The Rise of The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give, the best-selling YA novel by Angie Thomas, has received an incredible amount of praise since its release back in February 2017. The acclaim for this page-turning literary phenomenon is well-deserved. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I have to say that it is simply one of the best Young Adult novels released in the last decade. As an eighth grade teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I found myself saying, “My kids need to read this!” Apparently I’m not the only one.
According to Donor’s Choose, The Hate U Give is far and away the most requested piece of literature currently on the site.
The popularity of the book, which is currently seeing another surge in sales ahead of the George Tillman Jr. directed film adaptation, is leading educators across the country to finally challenge the white-washed curricula that has become the status quo. It’s time to put aside To Kill a Mockingbird. Say goodbye to Atticus Finch, a fraudulent hero who was far from the ally for Black Americans that many of my fellow white educators would have you believe.
It’s time to say hello to Starr Carter and rest of the dynamic characters of The Hate U Give.
Why 8th Grade?
With all the controversy surrounding The Hate U Give’s inclusion in public school classrooms, it’s not surprising that administrators may initially flinch at the prospect of teachers tackling this memorable novel with eighth grade students. However, I firmly believe that the book is exactly what needs to be read, meticulously analyzed, and thoughtfully discussed with kids on the cusp of high school.
Eighth grade is a pivotal year for students as they are academically and socially preparing for the challenges that await them in high school. This is the academic year in which students need to be pushed out of their bubble in an effort to expand their level of empathy prior to departing middle school.
Common Core Standards
If you’re an educator looking to bring the book into your classroom, you’ll want to be sure to have a list of standards that’ll be met by reading and discussing this instant classic.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Although many districts across the country are still developing standards to align with Social-Emotional Learning domains, the state of Illinois has recently released a comprehensive set of Social/Emotional Learning Standards.
Here are a few of the aforementioned standards worth mentioning to administrators when proposing adding The Hate U Give to your curriculum:
GOAL 1: DEVELOP SELF-AWARENESS AND SELF-MANAGEMENT SKILLS TO ACHIEVE SCHOOL AND LIFE SUCCESS.
1A — Identify and manage one’s emotions and behavior.
- Explain the consequences of different forms of communicating one’s emotions.
GOAL 2: USE SOCIAL-AWARENESS AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS TO ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS.
2B — Recognize individual and group similarities and differences.
- Discuss stereotyping and its negative effects for both the victim and perpetrator.
- Analyze how various social and cultural groups are portrayed in the media.
- Analyze how exposure to cultural diversity might either enhance or challenge your health behaviors (e.g., differing driving or eating habits, more or less psychological pressure based on differing cultural norms).
- Evaluate efforts to promote increased understanding among groups.
- Evaluate efforts to provide members of various groups with opportunities to work together to achieve common goals.
- Evaluate how protecting the rights and responsibilities of minority student groups contributes to protecting the rights of all students.
- Develop and maintain positive relationships with peers of different genders, races, and ethnic groups.
2D — Demonstrate an ability to prevent, manage, and resolve interpersonal conflicts in constructive ways.
- Identify how both parties to a conflict might get their needs met.
- Analyze scenarios to show how power struggles contribute to conflict.
- Develop strategies for resisting negative peer pressure from different sources (e.g., best friends, casual acquaintances).
- Evaluate the effectiveness of enforced resolutions vs. mutually agreed upon resolutions to conflict.
- Apply conflict resolution skills to de-escalate, defuse, and/or resolve differences.
- Demonstrate problem-solving techniques through participation in a simulation (e.g., a diplomatic effort to resolve an international conflict, a legislative debate).
GOAL 3: DEMONSTRATE DECISION-MAKING SKILLS AND RESPONSIBLE BEHAVIORS IN PERSONAL, SCHOOL, AND COMMUNITY CONTEXTS.
3A — Consider ethical, safety, and societal factors in making decisions.
- Explain how to reduce negative outcomes in risky situations.
- Explain how laws reflect social norms and affect our personal decision-making.
- Examine how the depiction of violent acts in the media and entertainment might impact individuals and groups.
3C — Contribute to the well-being of one’s school and community.
- Identify possible service projects to do within your school.
- Identify possible service projects to do within your community.
- Explain how one’s decisions and behaviors affect the well being of one’s school and community.
- Describe how various organizations contribute to the well-being of your community.
- Evaluate the impact on yourself and others of your involvement in a activity to improve your school or community.
- Evaluate how you might improve your participation in a service project in your school or community.
But What About the Language and Sexual Innuendo?
Many people against the inclusion of The Hate U Give in 8th grade curriculum will point to the novel’s language and references to sex as the biggest reason. Yes, characters utter the F-word 89 times. However, Mark Twain used the n-word 219 times in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Not only are schools still reading the novel, many are refusing to use new editions of the text that replaces the n-word with “slave.” And yes, there are brief references to sex.
However, before we banish the book from the school setting, it’s vital we take a closer look at context…
Yes, the characters in The Hate U Give use what may be perceived by some as coarse language. However, the swearing appears naturally, as part of dialogue between teenagers. Today’s eighth grader, whether you’re willing to admit it or not, use the same language each and every day. Perhaps you don’t hear it, but they do. I’d encourage you to hang out in the halls or at recess and just listen. These words and phrases are now common in modern day teenage vernacular.
As for the sex? There aren’t many authors out there who could have written about such a sensitive topic as teenage sex as masterfully as Angie Thomas does in The Hate U Give. Despite what you may have heard, there’s absolutely zero explicit sexual scenes in the novel. Instead, there are numerous references related to teenagers carefully considering the implications of engaging in sexual activity as well as timely references to consent.
But Isn’t It Anti-Police?
It’s anti-police brutality. There’s a big difference.
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