My last blog focused on the required reading for my high schooler’s lit class. So this week, I thought I would discuss the book my 8th grader’s class was required to read: Animal Farm by George Orwell.
Synopsis (from Amazon): A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned—a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.
Discussion: When I was in 6th grade, I thought I was smart, so I decided to read classics. That year I remember reading, The Catcher in the Rye, Watership Down, Of Mice and Men, Fahrenhite 451, and Animal Farm. I recognize now that I wasn’t as bright as I thought I was because I didn’t understand anything outside of the general plots of these books.
Two things stuck with me throughout the years from reading Animal Farm as a child because I see them often in society. The first is the famous quote, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” There are many examples in lately of certain groups being “more equal than others.”
The second thing that has stuck with me throughout the years is the changing of slogans. At the beginning of the book, the slogan was, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Then once the pigs start to walk on two legs, the motto changes to, “Four legs good, two legs better.” I remember the animals looking around at each other, asking, “Wasn’t it two legs bad?” Of course, they are reassured that the slogan has not changed.
There are many journalist who act as if our memories of past news stories last 15 min. I think the over abundance of information easily confuses issues, and many times we do tend to forget.
It has been over 30 years since I read the book and those are the two things I remembered. I asked my daughter what she would remember from this book and what they discussed in her class. She told me they watched a movie about why Communism is always doomed to fail. She said it would never work because power is never given up after a revolutionary takeover.
Not too bad of a takeaway, considering I send her to a public school. It also is the main point of the book.
We discussed how Communism is not compatible with being Catholic. I don’t think she realized that one cannot be Catholic and support Communism. Communism is atheistic, which they probably didn’t discuss in school. When discussing this topic with my daughter, I found a book online called, A Catechism of Communism for Catholic High Schools Students by A Passionist Father. It was written in 1936 and is relatively dated. Still, it is a great starting point to understand why Communism is incompatible with the Catholic faith.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about governments:
2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.
We also discussed the idea of private property. Communism, from the word common, advocates that all people share things in common and is against private property. But, on the other hand, the Catholic Church supports the concept of private property, so why? Isn’t it better if everyone shared everything equally?
There is a lot to unpack about why the church supports private property. The purpose of my blog is to keep these concepts simple for children. Here is a simple story of what I observed on the sharing of property back when I volunteered at her elementary school.
The school decided to change how school supplies were acquired. When we first started at the school, each student was to bring their own school supplies, such as pencils, paper, erasers, etc. After a few years there, the school decided it would be cheaper and better for all students if families gave the school money to purchase supplies in bulk, and the children would share. One of the first differences I noticed was how messy the rooms became. Every time I showed up, there seemed to be broken pencils and wadded-up paper all over the floor. My volunteer job was to take care of the pencils and paper because they went through them so fast they needed someone to sharpen pencils each week. Basically, the kids became wasteful. The children no longer took care of the property because it wasn’t their stuff, and anytime they needed something, the closet had an endless supply.
After two years, the school went back to individual families purchasing their school supplies. It turns out it did not save anyone money, nor was it better for the classroom.