Doublethinking education

An education without truth is a clock striking 13—and, with clocks striking 13, George Orwell envisioned a world where education is dead.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian tale of government domination where truth plays no part in human life. Big Brother presides with omnipresent surveillance and indoctrination techniques, while the hero, sensing the façade that surrounds and penetrates him, goes in search for truth. He finds only pain. The subjugated citizens are programmed not only to accept if Big Brother asserts that 2+2=5, but also to believe it in a practice called “doublethink.” Doublethink, Nineteen Eighty-Four’s central and disturbing element, exists today in American society and American schools.

Orwell’s doublethink, a facet of the language “newspeak,” is a mental contortion that assumes two mutually opposed premises concurrently to exercise control over reality. Doublethink leaves no impression that reality has been violated, existing only in a cognitive dissonance. This mind control allows the Party to shape the past, present, and future. It is also a tool in making people feel accepted and able to accept the pressures and positions of the system or the agenda. The description of doublethink from Nineteen Eighty-Four is eerily familiar when it comes to some of the American controversies of today:

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies.

The act of doublethink involves a well-known, though unspoken, hypocrisy in the societal acceptance of deviancies, which finds a hotbed in schools through propaganda programs. Given the challenges to education, evangelization, admonishment, or just plain honesty under the enormous pressure to be “tolerant,” submission through doublethink is a strong temptation in classrooms all over the country. The world at large, with many teachers following suit, is bowing down before the altar of untruth, instead of doing what love dictates.

Although Doublethink-America is defining a “new normal,” definitions only go so far when it comes to reality—and reality, believe it or not, is the subject of any true education. The instinctive rejection of things that go against reality cannot be fully stifled by mind control. It can only be repressed until it turns into something denied for fear of social ostracizing, loss of employment and discrimination lawsuits.

The “remedy” is doublethink: an abstract approval that exists in theory for something that is concretely wrong and the uncomfortable acceptance that arises out of a phobia of appearing phobic. Once doublethink has taken root, there is no telling where it will lead, especially in the field of education. There is no end to the confusion that can become commonplace when contradiction no longer matters. The acceptance of transgenderism alone—not to mention abortion, homosexuality, and moral relativism—is a testament to the extremities that are possible under this standard, and it opens a floodgate of insanity in schools across the country. When truth is rejected, it seems that nothing is impossible.

Contradiction will eventually collapse. The United States is lining itself up for legitimizing, even at the level of basic education, a range of disorders and subcultures where, eventually, the absurdity created by the criteria will lead to chaos. That is the logical conclusion when logic is abandoned. Doublethink is not sympathy. It is not tolerance. It is not educational. It is cruelty because it affirms neuroses and illusions.

Doublethink is a self-imposed mental illness that encourages other mental aberrations, allowing, in the end, disease to dictate. Although Americans are not citizens of Orwell’s world, there is a complacency in American culture and in American classrooms that is akin to Orwellian capitulation.

Catholic teachers need to rethink education insofar as it has succumbed to doublethink. If and when teachers stop pretending that there is nothing wrong with the falsehoods being pressed upon the young, they can start making things right.

Loving acceptance lies not in a loving acceptance of lies. There is a fine line of distinction between condemning a lifestyle and condemning the person who lives it. And that fine line should be the front line in Catholic classrooms. Perhaps a type of martyrdom is imminent. May there be hope, faith, and love in fighting or falling for Truth. It is a struggle that is central in and to education. For if children are not bravely taught the truth about the world and about themselves, it will be a brave new world before long.

The clocks are striking 13.

SEAN FITZPATRICK is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and serves as the headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Elmhurst, Pa. He also serves on the Advisory Council for Sophia Institute for Teachers. His writings on education, literature and culture have appeared in Crisis Magazine, The Imaginative Conservative, and Catholic Exchange.

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