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Review of "Contentious Issues"

By Marianna Csoti
Jessica Kingsley, 2001
Review by Elizabeth Batt on Jan 10th 2003
Contentious Issues

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 themselves.

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 view.


© 2003 Elizabeth Batt


Elizabeth Batt, Managing Editor Ancient & European History,

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