In Keith Dinwiddie’s seventh-grade English class at Westminster Middle School in Oklahoma City, the students discuss the novel “The Outsiders” — what it is to be on the outside of a particular social stratum, what things put us on the outside, and, maybe most importantly, how people handle obstacles that make them outsiders.
It’s a legacy author S.E. Hinton likely never dreamed would come to pass when, in 1965, she wrote “The Outsiders” as a teen at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa.
Why is the message so enduring?
“I think it’s the story that the grass is always greener on the other side. It doesn’t get old. It’s relatable,” Dinwiddie said.
Another topic that Dinwiddie said his students relate to is the bullying aspect of “The Outsiders.” Often, middle schools and high schools are complex social systems composed of the “accepted” and the “unaccepted.”
Most kids have felt the sting of rejection to some degree and they relate to the injustice of being labeled an outsider.
“(Hinton) started writing the book because she saw some friends being beaten up,” Dinwiddie said. “This book brought out in full view (for the first time) that high school is its own intricate society. (Some) kids really do start with an unfair disadvantage.”
As part of their study of the book, Dinwiddie has his students read together in class and discuss the book’s themes. They also create a visual aid — a drawing, collage or diorama.