Nineteen Eighty-Four – written by George Orwell and published in 1949 is one of the most famous books of the twentieth century. Set in 1984, the novel chronicles life in a post World War London in which all forms of independent thought that contradict the ideals of the ruling totalitarian regime, known as ‘the Party’, are illegal, labeled ‘thoughtcrime’ and punished by the infamous ‘thought police.’ In reading the book, one will be thrust into a dystopian world in which non-conformists are re-educated or killed, citizens constantly exposed to biased propaganda and personal opinions controlled to the point of people being forced to only hold one view that they believe. In many ways, but to an obviously much lesser extent, this is what has happened, and what is happening at the La Chat campus of Ecolint.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that La Chat and its values are liberal. From guest speakers to students and teachers, very few seem to stand on the right side of the aisle. In fact, during my four years at La Chat, I can recall just one conservative guest speaker presenting an assembly to year twelve. In contrast, there have been numerous talks left-wing in nature, mostly geared towards ‘acceptance’ and the persistent topic of sustainability. We have had speakers lecture us on the topic of migration and how “no human being is illegal” as well as an activist who urged us to use baking soda instead of deodorant to save the planet – something that, in all honesty, the year found hilarious. In 2018 La Chat thought it was a good idea to allow another activist to lecture year nines about how he tried to enter the UK parliament with an inflatable piece of feces in tow. What a brilliant role model! This same speaker also labeled world leaders “stale, male and pale” and urged the then fourteen-year olds to change this – leaving us wondering what was wrong with being male and pale. Assemblies are also frequently dominated by topics such as gender issues and even race relations – all presented in a generally biased and opinionated manner. If the aforementioned examples are not convincing enough; two of the most prominent guest speakers in December 2019 were a vegan activist and a self-described radical feminist…
The issue here isn’t the assemblies and speeches but rather the virtual absence of any material that deals with alternate points of view. Ecolint, per its mission, exists to educate for peace and to mold students into intelligent adults. If such a biased environment continues to exist, this mission will be unattainable as students will leave Ecolint as one-track robots incapable of seeing other points of view or recognizing why people’s opinions differ to theirs. In the long run, this has the potential to lead to conflict as the concept of understanding why others think the way they do goes down the drain, as we have seen on many US college campuses such as UC Berkeley where civil debate has been replaced by violence. In sum, the virtually constant exposure to only one view of serious topics is equal to indoctrination – a prevalent topic in Nineteen Eighty-Four in which people are only ever presented with one side of matters.
Yet, it gets worse: Ignoring the biased public presentations, it also appears that in some capacity, disagreeing with the school-approved side of matters is not permitted at La Chat. When the Student Council, working with the foundation, controversially decided to implement gender neutral bathrooms in 2018 without having consulted the student body, many people were confused as to why the very people meant to have been representing them had not once told them about this. In response to the announcement, a student sent out an email survey to determine how many people were in favor of the implementation. A few hours later, the student council shut down the survey on the grounds of ‘insensitivity.’
Further, during a class last year, a student who disagreed with a traditionally left-wing opinion was reported by another student who apparently took offence at his disagreement and his exercising of freedom of expression – something that is guaranteed in the Swiss Constitution. Despite this, he was spoken to by a teacher, who allegedly refused to hear his side of the story when he referenced the fact that he had the right to disagree and to not be treated in such a way for merely expressing his opinion. Indeed, it does seem like ‘thoughtcrime’, and the ‘thought police’ are very real things at La Chat.
Ultimately, it appears as if many aspects of Nineteen Eighty-Four resonate within La Chat and Ecolint – something that is, by all accounts, not good. However, the problem is not general liberal ideals which the school adheres to and presents to its students – there is nothing wrong with being liberal and promoting such opinions. The issue is the lack of any alternate points of view – something that is essential for the meaningful development of students into intelligent adults and not unthinking robots that only see one side of affairs and attack all those who think differently. Going forward, I would strongly urge the Foundation to honor its mission and present both sides of controversial topics. If we are given a presentation that stresses the need to drastically cut CO2 emissions within a decade, also give us one that discusses the social and economic effects of such an action. When we have something like gender-neutral bathrooms imposed upon us, do not suppress those who may not be comfortable with such an implementation. The free expression of opinion must not be restricted to one side of the aisle and students should not be treated differently based on their views. After all, diversity of opinion and civil debate are wonderful things that should be celebrated – not looked down upon.
Written by: Daniel Hannell
It’s nice to see someone addressing this. Schools should equip its students with the ability to examine numerous perspectives of a matter before forming their own opinion. If you are unable to intelligently argue for both sides of an argument, you haven’t educated yourself enough to argue for either. Students will not develop into independent thinkers through the constant reiteration of one ideology. They are developed into independent thinkers when they are exposed to a variety of arguments and learn how to analyse such arguments and assess their validity.
This talk by Noam Chomsky about free speech on campus gives an insightful view of this:
I am very curious as to what the student was saying that got him in trouble. Seems like an important detail to mention – some things are inappropriate in a school environment whether coming from a left or right wing perspective. Also wanted to mention that StuCo organised a formal debate over the gender neutral bathroom issue – no ideas were fully censored.
His disagreement was not inappropriate – it pertained to modern feminism which is quite a controversial topic nowadays and he did not take what might be considered as a ‘radical’ stance; he simply disagreed. You’re right, the StuCo did organize a debate but that was merely for show. I think the suppression of a student who was trying to make sense of the situation and not informing the student body (thus failing in their most basic duty) outweigh the organization of a debate which was never intended to change anything with respect to the issue.
*some things are inappropriate regardless of whether it is a left or right wing perspective