Before teaching Orwell’s 1984, Andrew Simmons turns his 12th-grade classroom into a totalitarian state, he writes in The Atlantic.
It starts with a campaign against “senioritis.” Told that another class is to blame, students are offered a higher grade for filing “daily reports on another student’s work habits and conduct.”
At first, posters feature the teacher’s face and slogans about the dangers of senioritis. Students chant a creed to start each class.
After a week, the cult of personality comes to the fore.
The new slogans are simpler: my name, mostly. My image is everywhere. I change the rules, requiring students to obtain more points in order to pass. I restrict previously granted privileges, like the right to leave the room to use the bathroom. I subtract points for subjectively noted lapses in conviction. I fabricate a resistance movement and vow to stamp out the ignorant opposition to our noble cause.
“A good teacher shows students how to discern clickbait from reported stories and to . . . examine how media outlets interpret and spin events,” writes Simmons.
I am ecstatic to be a teacher at this time in American history. I have a responsibility . . . to shore up their critical faculties, to make them more skilled readers, writers, and thinkers. And to also make them decent, compassionate, alert, engaged truth-seekers, neither callous, fearful Party enablers nor complacent, dead-eyed Proles who poke their iPhones and scoff at memes and chirp their discontent in brief blips of coherence.