, but not to the same degree. Heritage, again: “[A]s ACT (a college entrance exam) found, complexity is laden with literary features: It involves characters, literary devices, tone, ambiguity, elaboration, structure, intricate language, and unclear intentions. By reducing literary study, Common Core decreases students’ opportunity to develop the analytical thinking once developed in just an elite group by the vocabulary, structure, style, ambiguity, point of view, figurative language, and irony in classic literary texts.” The ELA guidelines are fallible, misleading, and will have a poor effect on the thinking skills of young Americans. Bring back the classics to high school and college literature. Everyone will benefit. As Shakespeare said, “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.” ]]>
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