You become what Orwell warned you about when you can’t bear the warnings.
We live in times that are more common than mere parlance. “Beyond the parody” is frequently invoked to illustrate a news item that seriously defies common sense. In similar fashion, the wry phrase, ”Orwell was not meant to be a manual but a warning.” is directed at those oblivious that they are resorting to the very thought-control tactics that were laid out in cautionary fashion in the famed author’s most famous work.
Now — either oblivious to, or in defiance of those very terms — a British university has decided it is necessary to place a warning label on the very novel that has long preached against oppressive controlled thought. Amazingly, the Daily Mail reported that Orwell faces cancellation.
As one of the greatest works in Britain’s literary canon, Nineteen Eighty-Four sounds a chilling warning about the dangers of censorship. Now staff at the University of Northampton have issued a trigger warning for George Orwell’s novel on the grounds that it contains ‘explicit material’ which some students may find ‘offensive and upsetting’.
A course called “The Course” is offered to students. Identity under Construction are warned that some of the content can address challenging issues, and some of the contained content might be found to be offensive and/or upsetting. George Orwell’s classic warning against institutional thought control is among those works tabbed with such a warning, as the learning institution sees the need to control the thoughts of the minds they are molding.
In their youth, college freshmen walked into campuses ready to face new challenges and be exposed to different ideas. They are more likely to walk onto campuses with the expectation that others will not offend them and that their views won’t be challenged.
To add to the confusion, the university refused to provide any information. Only after submitting a Freedom of Information Act request did the Daily Mail learn more. The university spokesperson was contacted by the newspaper. While I wouldn’t attempt to silence anyone, I don’t mind suggesting that it may have been in their best interests to refrain from speaking.
We explain this to potential applicants during the hiring process. It is likely that they will be required to read challenging texts. As they move through their studies, tutors will reinforce these points. Some texts may be difficult for students, so we have taken this into consideration when designing our courses.
Can’t have those students challenged, now can we, gov’na? There is at least one reasonable voice in the debate. Orwell biographer David Taylor said: “I think 13-year-olds might find some scenes in the novel disturbing, but I don’t think anyone of undergraduate age is really shocked by a book anymore.” That’s a good summation of things. Secondary education is being offered to adults at the same level as prepubescents.
There is a reason the term “woke” evolved from an initial claim of enlightened thought to now being used as an insult upon those who resort to the manipulative altering of standards. This speaks volumes about the tendency of college students to be sophomoric thinkers.