How many Young Adult dystopian novels have hit it big in recent years? The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins springs to mind, and so does Glitch by Heather Anastasiu and Matched by Ally Conde and many others. In fact, Goodreads published an infographic showing more dystopian novels are being published now than at any time since the 1960s.
My theory about the rise of dystopian fiction is that we all suspect dystopia is a real possibility. The general population has a collective dread of government–any government–overstepping its raison d’être and treading on our human rights. Unfortunately, we don’t have to look far to find present-day examples of ongoing oppression to feed our fears.
This week’s story of the Wunderlich family of Germany is a case in point. Their four children were forcibly removed from their home by the authorities because they were being homeschooled. The German government’s reasoning about mandatory public schooling is revealed in this letter written by a German authority (emphasis added):
“Your life, as it has been, is over. From this time forward, you will service us.” –Captain Picard, as Locutus in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Homeschooling may be equally effective [as public schooling] in terms of test scores. It is important to keep in mind, however, that school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct. Daily contact with other students from all walks of life promotes tolerance….”
In other words, homeschooling isn’t tolerated by the German government because “social conduct” must be taught as the state mandates in a state-run school. What could be more frightening than to be assured your children will be taught how to think and act by the government over your objections?
I apologize for the length of the following quote from the same letter (emphasis added), but I want to make a point:
“The public has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole. If we are to achieve integration, not only must the majority of the population prevent the ostracization of religious minorities or minorities with different world views, but minorities must also remain open and engage in dialogue with those who think differently or share different beliefs. Such a dialogue with minorities is not only necessary but also enriches an open, pluralistic society.”
“…minorities must also remain open and engage in dialogue with those who think differently…” Unless, in fact, the minority prefers a home education. Homeschoolers might constitute a “parallel society.” Dissent is dangerous, don’t you see? And religious scruples? Forget about it. Different world views? Why would you ever think that way?
“…integrating minorities into the population as a whole” Minorities must “remain open.” Could it really mean that minorities must remain open to thinking the way the state wishes them to think? To acting the way the state wants them to act? And generally, to losing that difference that makes them a minority?
Brainwashing anyone? Censorship? Assimilation? I’m reminded of the Borg’s motto: “Resistance is futile.” What the German government in its dystopian wisdom has overlooked is that intolerance for the sake of tolerance is intolerance. Another quote from the Borg rings true: “Your life, as it has been, is over. From this time forward, you will service us.” The similarity between the German government’s actions and the Borgs’ methods are chilling.
Dystopia is not so far away, and that whisper in the back of our minds is: This could happen to us.
UPDATE – Here’s a related post: Why the Wunderlich Case is Important by Rob Shearer
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please leave your comments below.