As any former adolescent can tell you, teenagers can be defiant at times. This resistance often comes from being constantly told what they can and can't do. We are evolutionarily wired to push the boundaries during adolescence, when, more often than not, we hear “You can’t do that!” rather than more positive enforcers. The article, "Can Teenage Defiance Be Manipulated for Good?", supports that defiance can be harnessed in a way that allows for enlightening learning opportunities and avenues for inquiry.
I try to keep this in mind while planning how to teach To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of young siblings coming to grips with the hypocrisy and racial injustice of their small Southern town. Students become more engaged when the Tom Robinson plotline is introduced. The obvious facts behind the case point towards a not guilty verdict, which are ignored by the all-white jury. This clear miscarriage of justice is tough for my students to wrap their heads around. How can this happen in the United States, where, as Atticus Finch states in his closing argument, “All men are created equal”?