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April 12, 2004 1984+20 Nationwide Reading and Discussion of Orwell's Novel Planned for October 2004 The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is sponsoring a nationwide reading and discussion of George Orwell's classic novel 1984 in October 2004. Educators and students in high schools, colleges, and universities, and citizens in libraries, community organizations, and book discussion groups are invited to read the book and discuss its prophetic nature and what it might teach us about life in the contemporary United States. The "1984+20" project aims to promote awareness, discussion, and debate about the key roles of language in politics and culture. The term "Orwellian" has experienced a recent resurgence as public officials, corporations, media, and interest groups grow bolder in their use of manipulative language as a tool for sculpting public policy. In 1971, NCTE resolved to "find means to study the relation of language to public policy, to keep track of, publicize, and combat semantic distortion by public officials, candidates for office, political commentators, and all those who transmit through the mass media." That intent continues today at a time when the role of the U.S. in the world, terrorism, national security, and access to health care and education are very much in the public consciousness. NCTE believes that infusing vocabulary with Orwellian terms like "doublethink" ("the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them") and "newspeak" (the purpose of which is "not so much to express meanings as to destroy them") will help strengthen critical and analytic conversations everywhere. Many of Orwell's themes in 1984 resonate in modern times: the role of public relations specialists in engineering language to shape public opinion; the short-lived memory of media and the ability to dispose of historical realities "down the memory hole"; ever-shifting icons of evil as the focus of popular rage: all of which can potentially distract the populace from matters over which they might actually exercise some control. NCTE anticipates that the "1984+20" project will bring a broad range of individuals into meaningful conversation through classroom and face-to-face discussions, as well as discussions via media such as the Internet, including Weblogs and online forums, and other venues such as student essays and projects, community events, film and video projects, and conferences. Educators, administrators, librarians, students, media, community organizations, nonprofit groups, techies, publishers, writers, artists, activists, bookstores, and others are encouraged to join NCTE in this historic effort. NCTE will provide support in the way of background resources, classroom lessons, and online forums. For more information and to find out how you can get involved, contact Lyndsey Tate at 800-369-6283, ext. 3630, or at email@example.com. The National Council of Teachers of English, with 60,000 individual and institutional members worldwide, is dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education. For more information, please visit www.ncte.org. Susan H. McLeod, Professor of Writing Director, Writing Program 1516 South Hall University of California, Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3010 Phone: (805) 893-4808 FAX: (805) 893-7699 http://www.writing.ucsb.edu/faculty/mcleod.htm -- ******************************************* Costica Bradatan, PhD H-Ideas Online Editor Cornell University, The Knight Institute http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/cb277/ *******************************************