Young Heroes is a worktext for a course that might take a semester or more to complete. From the title, you might think Young Heroes –A Learner’s Guide to End Human Trafficking is narrower in scope than most other worldview resources I review since it focuses primarily on modern day slavery. While slavery is the theme, Young Heroes actually serves as a stimulating and practical introduction to philosophy and worldviews for high school students because of the way it is presented, and it can be used with both religious and non-religious students.
The course has four main sections. The first, “Understanding Slavery,” defines slavery and examines the history of slavery both around the world and in the United States. The second section, “Modern-Day Slavery,” teaches about human trafficking, how modern-day slavery functions, and the effects of human trafficking. Part Three, “Connecting the Dots,” looks behind the curtain at the economics that support slavery—supply and demand, production and consumption, and how our consumerist society supports slavery with its continual demand for more and more stuff. The fourth section, “Cha-Cha-Changes,” really starts to dig deeper into philosophy with lessons on topics such as “the examined life,” the human experience, and moral laws. This section challenges students to consider their own talents and abilities and how they might be used to help them become world changers. It includes very practical discussions of ideological movements, how they are formed, and how they function.
The entire study is premised on the value of each individual person and the fundamental equality of all people, a theme that obviously plays out in the study of slavery. Underlying the study of slavery is a deeper investigation of worldview. The course helps students dig into worldview questions, but because it does not talk directly about God, it can be used in a secular setting as well as religious ones. For example, on page 190, it challenges students to “describe what you believe about the world’s origin and destiny. Is there an objective meaning to life, and if so, what do you believe it is? How do you know you are right? Why do you believe what you do as opposed to something else?”
Even though the book doesn’t discuss God or religious doctrine, it does posit some basic beliefs that have religious roots such as a list of “examples of moral laws found throughout this book” that includes,
Humans do not determine what is good or evil for them.
Knowledge of truth is the highest good for humans
Humans must work with true hope (p. 201).
Some of the philosophical thought and investigations lead students into heavy questions such as whether or not life has any meaning and whether or not there is an objective reality. Some questions unavoidably lead students to consider their views about God and faith. (Those familiar with philosophy and Christian thought will recognize a good number of the author’s references and quotes as coming from Christian sources, although this is not obvious.) So while this is a secular resource, it works well in Christian settings while also helping those in a secular setting examine the deeper meaning of life in a way they normally would not encounter.
Young Heroes seems best suited for a one-semester humanities course in a group class setting meeting at least once a week. A family setting might work if two or more children in the family are involved. While it could be used in other settings, it does require research and writing between sessions, so it would be tough to use in a setting such as a church youth group. And the discussion aspect is so valuable that doing all course activities without any interaction at all seriously diminishes the course's effectiveness.
Questions are scattered in small groups throughout each of the sixteen lessons. The questions help to focus student attention on key thoughts rather than test their reading comprehension. They often challenge students to draw conclusions from what they have just read. Answers are printed upside down in small typeface at the end of student journaling pages, so students are able to look at the answers if they want to.
“Think Tank” sections near the end of each lesson begin with an article on a particular topic such as forgiveness, freedom, or human rights. These are instructive but they are also designed for self-reflection. Think Tanks conclude with a research assignment, generally to find one new resource that relates to the topic; this might be a book, internet resource, or even a discussion with a person. After reading about or discussing the topic, the student writes the name of the resource and where they found it, then conclude with a one-paragraph summary.
“Creation Tanks” assign a research task that might involve visiting one or more websites or watching a video, followed by a writing assignment. For example, the Creation Tank on page 147 tells students to find and watch a documentary related to consumerism or anti-consumerism. “Then, do an online search on the words meta-physical naturalism, materialism, and narcissism. Define their meanings below and draw some connections from these philosophical positions to things you learn from the video.”
Each lesson concludes with a journaling assignment.
You can see how the research and writing activities might demand quite a bit of time. You might want to integrate those into a student’s language arts coursework, although you don’t want to sidetrack the personal growth that might take place in this study by making the quality of the written work a higher priority.
An “Action Tank” in the appendix walks students through the steps of creating a group to take action on the issue of human trafficking. An individual student might draw ideas from this, but it really is designed for a group effort. Resource lists at the back of the book help students find ways to take action.
The book itself is very attractive with edgy graphics and full color. Books are available in hardcover with a PDF version soon to be released. A free leader’s guide is available on the publisher’s website, but it is not essential. (There's also a "Reader's Edition" that has selected chapters from the complete book, but I would encourage students to get the complete book.)
Young Heroes requires a good deal of self-examination. Students have to consider their most basic beliefs, their lifestyles, their goals, and their choices. But such introspection is the precursor for students to also examine society from local to global levels to understand why and how slavery persists and what they might do to end it. The goal is to inspire young people to take action against modern-day slavery whether individually or working with others.