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Letter Defending Brave New World in Cape Henlopen, Delaware - April 2014

Letter Defending Brave New World in Cape Henlopen, Delaware - April 2014

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Published by ncacensorship
We are writing to express our concern about the controversy that has arisen over Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in Advanced Placement (AP) English classes in the Cape Henlopen School District, and in particular the suggestion that parents should be forewarned about content in the book which some consider “inappropriate.” We are gratified that there is no current proposal to remove the book from the curriculum, since doing so would raise serious constitutional questions. However, we suggest that warnings that invite objections to a book like Brave New World, which has indisputable educational value, would also raise constitutional issues and wreak havoc on the educational program in the district.
We are writing to express our concern about the controversy that has arisen over Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in Advanced Placement (AP) English classes in the Cape Henlopen School District, and in particular the suggestion that parents should be forewarned about content in the book which some consider “inappropriate.” We are gratified that there is no current proposal to remove the book from the curriculum, since doing so would raise serious constitutional questions. However, we suggest that warnings that invite objections to a book like Brave New World, which has indisputable educational value, would also raise constitutional issues and wreak havoc on the educational program in the district.

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Published by: ncacensorship on Apr 10, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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04/21/2014

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A project of the National Coalition Against Censorship
CO-SPONSORED BY
 
American Booksellers Foundation for Free ExpressionComic Book Legal Defense FundAssociation of American Publishers
19 Fulton Street Suite 407 New York NY 10038 :: 212-807-6222 :: www.ncac.or/Kids-Riht-to-Read ::
TWITTER
 @KidsRiht2Read ::
FACEBOOK 
 /ncacor
 Kids’ Right to Read Project
NCAC
School Board Members Cape Henlopen Public School District 1270 Kings Highway Lewes, DE 19958April 9, 2014Dear Board Members, We are writing to express our concern about the controversy that has arisen over Aldous Huxley’s
 Brave New World 
 in Advanced Placement (AP) English classes in the Cape Henlopen School District, and in particular the suggestion that par-ents should be forewarned about content in the book which some consider “inappropriate.”
We are gratied that there is
no current proposal to remove the book from the curriculum, since doing so would raise serious constitutional questions. However, we suggest that warnings that invite objections to a book like
 Brave New World 
, which has indisputable educa-tional value, would also raise constitutional issues and wreak havoc on the educational program in the district.
 Brave New World 
 is one of the 20
th
 century’s classic works of dystopian speculative ction. In this novel, Aldous Hux
-
ley imagines a future society in which individual freedom has been sacriced in the name of scientic advancement and
social stability. Huxley’s novel poses enduringly salient questions about society’s values, science and individualism, and challenges students to think critically about the society portrayed in
 Brave New World 
 as well as our own. The book is a
classic text taught in high school classrooms across the country, it is recommended by the International Baccalaureate and
is on Advanced Placement (AP) lists, and it has appeared on the AP exam three times in the last ten years. Focusing on content that someone
might 
 consider inappropriate or objectionable inevitably takes material out of context and distorts the meaning of the book. While there is shock value in isolating passages from a book, this does not reveal anything about the fundamental message or theme in a work or provide insight into its literary and educational qualities,
which must be the focus of school ofcials responding to such challenges.
Dozens of highly regarded books routinely taught in high school contain language and situations similar to those in
 Brave  New World,
 including works that appear frequently on the AP exam, such as
Ulysses
,
Catcher in the Rye
,
Catch-22,
 
1984
,
 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Slaughterhouse-Five, As I Lay Dying 
, not to mention the works of Dostoyevsky, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. As these examples suggest, any attempt “to eliminate everything that is objectionable...will leave public schools in shreds. Nothing but educational confusion and a discrediting of the public school system can result....”
 McCollum v. Board of Educ.
 332 U.S. 203 (1948) (Jackson, J. concurring).
It is clear that the removing the book would raise serious constitutional issues. The First Amendment precludes public ofcials from suppressing ideas simply because some people nd them offensive or controversial. The Supreme Court has cautioned that school ofcials “may not remove books from library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas con
-tained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’”
 Board of Education v. Pico
, 457 U.S. 853, 872 (1982) (plurality opinion).

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