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The Rogue Navigator is an exciting sci-fi story geared toward middle-grade and young adult readers. While the first installment of the Children of the Ring series can certainly be appreciated just as a story, it was designed to offer home-school and public-school groups an engaging, accessible introduction to the concepts of Systems Thinking. Below is the existing Discussion Guide. 

You can also download a PDF of the Discussion Guide here.

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Updated 2/11/13

Mardo's home world had been devastated by the Thambrian Hold. He grew up with the belief that all the problems of the universe could be tracked back to that power-hungry empire. He often felt powerless--particularly in an orphanage run by a Thambrian. Engaging in daring stunts like stealing the warden's boxer shorts, or openly intimidating Thad (who was also a Thambrian) made Mardo feel like he had power over something. People often respond to the symptoms of a problem, but not the true cause of the problem itself. Mardo's actions could be called a symptomatic response. The real problem in Mardo's life wasn't the warden or Thad, it was probably his perception of Thambrians. Can we anticipate what might happen if Mardo keeps striking out at the Thambrians in his life? How might those future experiences change or reinforce his beliefs?

Mardo picked on Thad because he was a Thambrian. Thad, who could hack into the computers of Tellahar with just a thought, had little reservations against retaliating. If Mardo knew that Thad was responsible for all the technical glitches and annoyances that plagued Mardo, he would undoubtedly have stepped up his harassment of Thad. This is an example of a feedback loop, in which one behavior affects another, which in turn affects the first, and on and on. But in a feedback loop, we see an escalation: the behaviors get worse, more intense. What might happen between Thad and Mardo, if the feedback loop is left alone? What might it take to reduce the severity of behaviors? Identify some feedback loops in your own life.

Like several of the children in Tellahar, Amian had an aversion to using violence to settle her problems. But Kylo told her that when one side in a conflict begins using violence, the other side must also employ violence, lest they become victims. Do you agree with this idea? Are there examples where Kylo was wrong? Would you say the use of violence is a response to the root of a problem, or the symptoms of the problem? Why?

When Amian was captured by the smugglers, Kylo thought it was a bad thing. In the end, it turned out to be a good thing for Amian. But Amian's arrival in the orphanage turned out to be bad for the orphans... When we look at part of a process, or an incident, it is sometimes difficult to tell what the value of it is. Is it right or wrong? Sometimes the answer changes, depending on who we ask or where we stand. When Lt. Lekusa brought Amian in for interrogation, he commented "Sometimes you have to do what feels wrong to serve the greater good." What does he mean by this? Discuss real world examples of this idea.

And later, when Lt. Lekusa was arrested for insubordination, he told Amian, "Sometimes you have to do what you know is right, even if you can't see any good coming from it." What did he mean by this? Discuss real world examples of this idea.

Farad told Amian that his parents had been smugglers who'd stolen weapons from Earthforce, but that his parents weren't soldiers. They were not on either side in the war, and yet their actions still affected the outcome. Because of what his parents had done years before, Farad had to be hidden away when Earthforce came to Tellahar... Sometimes the cause of an incident can be quite removed from the incident itself. Likewise, the pieces of a process may seem isolated. Their connections can be hidden from view... Causality is when one event leads to another. It might be difficult for us to identify the chain of causality between Aldisado being harassed by the other orphans, and Aldisado stepping up and becoming their leader. Think of a chain of events that led you to be where you are now. What led to you wearing the clothing you're wearing? What led to that action, or choice?

What did Amian mean when she said that her greatest enemy lurked within her? Like Amian, many of the fundamental beliefs we hold were instilled in us before we were aware enough to question those values and beliefs. Most values and beliefs are good, but some can hinder us in life. Mardo believed that all Thambrians were evil, for example. These values and beliefs color the way we view the world. It is unlikely that Mardo would be able to see any kind deed Thad might do as a kindness--in all probability he would view it with deep suspicion. What are some of the common beliefs shared in your community? Discuss the ways in which those beliefs can help the people of your community. Discuss the ways in which their beliefs might hinder them.

The Class simulations were designed around the idea that the past should be played with so that the children could learn from it. Mardo disagreed; he believed that the past was a part of who we are, and to play with it dishonored our heritage. Do you agree with him? Why or why not? Is there another perspective? What value does the past have for you?

In the Class simulation, Mardo commented that peace could not be had where it was not welcome. Do you agree with this? Why or why not? Are there real world examples of struggling groups of people who cannot find peace? Can you think of any alternatives to peace that do not entail violence? Sometimes you will find that people are blind to certain options because of their fundamental values and beliefs. Discuss instances in which one people's idea of peace is not compatible with another group’s idea of peace.

Our vision is a cumulative manifestation of our values. It's the ideal outcome. Sometimes we have difficulty "seeing eye to eye" because we're stuck on the superficial details of our visions, and are unable to connect on the level of values. Consider the example of these starkly differing groups: The Children of Tellahar, and the hyper-dimensional Tolomar. Discuss which values you imagine these two groups would share. Think up, or research, a scenario in which the values of any two groups would be mutually exclusive. That is, a scenario in which the happiness and wellbeing of one group can only be achieved or maintained at the expense of the happiness and wellbeing of another group. How would solutions differ for these groups if the planning began at the level of the values and built up from there, verses beginning with a vision?