Brave new analysis: Abington professor's book mines lessons from Huxley novels

ABINGTON, Pa. -- Ronald Zigler, associate professor of educational psychology at Penn State Abington, just published “The Educational Prophecies of Aldous Huxley: The Visionary Legacy of 'Brave New World,' 'Ape and Essence' and 'Island.'” It's the first book to focus exclusively on the classic novels as well as an interdisciplinary examination of their relevance in the world today.

Zigler contends the Huxley works are modern morality tales that challenge readers to reconsider the foundations of our culture. He assesses each novel and offers insights into the educational, cultural and technological changes that have shaped our society.

"I see parallels between our world and all three of Huxley’s social visions although 'Brave New World' receives the most attention," he said. "Huxley was concerned with precarious nature of democracy and democratic values in the wake of changes he prophesied that have come to define our culture."

Zigler said he considered the novels together, although Huxley wrote them over a 30-year span, because they demonstrate a progression.

"'Brave New World' is a pseudo- or anti-utopia, and 'Ape' is clearly dystopian,” he said. “In 'Island,' Huxley proposed a utopian but not too idealistic society that manages its growth and problems competently. It’s the remedy to the other two scenarios."

Similarly, Zigler describes his own book as both descriptive of current society and prescriptive of a direction for positive change to prevent one of the tragic futures Huxley presented.

“'Brave New World' and 'Ape' describe things in our current society that are undermining our humanity," he said. "For example, the caste system. We have a caste system today based on knowledge or lack of it."

Brave New World

Ronald Zigler said our society is developing a caste system just as Huxley prophesied in his landmark novel.

Image: Chatto and Windus

Zigler said the book represents the culmination of 40 years of reflection on education and human potential. He conceived it about a decade ago, collecting his notes in a shoebox to incubate. His passion to examine these ideas drove him to renew the six volumes of Huxley's essays from the library an astounding 39 times.

Zigler, who arrived at Abington almost 20 years ago, earned his doctorate from University of Cincinnati. He taught transcendental meditation in Europe in the 1970s as well as high school in Maryland for several years.

On a personal level, Zigler said the book is his horcrux -- in the Harry Potter lexicon, a way of anchoring of one's soul to Earth.

"If you read between the lines, it's my autobiography. I write about issues I've been considering since the 1960s," he said. "I told my daughter she will always find a part of me in this book."

Learn more about Zigler at http://www.abington.psu.edu/academics/faculty/dr-ronald-l-zigler.

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Last Updated July 28, 2017