Reviews /

What is Right and Wrong?

Authored by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young
Published by Hachette Children's Group

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What is Right and Wrong? Who Decides? Where do Values Come From?

Part of a series entitled ‘And other big questions’ ( including What is Race? and What is Politics?), this book aims to provoke thinking and discussion about personal values, ideals and principles, based around what the concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ could mean.

It’s a pragmatic rather than a philosophical text. The authors give a brief overview of their own ‘thinking’ histories, and then go on to pose a series of important questions ranging from ‘What is society?’ to ‘Is there a right and wrong way to use language?’ and ‘What is the difference between prejudice and discrimination?’  They first explain the terminology associated with each big issue and then ask readers to consider more specific questions related to the topic. Each topic ends with a very particular ‘thinking’ task for the reader to engage in, and the overall aim is that individuals should be able finally to formulate, possibly adjust, and explain their values.

The book has a great deal to recommend it. The questions it poses are relevant, pressing, and of deep concern, especially to young people whose future world it is. The authors illustrate their topics with images and descriptions of modern-day situations which ask moral questions and will continue to affect us, such as the Grenfell Tower disaster. I found the approach both informative and challenging and the writing to be perfectly pitched at an audience of Year 6 and above. The text moves from general to specific in the best tradition of non-fiction writing and helps the reader to break down what might otherwise be too’ big’ a question to begin thinking about productively.,

The presentation is attractive, helpful and consistent across pages, with subheadings, photographs and coloured boxes with quotations from contemporary and historical writers and activists. There is also an appendix with suggestions for further reading and ideas for how to express personal values actively.

I cannot imagine a readership who would not benefit from this book. It could be used simply as an inspiration for discussion, but it would be good to have several copies of What is Right and Wrong? in the classroom for students to read, talk about, return to and mull over at leisure.