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by Marianna Csoti
Jessica Kingsley, 2001
Review by Elizabeth Batt on Jan 11th 2003
One of the greatest problems
parents or those that work with youngsters face is the ability to contend with
societal and moral issues without appearing to lecture. Marianna Csoti's, Contentious Issues
offers a sturdy platform from which to begin.
The book cleverly introduces fictional but true-to-life events that deal
with topics such as ethnicity, racism, sexism and stereotypes.
Aimed at 11-18 year olds, Csoti's
book challenges young adults to discuss, debate and resolve complicated
situations that a youngster has faced or might face as they progress towards
adulthood. The adult heading the
discussions acts as the 'leader' – the person that oversees discussions, keeps
them on track and in general, offers several viewpoints for youngsters to
comment upon. To assist him with this
task, leader sheets are contained within the book that urge him to guide
presenting neither answers nor agreeing/disagreeing with viewpoints
tendered. Rather he is asked to offer
alternatives or more challenging viewpoints.
The book is separated into three
sections. Section 1 accommodates 11-14
year olds; section 2 caters to 12-15 year olds and section 3 is aimed at the
young adult – the16-18 year old. The
stories contained within each section are read aloud to the group in question
setting the scene and topic for discussion.
Quite often the stories progress in a given order utilizing the same
characters within the stories and promoting the book's effectiveness. As the characters involved become familiar
and the consequences of certain actions are brought into play, the issues at
hand can be yet further explored.
While the early section of the book
deals with viewpoints for discussion, section 2 contains one story that
includes role-playing. 'I'm a Person
Too,' tackles the issue of teenage and parental rights and suggests that two
people, one who takes the role of the mother and one who takes the role of a
teenage girl, read the story in question.
This one story can effectively bring the situation to life for many
youngsters while section 3 differs again by offering hands-on tasks that allow
young adults to be the decision makers, and to individualize problems for
This comprehensive book
incorporates many situations and instances related to the every day life of a
youth. It would prove a valuable
resource for professionals, including councilors and teachers that work with
young adults on society related issues.
Although the book works best in a group environment, parents could
easily adapt its contents for one-on-one discussion.
The book concludes with a selection
of useful contacts that pertain to the issues contained within. While these contacts are all based within
the UK, many have website addresses that could prove valuable as a starting
point for further help and assistance.
Marianna Costi's book is
effective. It is effective because it
doesn't judge and we can reach a young adult without criticism and without
imposing our views. Too often we
dictate, too often we decide the viewpoints for our children and too often we
force morality on them without explaining why.
Again, this book is effective.
Why? Because it gives young
adults the greatest gift of all – it allows them their own point of
2003 Elizabeth Batt
Managing Editor Ancient & European History, Suite101.com