‘When I was arrested, Oceania was at war with Eastasia. With Eastasia. Good. And Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, has it not?’
Winston drew in his breath. He opened his mouth to speak and then did not speak. He could not take his eyes away from the dial.
‘The truth, please, Winston. YOUR truth. Tell me what you think you remember.’
‘I remember that until only a week before I was arrested, we were not at war with Eastasia at all. We were in alliance with them. The war was against Eurasia. That had lasted for four years. Before that——’
O’Brien stopped him with a movement of the hand.
-George Orwell, 1984
Oceania’s totalitarian government in Orwell’s 1984 relied on a daily “Two Minutes Hate” to whip people into a frenzy against enemies of the state. As Wikipedia helpfully explains:
Within the book, the purpose of the Two Minutes Hate is said to satisfy the citizens’ subdued feelings of angst and hatred from leading such a wretched, controlled existence. By re-directing these subconscious feelings away from the Oceanian government and toward external enemies (which may not even exist), the Party minimizes subversive thought and behaviour.
If you’ve read the newspaper recently you might think you were living in Oceania, but with the new Family Empowerment Scholarship program serving in the role of the hated enemy of the people instead of Emmanuel Goldstein. I could site any number of examples, but the Tampa Bay Times takes the cake for hyperbolic excess with Death Sentence for Florida Public Schools:
They approved the death sentence for public education in Florida at 1:20 p.m. Tuesday. Then they cheered and hugged each other. The legislation approved by the Florida House and sent to the governor will steal $130 million in tax money that could be spent improving public schools next year and spend it on tuition vouchers at private schools. Never mind the Florida Constitution. Never mind the 2.8 million students left in under-funded, overwhelmed public schools.
The Orlando Sentinel, however, reported the following on the 2020 Florida budget:
In the spending outline, K-12 schools funding landed at $21.8 billion, a $782.9 million increase on the current year, or nearly 4 percent.
Thus, Florida lawmakers signed a “death sentence” for Florida public schools by increasing their funding by almost $800 million. First world problem, anyone? According to my Excel spreadsheet, if the Florida Legislature had diverted the entire appropriation to the public school budget, it would have increased spending by 1 percent.
To the Times’ credit, they did provide former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush an opportunity to respond. Bush helpfully noted that Florida does not have a fixed student body but, rather, is rapidly growing:
The Times assumes that because a child chooses to attend a private school of their choice that public schools will somehow be harmed financially. But according to Florida’s Office of Economic Demographic and Research, over the next four years public school enrollment in Florida is projected to grow by an additional 94,000 students — one of the fastest growth rates in the nation.
The Family Empowerment Scholarship program is capped at around 46,000 students during that same time frame. So where exactly is the harm?
Where indeed? The Florida Department of Education provides a spreadsheet that shows Florida school districts spent almost $863 million in 2017 and created spaces for 30,323 students in the process. Call me crazy (it’s been too long since anyone has been good enough to do so) but it appears to me that the new scholarship program will relieve the pressure on Florida districts, whose enrollment will continue to increase. Funds you don’t have to spend on debt service can be used for other purposes – such as paying teachers.
In addition to electronic surveillance, thought police and 2-minute hates, constantly being at war constituted another trick up Oceania’s totalitarian sleeve. Twenty years have passed since the first Florida private choice program passed; Florida’s academic outcomes have improved all the while.
Ignorance of these facts is not strength, and freedom is not slavery. Florida editorial boards are at war with the right of Florida families to exercise autonomy in education. Will Florida editorial boards always be at war with Florida families?