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Perspective: Please listen to Mr. Orwell

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Markus Spiske
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George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 were written as a warning about autocratic/totalitarian states, namely Stalin’s Soviet Union. Animal Farm is a parable of how those states coming into being, while 1984 paints a clear, bleak and horrific picture of life once those states are established. There are many chilling concepts both of these novels, but the one I find the most disturbing comes from 1984 and the “Ministry of Truth.” The concept that if one destroys words, one thereby narrows the range of thought, which then creates a person who is capable of easy manipulation, who then accepts lies as truth, and then becomes solely dependent on the state for everything.

The first half of U.S. history is replete with the idea of the absolute necessity for an educated populace. Without and educated populace, the great fear was demagogues threatening our democratic republic with false claims and promises.

But here we sit in 2022, where demagogues and fringe groups are again challenging books and ideas that good, bad or ugly, are either very American or very human. The movement isn’t that different from the goal of the Ministry of Truth in 1984. Except this time around, state legislators are taking the lead in these movements, setting up teachers to be “thought criminals,” with reports of groups in some states offering bounties on teachers.

I fear for the profession that was bleeding teachers and administrators before the pandemic that has now turned into a wholesale hemorrhage. For the sake of your kids and your country, please listen to Mr. Orwell.

Andrew Nelson has been involved in public education in northern Illinois for more than three decades.