I got a new job teaching English this summer at Nomen Global Language Centers here in Provo.  I’m teaching a reading course that corresponds with a course on government for higher level students. The book we are reading this block (2 weeks) is My Brother Sam is Dead, a historical fiction novel about the Revolutionary War in America.

Teaching this book has been great for me so far. On of the things that I learned last week in my training is that as we facilitate student discussions, we’re not supposed to really share our opinions on world issues, but rather present the ideas and give the students opportunities to use their English to express their thoughts. Every minute I’m talking is a minute that they aren’t talking in English.
One thing I’ve been able to do is just lay the ideas out and not take any sides, so that my students are able to talk about the ideas. This is especially enlightening when we get into discussions about what kind of government is best and what kinds are appropriate, etc. We get to see that while Communism can be good or bad, so can a monarchy or a democracy. It’s so great to talk about these concepts with students who are from countries with monarchies, oligarchies, and other forms of government that we don’t have here in the USA.

My Brother Sam is Dead is about a conflict that a lot of us have had to face, at its core. Tim Meeker’s brother Sam has chosen to fight on the American side of the Revolutionary War, while Tim and Sam’s father is Loyalist, pledging his allegiance to the King of England. Tim has to ask himself, “What side do I join?” If he fights for America, he may be asked to kill his father. If he fights for England, he may have to kill his brother. It’s almost like either way, he will lose. So he has to just do what he thinks is best given the circumstances.
The book is a great piece of mostly true historical fiction. It’s also a short read. At just over 200 pages, I was able to read it in its entirety over the course of an already busy weekend sans Sunday. It’s a riveting read that poses to the reader the question, “What would you do if you had to pick sides?”

Haven’t we all faced that question?