'Brave New World' prepares students for life
Apparently some parents in the Cape Henlopen School District are taking exception to Aldus Huxley’s “Brave New World” being used in an advanced placement class at the high school. I find this hard to believe. The book is a classic. It was first published in 1932 and it still has great relevance today. In fact, as technology advances the book’s relevance only increases.
In the 1970s I was teaching the “Junior Project on Mental Health, Mental Illness and Mental Retardation” at the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University in New York. The course was a six-credit requirement for students in the Bachelor of Social Work program. My only textbook was “Brave New World.”
My students enjoyed the book and I found it invaluable in our discussions. Any student in an advanced placement course is taking a college level course. College is a place for intellectual and emotional growth. Things that challenge students to think are exactly what the students need.
In 1973 a school board banned Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughter House Five” - a book inspired by the fire-bombing of Dresden during World War II. The ban was eventually overturned. I knew one of the students who fought to have the ban lifted. She was a high school student and she was legally a minor. She was an excellent advocate for education. She was a thinker.
Our children are not going to mature if we attempt to keep them in an intellectual plastic bubble. Ironically, mind control was one of the issues discussed in “Brave New World.” Ironically, about a year after the publication of “Brave New World,” the Nazis began burning books they deemed unacceptable.
I have spent most of my adult life treating people with severe emotional problems. Children who are ill prepared to deal with the world do not do well. Our duty as parents is to prepare our children for the responsibilities and challenges of adulthood. There is nothing in “Brave New World” that will hurt a high school student. On the other hand, sending a message to our children that they are too fragile to think is harmful and potentially debilitating.