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17 November 2010

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hope

Tricky. I haven't read Brave New World, so I'm going to have to step back and say I just don't know if the benefits of the book are outweighed by representations of Native Americans that we would now find offensive. I'd love to see a discussion, though, on how we might all agree on how to judge these things *before* they actually come up.

Leila

Well, it was written in 1932, and it's set in 2540. So there's that -- the dystopian element didn't come up in the article.

It's a very similar argument used by people who challenge Huck Finn. And, for that matter, the recent challenge of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes was partly because of the depiction of Christians. So there's that.

However the challenge goes, it goes. But it does bother me when people say that they aren't doing (or attempting to do) something that they really are doing. Like I said, just own it.

dangermom

Yes, the Native Americans are described as "savages." But who describes them that way? Oh yeah, it's the dissipated, drugged-out Fordians. The Natives are depicted as having a much healthier culture than the 'civilized' folks who are so afraid of them--a bit noble savage really, but they are by far the most normal people in the book.

Loretta Ross

What I remember from Brave New World is the "feelies" -- like movies but with tactical sensations. They went to one and it was about (if I'm remembering this right, haven't read it since high school mumblemumble years ago) a black man who got a head injury and tried to enter into an "abnormal" monogamous relationship. His friends contrived to heal him somehow and they all had an orgy on a bearskin rug. I thought of that recently when there was some movie with an earthquake and they used sound in the theaters to make people feel the quake.

Today, aftershocks, tomorrow, virtual sex! :D

beth

Well, in her defense she isn't trying to get the book banned from the school. That's probably what she considers censoring. She's fine with having the book in the library, she just doesn't want it as a mandatory part of the curriculum.

I do see the point; it's rather distracting to be belittled and insulted in a book that you are supposed to be analyzing for themes and relevance. Obviously we have to put things in context, but when selecting a book for a curriculum you need to weigh the good against the bad, not just ignore the bad. If the textbook committee had just never noticed the ethnic slurs, then that's a problem and it makes sense to change things until they can make a reasonable decision.

hope

Yes, if I were sitting on the council that reviewed this matter and the teachers said, "See, these are our lesson plans, and this is how we intend to address the issue," I'd feel very differently than if they said, "Ethnic slurs? What ethnic slurs?"

beth

Yes. Exactly that. OWN what you say and do.

Colleen

I'm in the Seattle tv zone so watched reports on this last night where they talked to some kids in the high school. The prevailing opinion was that if it upset students then it shouldn't be in the classroom although one kid said that was the biggest reason why it should be there. In a country where the FSU mascot is a Seminole & they do the "tomahawk chop" during their fight song and there are the Washington Redskins and right here - just north of SEA - the local high school is the La Conner Braves (and hello, it's smack dab in the middle of the Swinomish Reservation) well, it seems like we ought to be talking about this subject and a high school classroom where the book is assigned and thus studied and analyzed within an inch of its life seems like the best place.

You're addressing it the best possible way - through its history, where the author was coming from, why Native Americans were addressed a certain derogatory way.

And beyond all that. Stand up and own it or don't even speak.

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