Staunton, June 23 – In a disastrous case of drawing on unfortunate even tragic tsarist policies, S. Magaril and P. Filippov write in Yezhednevny zhurnal, Vladimir Putin is reprising tsarist-era attitudes toward education, attitudes that contributed to Russia’s backwardness and explosions of violence in the early years of the 20th century.
After reviewing the history of tsarist antagonism toward schooling, an attitude reflecting the view of tsars that it was easier to keep the people in line if they were not educated, the two say “today we observer the very same efforts of the powers not to allow Russians to get good educations especially in economics and political science” (ej.ru/?a=note&id=32607).
Today’s “school and higher educational institution programs do not provide explanations for the poverty of some countries and the wealth of others,” Magaril and Fillipov say. “They do not explain the importance for development of pluralism, political and economic competition, the supremacy of law and an independent judicial system.”
“In place of the former communist utopia,” they write, students are force fed “imperial fantasies.” The level of teaching in all disciplines is declining, in large part because Putin has ordered raising the pay of instructors while cutting government financing of universities and other higher educational institutions.
And that is compounded by the fact that the only way rectors can pay themselves more is to cut the number of instructors. That has resulted in a system in which rectors are paid as much as 80 million rubles (1.3 million US dollars) a year while instructors and professors are paid a pittance.
Indeed, the old joke that “if the boss eats meat every day, while his subordinates eat cabbage, then in turns out on average that we all eat soup” has once again gained currency.
The reduction in the number of instructors has led to a situation in which there are now 12 students for every instructor in Russian higher schools, while the average in other countries is three or four to one. “Instructors are becoming fewer and the quality of education is falling,” the two historians say.
This doesn’t both the elite around the Kremlin because their children long ago went to England or Germany to study.
Of course, the two write, “this policy is rational if you evaluate it starting from the selfish interests of the ruling group. It is directed above all at het enrichment of the powers of the wealthy and not at the growth in the country of human capital.”
History shows, they say that “educated people don’t accept propaganda as readily an don’t believe that ‘the tsar is good but the boyars are bad.’ (One is talking about really educated people and not about specialists in Marxist-Leninist philosophy.)”
The educated “know languages and can compare life and the system in Russia and in developed democratic countries. It is harder to deceive them; and it isn’t an accident that each fifth Moscow, according to polls by sociologists of the Levada Center, is today ready to emigrate and escape the realities of Putin’s ‘democracy.’”
In all too many ways, Magaril and Fillipov say, “the present rulers of Russia have heeded the advice of Empress Catherine” – don’t educate the Russian people or you’ll have problems. Of course, “many Russians understand where such a policy leads. But they are silent, they don’t protest, they are afraid.”
So far, “they even vote for ‘the national leader.’ They behave correctly [because] after all we aren’t Armenians. We still put up with things.”
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