In Mod 1 this fall semester, Magnus Bjorgum ’24 taught a course exploring the profound impact of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which was published in 1932. Bjorgum described it as a book about a dystopian future where the world is controlled by one government and the populace is separated into different castes and programmed to enjoy their caste. People then seek out the pleasure of games, sex, and drugs.
The idea for this student-led course originated last year when Bjorgum asked Marc Alongi, Sequoyah’s High School Director, if he could contribute something about Brave New World to Sequoyah. Bjorgum is a huge fan of the book, but did not necessarily think he was going to teach a class. Alongi suggested the idea of a Brave New World Z-Block. Co-Dean of Students Cliff Mason II explained the process of getting the Z-Block started: “Magnus had to essentially draft a course proposal and a syllabus. On the syllabus there were essential questions. Marc and I reviewed the proposal and the syllabus and that was it.” Surprisingly, Bjorgum found the preparatory work for his Z-Block on top of normal schoolwork wasn’t too stressful. He knew the book so well he was able to design the syllabus and the discussion questions without the help of an advisor.
The Z-Block took place in August and September of 2023. Every night, students would have several pages from the novel to read for homework. The next day, the class would discuss what they had read, and at the end of the mod, the class had a project. The project was to come up with and design anything the students wanted to do that was related to the book. One student made a slide show comparing Brave New World and another book, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, while another student wrote a poem depicting vignettes of a day in a potential future dystopian America.
Now, you may be wondering, with all of the books in the entire world, why choose Brave New World? “I am a huge fan,” says Bjorgum. “It wasn’t like I asked Marc if I could teach a class and then decided Brave New World after that. I asked him if I could do a thing about Brave New World because I feel like it’s super relevant to teenagers.”
Tingri Monahan, a 12th grade student, shared what she loved about the class: “I loved the class; I thought it was really interesting. I signed up for it without knowing what it was going to be and I didn’t know it was going to be student-led, but I am always such a big advocate for students having advocacy in their own learning and taking learning into their own hands.”
With the success of Bjorgum’ course, it’s easy to imagine a brave new world where more Sequoyah students become the teachers.