When you cannot tolerate the warnings of Orwell you have become that which he warned about.
These times we live in have developed some common phrases that have grown beyond mere common parlance. “Beyond parody” is frequently invoked to illustrate a news item that seriously defies common sense. In similar fashion, the wry phrase, ”Orwell was supposed to be a warning, not a how-to manual,” 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. The Daily Mail reports, amazingly, that Orwell is facing 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’.
Students taking a course entitled 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.
It used to be freshmen marched into college campuses with the eagerness to be challenged and prepared to have new influences and concepts brought to the fore in order to be explored, debated, and hashed out. Today, they seem more inclined to stride onto campus with the demand that they not be offended and they are shielded from ideas that could impact their preconceived notions.
Just to compound the contradiction to the message from the book, the university was not forthcoming with their information. The Daily Mail came to learn the specifics only after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. In contacting the university, the paper heard back from a spokesperson, and while I would not attempt to silence an individual, I am not above suggesting it might have been in their best interest to not speak.
In these circumstances, we explain to applicants as part of the recruitment process that their course will include some challenging texts. This is reinforced by tutors as they progress through their programme of studies. We are aware some texts might be challenging for some students and have accounted for this when developing our courses.
Can’t have those students challenged, now can we, gov’na? At least one sane voice has entered the discussion. 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. The universities are treating adults in secondary education as emotionally on par with pre-pubescents.
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. It speaks volumes that the alleged elevated thinkers in college circles are growing more prone to sophomoric thinking.