Monday, February 26, 2018

This teacher tried to simulate a dictatorship in her classroom. The students crushed her.

Here is a great experiment simulating a dictatorship in one teacher's classroom taught annually by as part of her George Orwell unit with students' reading of his classic text, Nineteen Eighty-Four—that all of us people of conscience must really read—or re-read—as it is so appropriate to these times.  However, this year, the experiment didn't work with Leygerman expressing in the strongest of terms that our generation has a lot to learn from new, powerful voices of young high school students who have well-organized, passionate views on the education to which they are simply entitled, among other things.  

 How encouraging as we think, in particular, about the amazing voices of high school students that are participating in DREAM Act struggles and more recently, gun policy involving youth activists from Florida in the wake of the tragic killings of 17 fellow students there.  Despite these difficult and horrific circumstances, this is assuring that the next generation will help to get us back on track in a world that otherwise seems to be spinning out of control.


February 21, 2018

This teacher tried to simulate a dictatorship in her classroom. The students crushed her.

Each year that I teach the book "1984" I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime under the guise of the "common good."

I run a simulation in which I become a dictator. I tell my students 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. They must raise their hand before doing anything at all, even when asking another student for a pencil. They lose points each time they don’t behave as expected. They gain points by reporting other students. If someone breaks the rule and I don’t see it, it’s the responsibility of the other students to let me know. Those students earn bonus points. I tell students that in order for this plan to work they must "trust the process and not question their teachers." This becomes a school-wide effort. The other teachers and admin join in.

I’ve done this experiment numerous times, and each year I have similar results. This year, however, was different.

This year, a handful of students did fall in line as always. The majority of students, however, rebelled.
Photo by Diana Leygerman, used with permission.
By day two of the simulation, the students were contacting members of administration, writing letters, and creating protest posters. They were organizing against me and against the admin. They were stomping the hallways, refusing to do as they were told.
The president of the Student Government Association, 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.
I ended the experiment two days earlier than I had planned because their rebellion was so strong and overwhelming. For the first time since I’ve done this experiment, the students "won."

What I learned is this: Teenagers will be the ones to save us.

Just like Emma Gonzalez, the teen activist from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, my students did not back down nor conform. They fought for their rights. They won.
Adults can learn a lot from the teens of this generations. Adults are complacent, jaded, and disparaged. Teenagers are ignited, spirited, and take no prisoners. Do not squander their fight. They really are our future. Do not call them entitled. That entitlement is their drive and their passion. Do not get in their way. They will crush you.
Foster their rebellion. They are our best allies.

This story originally appeared on Medium.

1 comment:

  1. I was right with Leygerman ... until she concluded:

    "**Just like Emma Gonzalez**, the teen activist from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, my students did not back down nor conform. **They fought for their rights**. They won."

    Let us be clear: Ms. Gonzalez is not fighting for anyone's rights. Rather, she's fighting to **infringe** them. If she were a character in "1984," she'd be fighting to maintain the supremacy of the totalitarian state.

    If Leygerman intends to laud Emma Gonzalez, then she needs to re-imagine her little thought experiment such that she is armed and her students are not.

    In "1984," Orwell's State insisted that "slavery is freedom, war is peace, and ignorance is strength." It's beyond ironic that Leygerman, purporting to teach the lessons of "1984," would have her readers believe that disarming citizens constitutes liberty.

    Indeed, it's downright Orwellian.