Controversy in the Classroom

Humans have been writing literature since as early as 2400 BC. For as long as books have existed, the controversy that accompanies their material has existed as well. Throughout American history, many people have complained about teaching highly controversial books in high school literature classes. Controversial books such as “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley.

North Springs teacher Lee Williams has been teaching “Catcher in the Rye” to her tenth grade honors classes, despite the massive controversy over the free-spirited main character Holden Caufield. The book was most disputed right around its publication in 1951. “The book was published when America was in a state of changing. Everything the main character, Holden Caufield, stood for was the opposite of what was expected,” said Williams. The controversy mainly targeted the story’s focus on the darker side of human nature, not the “white picket fence”-type families that were expected.

Though some people were opposed to the material covered in “Catcher in the Rye,” it is a fantastic book for teenagers because of the easily relatable material. The book is a fantastic outlet for people of all ages who do not fit into the “cookie cutter” archetype of the all-American family. “Catcher in the Rye” is especially important to teach to teenagers because “It is very important to show kids that they aren’t the only ones who go through the ups and downs of adolescence,” said Williams.

Another controversial book being taught in North Springs curriculum is “Brave New World,” a 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley. “Brave New World” has been banned multiple times, including in Ireland the year it was published. What makes the book so controversial is the surface content including sex and drugs. However, as Huxley intentionally wrote the book as a satire, the real plot is in the political characteristics of the Utopian London setting.

Providing an academic environment for discussion of the more controversial material of “Brave New World” allows Erin King, a tenth grade honors teacher as well, to teach the more contentious material in her lessons. “I believe the students at this school are smart enough to see beyond the promiscuity and have great discussions about the important parts of the book, the society,” says King. Most parents have had a positive reaction to finding out their children are studying the famous book in school, despite the controversial background elements.

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