Orwell’s Animal Farm – Two Perspectives from Those That Lived It
Orwell’s Animal Farm – Two Perspectives from Those That Lived It
ROXBURY, NJ (April 10, 2019) – It’s not always easy to relate what you read in school to real life. Sometimes you need a little extra help. Eighth graders at Eisenhower Middle School in Roxbury Township have been reading George Orwell’s classic story Animal Farm, a satirical tale based on the Russian Revolution. The allegory, set in England, has the characters portrayed by animals mirroring the communist leaders and the events reflecting the communist society of Russia.
To help the students gain extra insight, ELA teacher Margery Richman invited former parents, Alex Del Rosario and Daniel Vo to be guest speakers to share their first-hand stories of growing up in communist countries before coming to the United States.
Richman first met Mr. Del Rosario last year when his son was in her class and she met Mr. Vo nine years ago when his older son was in her first period class.
Richman shared with the students, “For the past few weeks we have researched information about the Russian Revolution or other periods in our history when rulers made the rules and executed them, hence the term rulers. We learned how societies that are governed without democracy look and feel much different than what we live or what we know. But Animal Farm and The Wave are just fiction with some hints to real life events, right?”
“Perhaps once we finished reading our novels, and we have one last discussion about the frustrations that overcame within the society of Manor Farm or Mr. Ross’ social studies class, we will then put the books away on the bookshelf and move onto the next novel, the next story, or the next article. For some of you, you may forget Snowball or Mollie or Mr. Ross. For others, you may forever remember Boxer. But for all of us, it’s important to take away the message that without knowledge and courage to speak up when we see wrong, then history can and will repeat itself. For our two speakers, their messages are not from a book; they are their stories, their lives.”
Mr. Vo shared how “George Orwell was a genius. I lived every word of Animal Farm. Every memory I experienced.”
He recounted how he was forced to get up at 2 a.m. and parade around town with a communist flag and walk for two hours to drive people to the communist cause. Vo attempted five times to escape South Vietnam as a teenager. It wasn’t until his fifth attempt that led him to freedom. He escaped by boat with his friends and cousin in July to Thailand when seas were at their roughest, was set upon by Thai pirates seven times, and arrived eleven days later with only his trousers, no other personal belongings to call his own.
When asked why no one voiced opposition as to how the South Vietnamese people were treated, Vo said, “Communist countries are ruled by force, by fear. If you voiced opposition, they would sick the dogs on you.” He then compared his experiences with those described in Animal Farm. He also provided modern day examples of Communist-ruled countries like North Korea.
Mr. Del Rosario followed sharing how he grew up in communist Cuba and his family’s decision to come to the U.S. He explained how his father was considered rich in the 1950s until Communist Cuba took everything he owned including their family farm. When his father refused to give it up he was sentenced to five years in jail.
Del Rosario echoed Vo in that “Communism teaches by fear and nothing you receive is free.” At a young age, Del Rosario did well on tests and smart students were selected for additional education. He was selected to learn Russian and from ages 8-14 he spent two hours every day learning the language because the government required it of him. He was also good at math and was taken away to be an engineer. He recalled that children who were identified to have intelligence in a subject were groomed for a particular career.
The history lessons taught in Cuba were based on fact but also fear. He was taught growing up that the reason why things were bad was because of the Yankees (not the baseball team but Americans). “Communism told us everything wrong was because of Yankees. The Yankees were going to come and kill you.”
He went to school for half a day and then worked in the fields picking potatoes through mandatory volunteerism. “You were required to work the fields to pick crops for the government. Remember nothing is free. Everything you picked would be rationed back to you by the government.”
Throughout the morning, both speakers reiterated much of the same message; how grateful they are to be free and how they appreciate all that we have in America. Vo, more than once, compared being in America to being in heaven. Del Rosario reverted back to the message of how lucky our kids are and how America is the best country in the world. “I dare any of you to tell me a better place than the United States.”
Both men freely share their experiences with their families to help them understand how fortunate and thankful they are. Vo mentioned how important family dinners are in his household with three generations of family. “I share my experiences almost every day. You should never skip dinner. It’s a way to learn and share from each other.”
To wrap up the student Q&A session at the end, eighth-grader Camila Gil asked: “Would you go back now, if you could?”
Del Rosario concluded with “I would take them back to see how I grew up, where I grew up, and meet some of the relatives that we still have there. Get to know the country. It’s a beautiful country. It’s just that it’s not safe, so I wouldn’t do it until it was safe.”
PHOTO ATTACHED (courtesy of Roxbury Schools)
- Daniel Vo and Alex Del Rosario talk about communist-ruled countries
- Daniel Vo and Alex Del Rosario discuss Animal Farm and the lessons learned
- Alex Del Rosario and Daniel Vo with EMS Students (L to R): Mariana Leal, Alex Del Rosario, Camila Gil, Daniel Vo, and Lizzie Harrington
- Alex Del Rosario, Daniel Vo, and ELA Teacher Margery Richman
- EMS Principal Paul Gallagher, Alex Del Rosario, Daniel Vo, and ELA Teacher Margery Richman
- Guest speakers Alex Del Rosario and Daniel Vo
For more information, contact: Roxbury Community School/Community Relations Coordinator Ann Rhodes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-584-7699.
ABOUT ROXBURY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Roxbury Public Schools is a K-12 school district preparing the children of today for tomorrow. As a dynamic and thriving district, in partnership with a supportive and collaborative community, Roxbury Public Schools inspires and empowers all learners to flourish as ethical and global citizens in the 21st century. The district serves students throughout Roxbury Township, New Jersey, including the areas of Landing, Kenvil, Succasunna, Ledgewood, Mount Arlington, Port Morris, Flanders, and Wharton. Connect with us online at www.roxbury.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RoxburyPublicSchools.