"The Hunger Games" is a civics lesson

The role of the media is a dominant theme in the books. Entertainment is central to pacifying the populace, but in the restive outlying districts, information is tightly controlled and dissent is punished with public floggings and executions. Students might consider why censorship is often the weapon of choice for tyrants.

Panem’s state-run media are a propaganda tool, yet teenagers are certain to recognize the conventions of reality TV and the contemporary fascination with glamor and celebrity—all of which make the televised spectacle of “The Hunger Games” a little too familiar for comfort.

Parents of today’s school-age children grew up during the Cold War, with Soviet gulags, Mao’s Cultural Revolution and Cambodia’s killing fields serving as lessons in the evil of unchecked government power. For children now, these are abstractions. In the hands of a skillful teacher, “The Hunger Games” makes these not-too-distant events more immediate. Even the story of America’s founding might be seen in sharper relief if students compare it with the revolution that Katniss inspires.