School official defends text as 'excellent example of satire'
By BEN WEATHERS Staff Writer
A novel nearly 80 years old is stirring up fresh controversy at North County High School. A small group of parents is circulating a petition to have Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" removed from use by county schools over concerns about the book's explicit sexual content. The 1932 novel depicts a dystopian future where science and technology have run amok resulting in a morally bankrupt society.
"If you were to have images in what is depicted by this book - you would go to jail," said petition organizer David J. Cole of Linthicum. "If that's the type of literature that (the schools) think is appropriate for children … I disagree with that."
The 38-year-old father of three, including, a 15- and 17-year-old at the school, was appalled when he learned that the book was being taught to 10th-graders as part of a pilot Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics program. As of Thursday the small group of parents have collected around 250 signatures and met with a committee of teachers and administrators to try and have the book removed the book not only from the 10th-grade class, but also from the advanced placement honors curriculum, Cole said.
According to school spokesman Bob Mosier, the committee, which includes at least one non-staff adult representative, will meet once more with parents before rendering a decision. Under school policy, if Cole and the other parents are dissatisfied with the committee's decision, they can appeal to the director of curriculum or director of library media service, Superintendent Kevin Maxwell and ultimately to the Board of Education.
Linda Poole, who heads up the Secondary Reading, English and Integrated Literacy program, called the book an "excellent example of satire." The supplemental text deals with ethical issues revolving around science and technology, she explained. "This is a satire written with that in mind - what could happen if science is misused," said Poole. "It is an internationally recognized text." The text was approved for use in AP English countywide in March of 2009, Mosier said. Last spring it was approved and used in the 10th-grade STEM programs at both North County and South River.
While this is the first time that a parent has raised issues with this particular text, educators are always sensitive to such concerns from parents, Mosier said. Teachers will offer an alternative text to meet educational requirements at the request of either parents of students. "When situations like this occur, we are as sensitive as we can be to work with parents," Mosier said. However, for Cole and the other parents who want the book removed from the schools in its entirety, the option of an alternative text is not enough. In addition, there are more than 100 other approved texts that deal with similar issues of totalitarianism and the ethics of science, Cole said.
"If the schools choose to not hear the voice of the parents, we will continue to appeal … and try to get this book removed," said Cole.
This is not the first time that the novel has been challenged. In September 2008, the book was listed on Time magazine's website in a list of commonly banned books
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