By Tom Winnifrith
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Extra resources for 1984 and All’s Well?
People worry in restaurants lest they leave too small a tip. They 50 1984 and All's Well? want to be accepted and approved of by the waiter. This problem has been recognised in the United States where waiters in restaurants attempt to overcome the awkwardness by pretending to establish a friendly relationship with their customer. 'Hi, I'm Cindy, your waitress' they say, and as the meal progresses they indulge in further bright talk. This is done not to make the waitress feel on terms of equality with the diner.
It was a country, like the United States, with shared institutions, a sense of present virtues but (apparently) no past. The whole exercise had, as I look back on it, a kind of allegorical significance. Studying Switzerland was teaching us no facts - it was teaching us correct attitudes. Harvard University provides an interesting example of the American attitude to the past. Harvard was founded in 1636. It is therefore not new. It is located in the Boston area, a part of the United States that is commonly thought of as being given to tradition.
The elimination of dates from history or social studies or whatever it may be called has certainly been a deliberate policy on the part of educationists. They have tried to humanise history and reduce the rote learning and memorisation that learning dates involves. 'Children today are lucky! No more dry-as-dust dates! ' All very admirable, no doubt, but when one remembers Winston Smith's difficulty in thinking about the past of a world in which dates do not exist, we may feel a little uneasy. After all, dates are facts- the elements as it were of history.