My classroom becomes a totalitarian state every school year toward the end of October. In preparation for teaching 1984 to seniors, I announce the launch of a new program aimed at combating senioritis, a real disease with symptoms that include frequent unexplained absences, indifferent reading, and shoddy work. I tell each class that another class is largely to blame for the problem and require, for a substantial participation grade, that students file daily reports on another student’s work habits and conduct; most are assigned to another student in the same class.
We blanket the campus in posters featuring my face and simple slogans that warn against the dangers of senioritis and declare my program the only solution to the school’s woes. Last year, my program was OSIP (Organization for Senior Improvement Project); this year, it’s SAFE (Scholar Alliance For Excellence). We chant a creed at the start of each class, celebrate the revelatory reports of “heroes” with cheers, and boo those who fail to participate enthusiastically. I create a program Instagram that students eagerly follow. I occasionally bestow snacks as rewards.
After a week, new posters (and stickers) speak less to senioritis and more to, well, me. The new slogans are simpler: my name, mostly. My image is everywhere. I change the rules, requiring students to obtain more points in order to pass. I restrict previously granted privileges, like the right to leave the room to use the bathroom. I subtract points for subjectively noted lapses in conviction. I fabricate a resistance movement and vow to stamp out the ignorant opposition to our noble cause.