January 20th, 2021: The Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it’s no longer democracy, is it? It’s something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.” – Sam Shepard in The Village Voice, November 17, 2004

Donald Trump has officially left the White House, and President-elect Joseph Robinette Biden and the first female, first African-American, and first Asian-American, vice President-elect Kamala Harris are about to be inaugurated. Breaking tradition, former president and first lady Melania will not be attending the ceremony at the US Capitol, refusing to welcome the 46th president of the United States and his incoming first lady, Jill Biden. To minimize the spread of the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of American flags, representing the people of America, were placed on the National Mall. Security Measures are high: approximately 25,000 troops of the National Guard, police officers and Feebs firmly confront terrorist threats of the last few days.

The change of government hopefully marks a paradigm shift in US politics: Lies and hateful messages have been spread by the 45th president. America faces challenges from coronavirus to racial inequalities, unemployment, environmental pollution and climate change, healthcare and educational issues, tensions in the transatlantic relations and international alliances that Harrison and Biden need to tackle and aim to overcome. US democracy has been challenged as well and must be restored, renovated and rebuilt by the new administration. What do your pupils think about the current situation in the US? This powerful poetry slam by Prince Ea might fuel your classroom discussion on key issues and future perspectives of the US presidency and politics.

Kind regards and stay safe,


One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” – George Orwell, 1984

On Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, a crowd of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump attempted to overturn his defeat in the presidential election by violently occupying a joint session of Congress, which was about to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. While the rioters violently gained access to the building just after 2:00 pm, the senators and representatives were evacuated. It was about 5:40 pm when the police declared that the Capitol was safe again. In the meantime, the mob had entered the Senate chamber, vandalised and damaged offices, looted belongings of the senators and fought security officers. Shots were fired inside the Capitol, dozens were injured, five people died, including an officer of the Capitol Police. During his speech at the ‘Save America’ rally, which took place beforehand, Trump once again declared that he had won the election and demanded the protesters “[…] to take back our country […]” and to “[…] fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Before breaking into the Capitol, Trump-supporters marched through the streets chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence’ and ‘Fight For Trump’. In response to the riots and Trump’s rather inglorious role in inciting the masses, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump a second time. To prevent Trump from causing further damage, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and other social media platforms permanently suspended his accounts – but a community of alternative social networks already exists. However, June 6th, 2021 marks an assault on US American democracy, an act of domestic terrorism and manipulation, which foregrounds a rather dystopian future: the remaining danger of Trumpist ideology even after the presidency of the man who fostered far-right-wing authoritarian populism and divided the US even more. Two weeks later, the Capitol is getting ready for the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday, January 20th. Security measures are high: non-scalable fences have been set around the Capitol, security checkpoints and different safety areas installed. FBI, Secret Service, National Guard and Homeland Security are working hand in hand – but they fear an insider threat…

If you are looking for literature and media that cover power abuse, manipulation and ideology, the following works will be useful:

  • T.C. Boyle’s novel The Harder They Come (2015) explores paranoia, ideological obsession and the Sovereign citizen movement – a militant group of people who regard US laws and law enforcement as illegitimate.
  • His novel The Tortilla Curtain (1995) foregrounds the social split in US American society, offering the perspective of Mexican immigrants and the fear, hate and racism against them. 
  • Noughts and Crosses (2001) by Malorie Blackman is a dystopian series of five novels that were adapted into a TV series, which offers perspectives on racism, oppression and the abuse of power.
  • Dave Egger’s The Circle (2013) is a dystopian novel that was adapted into a movie. It explores the danger of a social media company: manipulation, surveillance, data privacy, totalitarianism and indoctrination. 
  • The Wave (1981) by Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser explores the corruption of power, violence and a social experiment that gets out of control.
  • William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954) follows a group of teenage boys who, after a plane crash, establish a government on a remote island, which results in a civil war.
  • The film The Hunger Games (2012) by Gary Ross and the novel (2008) of the same name by Suzanne Collins, show the danger and manipulative tendencies of autocratic governments.

Even though we are in distance learning at the moment, I do hope that you find reasons and time to talk with your pupils about these current affairs. Let’s hope for a safe and secure Inauguration Day.


January 17th: Anne Brontë

English · 17 January 2021

Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read.” – Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)

Anne Brontë was born as the youngest of six children. Her health was fragile, so she was mostly schooled at home. Her siblings and she started writing at a young age inventing the fantasy worlds of Gondal and Angria – the former being the creation of Emily and Anne. No prose has survived about Gondal, but 23 of Anne’s poems are set there and a few diary entries as well. Anne published a collection of poems with her two sisters and also wrote two novels: Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), that sold quite well, however not as well as her sisters’ novels Jane Eyre (1847) and Wuthering Heights (1847. Anne worked as a governess for two families and had issues with controlling the children at her first employment, which she processed in Agnes Grey where the governess life is described very detailedly. Anne Brontë’s second novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall can be seen as one of the first feministic writings to be published. Her protagonist is a woman who leaves her abusive man and goes into hiding with her son making her living. Since women didn’t have the right to leave their husbands and taking their children with them was considered kidnapping, the book was heavily criticised but remains an Ode to freedom and women rights. Although Anne is probably the least well-known writer of the three sisters, her books and poems are beautifully written and it’s worth taking a look.



2021 is a special year in many senses, at least one of which concerns literature: Some great literary works enter the so-called public domain in the USA, among them F. Scott Fitzgerald’s widely popular work The Great Gatsby from 1925. A vivid display of the Golden Twenties in New York City, this story still is short enough to consider it for the TEFL classroom with intermediate students. Its timeless themes of love, devotion and creating a life for oneself may just be the right thing to inspire Gatsby’s boundless optimism in your students, too.

Being in the public domain means that now everybody is legally allowed to re-publish and/or adapt these works previously protected by copyright. So while we still highly recommend enjoying Jay Gatsby’s illustrious life and times in the original version – who knows what future creators will entertain us with by building upon the original’s legacy? For now, though don that dress and grab that drink because no one knows where the next (literary) party might lead you.


American writer Jerome David Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye was a great success and certainly his best-known work that also made him so famous. Probably a result of the book being immediately so intensely controversial as it talks about casual sex and prostitution and includes a debatable high amount of coarse language (for instance, you may count the expression “goddam” 237 times). But the novel was so popular that a “Catcher Cult” developed around it, celebrated by the many adolescent readers who could sympathise with protagonist Holden Caulfield. So it was banned in some countries and American schools even leading to several teachers discussing The Catcher in the Rye being fired. However, it still remained one of the most taught books in high schools despite being so frequently censored. And it still is very widely read all over the world with more than 10 million books have sold worldwide. Salinger wrote all his life and published several collections of short stories and novellas like Nine Stories including A Perfect Day for Bananafish and Teddy, and Franny and Zooey, two stories about two sisters and the perception of society.

Today, Salinger would be 122 years old and we celebrate this most celebrated author’s birthday – and wish you all a Happy New Year!