You Are What You Read?

Do you remember the books you read in high school? I’m guessing that some of the books include: Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, 1984, Hamlet, etc. These books incorporate extremely negative themes such as violence, depression, anarchy, and skepticism of the government. The effects of these themes, especially to growing teenagers, can be exceedingly harmful. At worst, exposure to these texts can make teens think that since the world is corrupt, there is no point in contributing to society.

According to a 2002 study conducted by J.G. Johnson and published in “Science” magazine, the more [violent] media a teenager consumes, the more likely he is to commit acts of violence and aggression. This is not the only effect. Other studies show that exposure to violent media result in desensitization to violence, nightmares, and even fear of being harmed on a daily basis. According to Emanuel Tanay (retired Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Wayne State University and a forensic psychiatrist for more than 50 years), the two teenage boys who murdered 12 schoolmates and a teacher and injured 21 others at Columbine High School in Colorado before killing themselves lived in a pathological environment. “Their lives centered around violent video games.”

While the texts studied in school are not video games or television, the ideas within the contexts carry similar messages. For example, in Lord of the Flies, a group of children crash-lands on an island with no adults. Even though the group starts out with a fair government, any form of order quickly falls as Golding presents his thoughts on anarchy and on the dark side of human nature. The group of boys quickly resorts to extreme violence and one of the boys starts a dictatorship, ruling the other children with fear. Another book with similar themes can include Animal Farm, which is a satire of Russian history. After throwing the owner of the farm out, the animals begin a utopian society. However, the utopia fails and the pigs begin a dictatorship. The pigs, being smarter than others, uses deceit and trickery to enslave the other animals. If the other animals didn’t listen, the pigs would send out dogs, the military forces, to injure them. Even though both of the literatures are fictional, their themes and meanings have an especially unconstructive effect on maturing teens.

Teens are seeds of potential that can advance the welfare of our society. To ensure the future of the seeds, it is the high school’s duty is to provide positive influences for them. In place of Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm, the school should offer books with hopeful themes, such as Life of Pi and even the Shakespearian play: The Taming of the Shrew. These works will present a positive outlook on life, giving teens a new perspective on how contributions and support to communities will help shape their own personal values.