By Lillian Lewis
In 1949, Author George Orwell wrote about the future. He described that governments would have control over mass media and history. That the people of a country would be monitored and certain rights would be prohibited.
This was his dystopian novel 1984, but it seems some of the aspects Orwell predicted are coming true.
State lawmakers recently passed a bill that restricts how teachers can discuss certain topics. According to NBC, the bill would prohibit teaching that the government is “inherently racist” or was created to oppress people of another race or sex. The idea behind the bill, according to lawmakers, is to unite teachers and students.
North Carolina’s House overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the bill on March 23.
North Carolina is not the first state to try to pass a law like this. North Carolina is a part of the 10 states considering banning “critical race theory.” Eighteen others have already limited how teachers can discuss racism and sexism in the classroom.
The truth is, no matter your stance on the subject, minority history will be the majority history in 20 years. The US Census Bureau predicts that by 2044, those identifying as white will be the “majority-minority.” White history will no longer be the majority of most Americans’ history. Instead, it will be the history of immigration and mistreatment that most Americans have a history of.
Or it may be both. The multiracial population was measured at 9 million people in 2010 and in the 2020 census had 33.8 million people, a 276% increase. So why not teach both sides of history?
Although multiculturalism in the classroom has become a hot-button topic now, researchers have been discussing the idea for decades and its effects on students: whether it makes a difference in the students’ learning, or if changing a whole country’s curriculum is more trouble than it’s worth.
Studies on multicultural and critical race theory show that students who learn about themselves in the classroom tend to improve in other areas of academics. It also can help increase attendance in school.
Even with the benefits of teaching multiculturalism, teachers cannot do it on their own. It does not seem to have a large impact on students unless it is backed by a large group such as the government or school system.
It makes sense that American history has only been taught from one perspective for such a long time. Until the Civil Rights era, the mistreatment of minorities was rarely talked about in textbooks. If it was talked about, it typically was a little sugar-coated like this North Carolina textbook from 1916 that talks about slavery.
When addressing slavery, The Childs History of North Carolina says, “[slaves] were allowed all the freedom they seemed to want, and were given the privilege of visiting other plantations when they chose to do so. All that was required of them was to be in place when work time came. At the holiday season, they were almost as free as their masters.”
Like I said, lots of sugar coating.
When you learn something, especially from someone you trust such as a teacher, it is much harder to unlearn those facts and ideologies than it is to learn them. Even if they are untrue.
Again, no matter what your view is, it is objectively true that this is censorship of knowledge. Certain ideas or parts of history cannot be talked about in class, even if a student has a question.
It feels like the government read 1984 and thought it would be a good model for a bill. The idea of rewriting history seems dystopian but the truth is it’s been going on for centuries. Now that the knowledge is available on different platforms, it is now being banned.
If censorship is allowed in classrooms, it can continue into libraries, public wifi, and social media until eventually, the idea of the government being “inherently racist” or being criticized is not allowed.
Students go to school to learn all of history, the good and the bad. Governments who historically censor their country’s knowledge lose the freedom to criticize their government, a right written into our constitution.
I won’t spoil 1984, but its ideas, even 70 years later, are relevant. Changing history, or even just teaching one side, is dangerous and can lead to a power imbalance between multiple groups.
Who knows, maybe by 2044 we won’t have this problem. Or maybe by then, we will be living in 1984.