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Teaching Guide

Teaching Brave New World

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Brave New World might feel old (published in 1932), but as the title says, it's also very new: it's a strangely prescient vision of a future that has, in some ways, come true. Unlike in the novel, though, literature hasn't been outlawed—lucky for us. We want to keep literature and education alive, and this guide is one way to do it.

In this guide you will find

  • literary and historical resources about George Orwell, the history of drug use in America, and much more.
  • essay questions exploring the novel's relationship to the Bard.
  • lots of assignments, including one researching the "F" in "A.F.": Henry Ford

You don't need to pass out psychotropic drugs for students to fully understand Brave New World—all you need is this teaching guide.

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  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Sure, Aldous Huxley died 50-plus years ago, but through the miracle of modern technology, your students can still attend one of his author talks. Sort of. 

Your students will watch and listen as a young Mike Wallace interviews Aldous Huxley in 1958. They'll answer critical questions about the interview, participate in classroom discussion, and then (dun-dun-dun) make a few of their own predictions for the future. As a final step, students will present one or more of their predictions to the class and see which predictions they believe are most likely to prove prophetic. 

Length of Lesson: 1-2 class periods.

Materials Needed:

Step 1:  Let your students know you'll be watching a video today, but before you get into it, be sure to go over the study questions below. Your students will be seeking answers to these questions as they watch, so it will be helpful for them to see them in advance.

  1. What forces and/or devices does Huxley identify as potential enemies of freedom in the U.S.? List as many as you can.
  2. Politically speaking, what kind of governmental system does Huxley believe will thrive if things don't change?
  3. How does Huxley view television (which was relatively new as a fixture in people's houses at the time)? 
  4. What predictions does Huxley make when Wallace asks him to describe the "brave new world" he foresees?
  5. Huxley says at one point, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." What does he mean?
  6. Because we are living in the future relative to Mike Wallace and Aldous Huxley in this video, there's a bit of dramatic irony when Wallace mentions Nixon. Why? 
  7. What actions does Huxley suggest we could take to prevent a whole BNW scenario from occurring?
  8. Wallace refers to Huxley as a "prophet of decentralization." Huh? What does he mean?
  9. Mike Wallace suggests that the former Soviet Union is an example of a productive society without freedom. How does Huxley counter this argument?

Step 2: Break out the popcorn (or whatever movie-day appropriate snack is sanctioned in your classroom) and set up the big screen (however big it may or may not be). Play Mike Wallace's interview with Aldous Huxley for your students. 

Step 3: When the video is over, give your students 10-15 minutes to finish jotting down answers to the questions. 

NOTE: If you have a short class period (45 minutes), you may need to break here. If so, have your students finish answering the questions for homework and complete Steps 4-6 in class tomorrow. 

Step 4: Lead your students through a discussion of the questions and their overall responses to the interview. 

Step 5: Follow up your discussion by giving your students 10 minutes to freewrite on the following topic. (If you haven't had your students freewrite before, you may want to go over the "rules," as defined by writer and poet Natalie Goldberg.) 

Here's the prompt:

Wallace and Huxley discuss how "the free world," as Wallace calls it, could change in the next 50 years (which for them would have been 2008), and potentially become more like the society depicted in Brave New World. Take a minute to consider the ways in which you expect the world to change in the next fifty years—fifty years from today. What new technologies could exist by then? How might our society change? Freewrite for ten minutes and try to make some predictions of your own.  

Step 6: When your students are done freewriting, have each of them share their best predictions with the class. Write their predictions on the board and let the class vote for the ones they believe are most likely to prove prophetic. 

Instructions for Your Students

Sure, Aldous Huxley died 50-plus years ago, but through the miracle of modern technology, you can still attend one of his author talks. Sort of. 

We kind of wonder how Huxley would feel about the fact that he's been preserved on video for future generations. It does, after all, seem very Brave New World-ish.  

Ah well, regardless of how he may or may not have felt about it, you're going to watch Huxley being interviewed by Mike Wallace in 1958. You'll hear some of his predictions for the future (as he saw it, 50+ years ago), and before we're done, you'll have a chance to make a few predictions of your own—for 50 years from now.

Step 1:  Woohoo! It's video time, but don't kick back just yet. Before you get into the video, take a minute to go over the study questions below. You'll be seeking answers to these questions as you watch, so it will be helpful to know what you're looking for in advance.

  1. What forces and/or devices does Huxley identify as potential enemies of freedom in the U.S.? List as many as you can.
  2. Politically speaking, what kind of governmental system does Huxley believe will thrive if things don't change?
  3. How does Huxley view television (which was relatively new as a fixture in people's houses at the time)? 
  4. What predictions does Huxley make when Wallace asks him to describe the "brave new world" he foresees?
  5. Huxley says at one point, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." What does he mean?
  6. Because we are living in the future relative to Mike Wallace and Aldous Huxley in this video, there's a bit of dramatic irony when Wallace mentions Nixon. Why? 
  7. What actions does Huxley suggest we could take to prevent a whole BNW scenario from occurring?
  8. Wallace refers to Huxley as a "prophet of decentralization." Huh? What does he mean?
  9. Mike Wallace suggests that the former Soviet Union is an example of a productive society without freedom. How does Huxley counter this argument?

Step 2: Break out the popcorn (or whatever movie-day appropriate snack is sanctioned in your classroom) and turn your attention to the big screen (however big it may or may not be). Watch Mike Wallace's interview with Aldous Huxley and jot down answers to the questions.

Step 3: When the video is over, take 10-15 minutes to finish jotting down your answers to the questions. 

NOTE: If you have a short class period (45 minutes), you may need to break here. If so, finish answering the questions for homework. 

Step 4: In class, discuss your answers to the questions and your overall reaction to the interview. 

Step 5: Now it's your turn to make a few predictions for the future. You'll have 10 minutes to freewrite* on the following topic: 

Wallace and Huxley discuss how "the free world," as Wallace calls it, could change in the next 50 years (which for them would have been 2008), and potentially become more like the society depicted in Brave New World. Take a minute to consider the ways in which you expect the world to change in the next fifty years—fifty years from today. What new technologies could exist by then? How might our society change? Freewrite for ten minutes and try to make some predictions of your own.  

*If you haven't done any freewriting before, check out the "rules," of freewriting as defined by writer and poet Natalie Goldberg. 

Step 6: Choose your best prediction and share it with the class. Your teacher will record everyone's predictions on the board, and then you'll get a chance to vote for whichever predictions you believe are most likely to prove prophetic. 

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10

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