Back to School with a Better Understanding of Vonnegut


Our Teaching Vonnegut series aims to give teachers information they need to effectively share Vonnegut’s work with students. Vonnegut’s writing is relevant to social issues today—environmentalism, militarism, human rights, censorship, religion’s place in civic life—and students will find his humor and insights into the human condition fascinating and challenging.

Immersing teachers in a three-day exploration of his works by leading scholars, authors and teachers on Vonnegut in a powerful experience. Stops were also made to historic buildings tied to Vonnegut and his family including Kurt’s childhood home. At the end, teachers are better equipped to present the timeless works to the next generation.

The 2015 Teaching Vonnegut speakers included:

  • Rai Peterson of Ball State University speaking about the pervasive themes in the novels.
  • Greg Sumner of University of Detroit, Mercy followed with his expertise about the short story collection Welcome to the Monkeyhouse.
  • Max Goller, the library’s Director of Education, on Kurt’s advice for writing.
  • Rodney Allen, author and Vonnegut scholar, presented on the most-commonly studied work, Slaughterhouse Five.
  • Jonathan Eller, IUPUI English professor and author of Becoming Ray Bradbury led a discussion of Cat’s Cradle.
  • Mark Shullenberger changed shared ways to do close readings of Vonnegut’s works.
  • Brett Stoker and Meredith Cummings accompanied by students and their exceptional class projects based on Vonnegut’s writings.
  • Kathi Badertscher, from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, applied her knowledge of philanthropic studies to God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

The group also visited with author Dan Wakefield at his favorite watering hole, Red Key, and listened to anecdotes about the friendship shared between Dan and Kurt.

We greatly enjoyed our time with the presenters and the teachers who were looking for ways to achieve professional development and a greater understanding of Kurt Vonnegut. Their students will benefit from their lessons in new and exciting ways.

Thanks to all who attended, and we look forward to next year’s workshop.

Ready to study up on Vonnegut and learn more about his legacy to stop censorship? Then mark your calendars for Banned Book Week and join in the many events taking place at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library!

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