|Nothing but the Truth
Theme: The Fight for Truth
Grades: Grades 7-8
Nothing but the Truth is a "documentary novel"told in the
form of school memos, diary entries, letters, radio talk show transcripts,
and dialogue. Philip, a high school goof-off, hums along when the National
Anthem is played over the school intercom. This gets him caught up in
a battle with the forces of patriotism and school policy, eventually
against the backdrop of the national media. His struggle for justice
teaches him more than he ever bargained for.
Call on volunteers to role-play one of the following situations: (1)
Imagine you did something that seemed morally right to you at the
time, but that you later regretted. Everyone you know finds out what
you did and is critical of you. How would you feel? Would you change
your mind about what you did? Given an opportunity to lie about what
you did, would you tell the truth? Tell your story to a friend who
is questioning you. (2) One of your friends has done something that
you believe is right. However, everyone at school is angry with your
friend. You realize that if you remain loyal to your friend, you will
lose all the other friends you have. What will you do? Will you abandon
the friend who is being shunned? Will you remain loyal and risk losing
your other friends? Will you try to explain why you believe in what
your friend did? Dramatize a telephone discussion with a friend who
does not live in your town. (3) In one of your classes, a teacher
you admire has suspended one of your friends. You believe your friend
was at fault. The principal calls you in to find out what happened.
What will you do? Will you tell the truth about what happened? Will
you offer a story that will help get your friend out of trouble? Role-play
your conversation with the principal.
- Linking to Today: Telling the Truth.
Lead a discussion about the two questions at the beginning of the
book. Encourage students to discuss what message they think the author
wants to convey with the two questions. If necessary, you may prompt
with questions such as the following: (1) Is telling only part of
the truth dishonest? (2) Are there situations in which unfairness
to an individual is justified? (3) Should a person always tell the
truth even if the truth will hurt others? (4) Does justice require
more than the enforcement of rules? (5) Are there circumstances when
rules should be broken?
Invite a reporter or an editor from your local newspaper to address
the class. Ask the reporter to explain how news stories are selected
and prioritized, and what procedures they must follow to confirm
reports they hear. For example, if a student told a story such as
Philip's, what would the reporter feel was necessary to confirm
the story before it could be printed? How would they handle conflicting
reports? If it later turned out that the incident was less serious
than their article suggested, or a person accused was innocent,
would they print a new story with the whole truth? Allow time for
students to ask questions.
- Express Yourself.
Have students choose a free-expression issue that is in the news.
Suggest they read the Constitution of the United States to see in
which part freedom of expression is guaranteed. Ask students: What
are some examples of relevant court cases in the news? Do you favor
one side or the other? Have them summarize their findings and express
- Mock Election.
In this project, students will conduct a mock election for the school
board in your district. The issue of "free speech" was central to
the novel. Include this or another controversial topic in the campaign.
Their task is to work cooperatively to research election and campaign
procedures, choose issues in the district, create campaign platforms
and literature, and walk through the procedure and forms. After the
campaign, students should elect the candidate who has best addressed
- Divide students into groups to research school board election procedures
in your district. Assign groups different questions such as: How and
when should an interested candidate announce candidacy for the election?
What forms must be filed? By what date? What public forums are available
for candidates to address the public? Do local groups hold candidates'
nights? Are they televised? Does the local paper print a statement
for every candidate? How may candidates obtain funds for the campaign?
Are any sources of funding forbidden? What issues were addressed in
the last campaign? Are any issues under discussion for the next campaign?
Have groups report their findings to the class.
- After research is completed, groups become campaign committees.
Each committee should select a school board candidate. Allow the class
to brainstorm and discuss what they perceive as major issues in the
school district. As a class, have students select three to five major
issues for candidates to address in their platforms.
- Circulate the campaign literature. Stage a candidate's forum where
each candidate presents his or her platform and views. Encourage class
members to ask questions. When forums have finished, have each member
in the class vote for the candidate who presented the best platform,
and did the best job of addressing the campaign issues. Have students
use the same method of voting now used in your district, such as secret
- Philip's Favorite Book.
In Nothing but the Truth, the novel Philip likes best is The
Outsiders. Have students read The Outsiders. Instruct
them to decide what elements in the novel appeal to Philip and why.
Have them write a critique of the book from Phillip's point of view,
explaining why he likes it.