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Linda Thomas

Brave New World approved in Seattle

Brave New World will remain on the list of approved materials Seattle high school teachers may use in their language arts curriculum.

The Seattle School Board vote last night to continue allowing its schools to use the book was unanimous.

"I am opposed to banning of any book," says Harium Martin-Morris. "If we go down that road, it is a road that is a dangerous one. Do we now say we won't do Huckleberry Finn because of its portrayal of African Americans. Do we get rid of Native Sun ? The list goes on and on."

He called these kinds of books an "opportunity to talk candidly with our students - our very capable and knowledgeable and quite frankly very savvy high school students - about these topics."

I was the first to write about the Brave New World controversy last month.

Nathan Hale High School parent Sarah Sense-Wilson objected to the book her daughter had to read for one of her 10th grade classes.

"I was outraged when I read through the book. I had to keep putting it down because it was so hurtful," Sense-Wilson said. "It was traumatizing to read how Indian people were being depicted."

The text has a "high volume of racially offensive derogatory language and misinformation on Native Americans. In addition to the inaccurate imagery, and stereotype views, the text lacks literary value which is relevant to today's contemporary multicultural society," she says.

Nathan Hale responded to her concerns by removing the book from its curriculum. Sense-Wilson then wanted all Seattle Schools to pull the book from their instructional options.

Board Director Betty Patu says the majority of emails she's received from parents indicated they do not want the district to remove the book, but to make sure that if kids read the book "there is some kind of education that goes with it."

Another board member, Peter Maier, says he re-read the book recently and it is clearly satirical. He supports making the Aldous Huxley novel available as a high school text.

BraveNewWorldSet in the year 2540, the book depicts a world in which everyone's life is predetermined. Boys and girls are conditioned at birth to fulfill already designated societal roles. As a result, everyone grows up happy. Or, almost everyone. The conflict in the novel arises when a few people try to fight the system that's running and ruining their lives.

While the book is the center of a new controversy in Seattle, the debate about the fictional story has gone on for decades. The American Library Association ranks Brave New World as number 36 on the list of the top 100 books people have either banned or tried to ban. Objections are generally because of drug or sexual references, rather than being a slam against Native Americans.

"I don't believe that censorship is the right answer," says Steve Sundquist, board vice president. "If a teacher wants to teach this text, clearly I want it done in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way."

Board members apologized that the Nathan Hale parent and student thought the book was taught in an "insensitive" way.

Sense-Wilson was in the audience of the Seattle School Board meeting last night when directors voted to approved continued use of Brave New World.

Board President Michael DeBell added Sense-Wilson was "brave" to challenge the book.

"In the heart of a very liberal city like Seattle it is not necessarily an easy task," he says. "This lesson Ms. Sense-Wilson has offered to the community is that we have to be thoughtful. Our teachers have to be very thoughtful in the use of these kinds of materials."

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About Linda
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio. This is her local news blog, with an emphasis on social media, technology, Northwest companies, education, parenting, and anything else that grabs her attention.

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