Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dear Mr. Huxley, I wish this wasn't the case...

See, even Mr. Huxley can't believe it.
A Brave New World is under attack yet again, but not for sex this time.  No, this time a mother/daughter team has decided that because the book contains depictions of "Native savages" that it should be removed from the curriculum immediately.  There are several problems here.

The first problem revolves around the "Native savages" themselves.  Huxley's book was published in the 1930s and attitudes toward Native Americans were very different than they are today.  Attitudes change, but the text, since it is printed, does not.  It becomes a social artifact that reminds us of how we have treated people, placed them into categories, presented them as stereotypes.  These depictions are lessons in change, not something that should be taken as offensive in an entirely different social setting.  This is the exact same thing that is happening with To Kill a Mockingbird and the use of the "N word."  Again, it's contextual and reveals social attitudes during specific time periods.  The words are on the page already: Deal with it!

Secondly, the mother declared that "We are not about book burning and we're not radicals.... We're not trying to in any way censor that book, we're just saying it does not belong in high school. It is not appropriate for the curriculum."  Well, unfortunately getting a book removed from a curriculum for unfounded or personal reasons can be considered a form of censorship, especially since the school chose to comply so readily.

What I find just as difficult to understand, is the willingness of schools to sacrifice their teachers so readily.  The teachers who help choose and refine classroom texts and lessons, and those who put so much effort into defending their decisions, are turned away so easily:
The chair of the language arts department, Shannon Conner, defended the merits of the book calling it a "superb warning book about our future. Huxley cautions his future readers from becoming too reliant on, and compliant with, technology." But at the same time, the high school apologized and determined that the "cultural insensitivity embedded in this book makes it an inappropriate choice as a central text in our 10th grade curriculum."
I really don't know what to say.  It's infuriating, saddening, and discouraging to know how easy it is to force your own personal views onto entire schools and larger populations.  This woman and her daughter could have easily asked for an alternative text to work with, but instead they felt it necessary to take the book entirely out of the curriculum in an attempt to prove that they were somehow wrongly harmed by reading a book that could have served as a learning experience regarding social attitudes over time.  Needless to say, I'm incredibly disappointed.


  1. Part of me wonders if this mother would also like to ban Disney's "Peter Pan" from her local video stores as well.

  2. She certainly should! The "What Makes the Red Man Red" scene in Peter Pan is racist without nany redeeming sociopolitical message!