There were two groups in each class, each reading a dystopian fiction novel. The Giver by Lois Lowry is the 1994 Newbery Medal winner. Considered a highly influential novel, the story is about a seemingly utopian community who live in safe conformity. Protagonist Jonah is a 12-year old who is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory, who hides information from others. Only then does he realize secrets of his community.
The other group read Uglies by Scott Westerfiled. In a future society, sixteen-year-old have an operation to transform you from "ugly" to "pretty". After transformation, citizens live in a high-tech paradise where leisure is the only demand. Two friends face conflict when one decides she doesn't want to have the mandated surgery. After she runs away, the character learns the secrets behind a seemingly perfect community.
After they finished their novels, groups had discussion about the essential question and read current news articles with similar issues: NSA surveillance and genetic manipulation. I worked with The Giver group while Ms. Hewett worked with the Uglies group. Students annotated articles, led discussions and wrote questions for our guest speaker. Mr. Hoth, information security officer of WCPSS, previously worked at multiple Naval security commands that supported NSA's mission. He spoke about his role as information security officer for Wake County Schools and the role of the NSA in national security. Some questions raised by students included: What did the NSA look like? Is it ethical to 'spy' on people? What information can be seen? How does the NSA collect information and what do they do with it? Why would someone want to steal my identity?
Toward the end of class, Ms. Dextre reviewed the characteristics of a dystopian society. Ms. Hewett had students make connections between their discussions and their novel. In their journals, they answered the question: "Do you think that we are currently living in a dystopian society? Why or why not?", then shared their thoughts.
The classes had such active, invigorating discussions that we were surprised when it was time to move to the next class period! Thanks so much for the enriching experience, Mr. Hoth!