Staunton, May 31 – In a new book, educational theorist Anatoly Yermolin suggests that there are ways for Russian parents to raise “independent, self-sufficient and harmoniously developed children” who could become the basis for “the flourishing of the state” despite the authoritarianism and even totalitarianism round them.
Yermolin, who heads the Internet lycee “Podmoskovny” founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, lays out his ideas in “The Education of the Free Personality in a Totalitarian Era” (in Russian; Moscow Alpina Publishers, 2014). An except is available online at chaskor.ru/article/vospitanie_svobodnoj_lichnosti_v_totalitarnuyu_epohu_36117
“Typically,” Yermolin says, “in schools with an authoritarian regime of administration, the teachers quite capably imitate pupil self-administration. Various student organs are set up, an enormous quantity of meetings is held, but such work very often occurs exclusively on the basis of the initiative of adults.”
The opinions of the children are taken into account “if they correspond with the positions of the teachers,” he writes, with “the director monarchs consciously preventing the development of true self-administration and self-organization of the pupils.” And for many children, such arrangements and those who make them may be even quite popular.
But “the usefulness of ‘monarchs’ under conditions of contemporary economics is already under doubt,” Yermolin says, because “such an administrator prevents pupil self-administration not because he is evil but because his system of management does not accept democratic innovations.”
The tragedy is that if such administrators are forced to introduce more democratic structures, the latter may are likely to fail or even backfire because such effective managers don’t believe in them. In that situation, parents need to intervene and promote pupil administration because otherwise the rising generation won’t have the values needed for Russia to flourish.
Doing so won’t be easy because the problems he identifies in Russian schools now are the problems of Russia as a whole, a country in which authoritarian leaders may feel compelled to offer imitation democracy but feel equally justified in subverting any chance that children or adults will be able to make decisions and thus take control of their own lives.