Dina Leygerman is a high school teacher who turns her classroom into a totalitarian regime every year to help teach George Orwell’s novel 1984 to her students. Much like Oceania, rules are strict and students are rewarded for reporting rule-breaking by their peers.
I tell my seniors that in order to battle “Senioritis,” the teachers and admin have adapted an evidence-based strategy, a strategy that has “been implemented in many schools throughout the country and has had immense success.” I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is “Senioritis.” I tell the students that in order to help them succeed, I must implement strict classroom rules.
Leygerman found that the experiment went a little different this year though, the students simply were having none of it. She found herself with a full blown rebellion on her hands as students protested and fought back.
The President of the SGA, whom I don’t even teach, wrote an email demanding an end to this “program.” He wrote that this program is “simply fascism at its worst. Statements such as these are the base of a dictatorship rule, this school, as well as this country cannot and will not fall prey to these totalitarian behaviors.” I did everything in my power to fight their rebellion. I “bribed” the President of the SGA. I “forced” him to publicly “resign.” And, yet, the students did not back down. They fought even harder. They were more vigilant. They became more organized. They found a new leader. They were more than ready to fight. They knew they would win in numbers.
There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not authoritarianism can take root in America, the experiment in Leygerman’s classroom is an inspiring window into the resistance that will thankfully be found in the nation’s youth. Add to this the movement started by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL and it’s looking more and more like the youth will be our saving grace. A glimmering sign of hope as the generation who’s parents lived through World War II and the Great Depression certainly don’t appear up to the task.