Lanterns: High School English Teacher Assigns Orwell's 1984, Ties Text to Current Political Climate


High School English Teacher Assigns Orwell's 1984, Ties Text to Current Political Climate

A high school senior Advanced Placement English class in Rochester, New York was given the opportunity to earn extra credit this past month. The assignment-- read George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, 1984, and contribute in a discussion tying the horrifying elements of the novel to the current political climate in the United States. 

It seemed harmless on the surface, as there was even a disclaimer at the bottom of the assignment which welcomed political views of all kinds. But obviously, the discussion inevitably turned hostile towards the Trump administration, whose actions were bound to be tied to those of the government depicted in 1984.

Prior to reading the novel, a CNN clip was shown which argued for the relevance of the text due to its rising sales following the November elections.

Students were to purchase their own copy of the novel, read and annotate the text, and come to their own conclusion as to whether or not the text is relevant. 

With all of this in mind, it comes as no surprise that the majority of students would come to the conclusion that the text is very relevant, and that the common sense policies of the Trump administration to secure our country’s borders and begin to restore American morals are to blame. The attacks on Trump based on the book first targeted his personality, but soon turned ugly towards Americans of any kind who still hold to western family values including traditional marriage, the protection of the unborn, and the Judeo-Christian teachings the United States was founded upon. 

The White House, which has already begun cutting wasteful and corrupt government programs, was ironically labeled as fascist and tyrannical, despite their best efforts to keep the size of government at a minimum. Since the underlying issue within the novel that Orwell warns readers about is a government which has become out of control in size, it seems odd that the discussion would label the Trump administration, one which has done everything in its power to cut government, in this way. 

The very shallow interpretation of today’s political climate is fueled by unsubstantiated claims about the President himself based on his personality. In reality, based on the actual policies which were mostly neglected, the current political climate seems to be moving society further from a totalitarian government such as the one depicted in the novel. 

Of course, the teacher has not done anything inherently wrong by handing out this assignment and subjecting her students to anti-Trump rhetoric. After all, it was their choice whether or not to attend the discussion meeting in order to boost their grade, and the first amendment protects even the ridiculous assessment that the current political climate can be compared to the novel due to this past November’s elections. 

In this case, however, what is technically an exercise of first amendment rights is also a contributing factor to the deterioration of American schools and the assault on American morals and values in the presence of our youth. Everything discussed at the meeting, including religion, traditional values, and the rule of law, came under attack because they were said to be moving society towards a dystopian world. 

This type of indoctrination is the most difficult to combat in schools because no one is breaking any rules by incorporating it. This is merely one teacher, doing her best to turn her students against the way many of them were raised. 

The same teacher, firsthand witnesses described, has used as a resource in the past and has spent a great deal of class time discussing the interpretation of literary works through Marxist and feminist points of view. She has also presented the unsubstantiated claims of there being a scientifically supported “third gender” as fact, completely disregarding traditional and logical views of family construction. 

“Everything she talks about has something to do with gender,” one student remarked.

Another student stated, “She doesn’t prepare us for the exam, she just tells us why we shouldn’t listen to our parents or anyone who believes the Bible.” 

Thankfully, some students see through the rhetoric and have emerged from the assignment with a much stronger grip on both the novel, 1984 and the current political climate in the United States. 

One student commented, “I think it’s crazy to say that Trump is doing any of the stuff Orwell talked about in the book just because he wants to build a wall and keep illegals out.” He continued, “If anything, I’d say Obama and the Democrats should be compared to the tyrants in the book.”

There is hope for America’s youth, but there’s also substantial reason to be concerned. American universities and even high schools are going down a slippery slope by being politically partisan to an unprecedented degree. At this point, we can only hope that there are enough young voices who will stand up to indoctrination and that the federal education requirements will stay out of where they don’t belong and keep our schools focused on truly educating our country’s youth. 

Written by Jonathan Goehring

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