The Modern School: A Conveyor of Anti-Family Education

Archpriest Iliya Shugaev, rector of the Church of Michael the Archangel in the city of Taldom (Moscow Region), author of numerous books on the problems of adolescents, shares his thoughts on contemporary Russian education.

— What would you change in the education of modern schools?           

Modern education has the same drawbacks as the whole of modern Western European civilization, which is increasingly penetrating into our completely different civilization of Orthodox (including Slavic) countries. One of these drawbacks is that in the hierarchy of values, professionalism is superior to family values. This means that if you are a highly qualified specialist, you will be respected regardless of whether you are a good family man or not. In this society, you are needed, first of all, as a cog of a large system that creates material benefits for general happiness - in the end, an economic system.

In the field of education, this is manifested in the fact that the child is evaluated primarily on the scale of academic performance and level of knowledge, and not at all on some personal qualities, for example, the ability to love, to be a true friend. Of course, this is also taken into account, but is not in the first place.

The whole child's life revolves around success in school, starting from kindergarten, where he is already being prepared, and often simply trained for future studies at school.

As a result of this situation, the school turns into a conveyor for the production of these very cogs, not developed personalities. I don’t want to offend the teachers — they try to develop the children's personalities — but the education system itself is designed just like a conveyor belt, therefore, if the teachers manage to do something, it’s not thanks to the system, but in spite of it.

I will give two examples portraying the fact that the school does not take into account the personality characteristics of the child.

First, the gender of the child is not even taken into account. Separate schools for boys and girls completely disappeared from the 1950's. Any psychologist, and most ordinary parents, know that at school age girls are two years ahead of boys in their psychological development. The Church was always aware of this, which was why girls were allowed to marry from the age of 14, while guys were only allowed from the age of 16. At this age young people achieved complete inner maturity and willingness to start a family. Unfortunately, due to strong infantilism, this is not the case with modern youth. For example, in the seventh grade, as a rule, all girls have already entered the transitional age, while the majority of boys only enter it in the eighth grade.

So for ten years boys sit next to girls who are on average psychologically two years older. It is not surprising that during Soviet years girls were the Komsomol leaders, the heads of their classes, and the most active participants in various school events. Ten to eleven year old girls and girls within school walls receive the impression that boys are irresponsible, stupid, and lazy; that they can't be entrusted with anything, and that the girls must do everything themselves. They gain experience in leading boys, lecturing them on their behavior, rebuking them, and scolding them. They absorb a sense of superiority over males. 

And with guys it's the other way around. Male pride suggests that it shouldn't be this way, but at the same time they really are weaker than the girls. In response they act up more; tripping the girls, pulling their braids, tossing their bags around. They are easily offended by the girls, and as a sign of protest they refuse to carry out their obligations. They see girls as upstarts who stuff their minds with meaningless information. 

As a result, the guys get a completely different experience — the experience of shying away from duty, the experience of protesting by bullying. 

And if we add to this picture that the vast majority of teachers are women, and, accordingly, the teaching style and requirements for students are those of women, then we are faced with the mass production of anti-family education. All teachers theoretically want to help children grow up and create a good family in the future, but the system does just the opposite. 

I will give a second example that proves that the features of a person’s personality are not taken into account in a modern school.

I had the chance to meet a little thirteen-year-old boy whose mother and father drink. He himself does not smoke or drink. He is very worried that his parents drink, and the teachers clearly say that the boy is very kind and helpful. But, nevertheless, he does not fit into the life of this world.

He can’t learn: he often gets F's and he skips school. Not because he’s stupid, but because nothing will stick in his mind, because all his mental strength goes to reconcile with the fact that everyone else has normal parents, while his drink. After all, he has to love degenerate people, and that isn't easy! 

Because of this he behaves badly in the classroom, talks a lot, and is often distracted. The teachers have to put him in a place where he won't disrupt the class, and sometimes they are forced to expel him from the classroom. And gradually the persecution begins: "You are a loser, you are stupid, you are the son of an alcoholic and will be one yourself. Your road leads either straight to prison or else to wallowing in filth as a drunk for your entire life." 

And the adults are not the only ones who say this. His classmates also consider him stupid, cheeky, and generally insane.

I’m sure that if nothing changes, then another two years will pass, he will turn fifteen, and he will break loose and fall into many serious sins, because this world does not accept him. He’s uncomfortable at home, it's hard for him at school, and this makes it easier for him to break the law: “You yourselves called me a bully and a bandit. Why should I abide by the rules of a world in which I have no place? I’m not from this world, and its laws are not my laws!" 

And the one to blame for the fact that he was hounded like a wolf, is the system that places the level of education over kindness and helpfulness in the criteria of a good person. If no one had harassed the boy with compulsory secondary education, but had instead sent him to work quietly, then he would have become a good worker or farmer, and no one would think he was stupid because he hadn't finished eleventh grade. 

For such children, the modern educational system does not practically provide a normal path. This is the case when a conveyor disfigures any child that does not fit into the general format. 

I will try to make a conclusion. What would I change in a modern school? It is necessary to make the school personality-oriented. It sounds beautiful, but is very difficult to implement. As the first stage, we should at least introduce separate education for boys and girls in large schools, and in low-grade schools all teachers should go through courses of gender and age psychology. 

— What is good in the current education system? What is wrong? What does it not teach?

The good thing is that we are the heirs of a non-Western European civilization oriented towards success and quality. Our value is our teachers, who for the most part are not only wonderful people and love children, but also do not "stamp" faceless creatures out of them, trying to ensure that the school is not like a conveyor belt. But I repeat: they do it in spite of, and not thanks to, the modern education system.

The current education system does not teach independence, does not teach the basics of family life. Although I think that in order to teach independence at school, it will be necessary to change the entire education system. If there are 30 children in the classroom, then the main virtue of the student is obedience and diligence. But then we will not get mature and independent personalities. Independence training is a "private” work, here 10 students are an overload.

And for teaching the basics of family life, there’s still a lot of work to do, because I can’t even imagine what the secular concept of family life might look like.

These two gaps in education are in the very nature of modern school. After all, the school was conceived as a factory for raising children, which would take the place of artisanal education in family conditions. Therefore, the impression on the mind of the student (who is like a blank sheet of paper) and the separation of the child from the family are inevitable. 

The task of education is to teach how to get information.

— How can one make modern education effective?

I note two points. Here is the first one: For a hungry man, it is better to give him a fishing rod and teach him how to fish, than just to feed him. In the first case, he will be well-fed and hardworking, and in the other, well-fed and lazy.

This can rightly be applied to study. The task of education is not to cram a child with information, but to teach him to obtain and process it. In my opinion, it is possible to calmly reduce the amount of teaching, but to teach a child to work with primary sources, extracting bits of knowledge. The knowledge obtained in this way will be less in volume, but more durable. What is easily received is easily forgotten. Knowledge acquired with difficulty will not lie on the margins of memory, but will always be active.

The second point: Education is also a great opportunity to apply knowledge. If a high school student knows the “gimlet rule”, but has not fixed a single outlet in his life, then, in my opinion, he did not receive an education.

Labor develops a person even more than theoretical knowledge. I clearly felt this at the age of 15, when my mother asked me to build a toilet in the country. At first I thought that this was the most trivial thing, and that I could easily cope. But as soon as I got down to business, I realized that there are certain difficulties. I didn’t make such a breakthrough in mathematics solving trigonometry problems as when I managed to make a “primitive” toilet.

All the tasks in the textbook are already clearly formulated: here are the conditions, here is the question. And now I stood in indecision and thought for a long time: we must set a task for ourselves, choose the conditions. In my head there were 33 options for how to make a toilet: it can be triangular, or it can be rectangular, you can make a door like that, or you can do another, this sort of window, or you can do something else.

I began to make it. The first mistake I made was not taking into account the land slope, and I had to redo some things. I continued, and again there was a miscalculation. It was necessary to coordinate the roof slope with the length of the metal sheets, otherwise it would be necessary to cut it and some would be wasted. 

For the first time, I realized how difficult it is to think through everything from start to finish, all the smallest details, and then finish it all to the end, so that all the handles, covers, hooks, and eyelets are in place, and that everyone is comfortable. This was the first thing I did independently in my life. And most importantly: every five minutes I had to make the choice myself among many options, and make a decision if something did not fit. It was not at all like solving problems from a textbook.

Labor teaches us to set a clear task and solve it, and teaches us to correct mistakes if the task is set incorrectly. To increase the effectiveness of education, it is necessary to increase the share of labor training.

— Was your education better than that which exists today?

It seems to me that a feature of modern education, unlike the Soviet one, is a greater excess of information content.

Saying that the world is changing rapidly, they begin to say that the child needs to know a lot in order to keep up with life. As a result, the child receives a flood of information which he cannot digest. He can’t because first it is necessary to form a worldview in the child.

To do this, you do not need a lot of knowledge, but you need to give the child a system of values, that is, firstly, a hierarchy of values ​​(what is important, what is not important), and secondly, a moral scale (what is good, what is bad).

Then he will learn to comprehend any new information.

He will have a holistic picture of the world, and he will be able to put every new knowledge in a certain place in his system of knowledge; he will be able to evaluate it.

In terms of knowledge, I cannot compare modern and Soviet education. As for the worldview, I am sure that I received a better education than what our children receive.

They gave us a worldview system, although, of course, it was not based on some deep ontological foundation.

For example, everyone was told that one had to be kind and honest, but only then, so as not to do to another what one does not want for oneself. But why can't I lock myself in a room, close the door with a key, pull the curtain and watch a depraved movie or get drunk quietly? Nobody sees me, I don’t do anything bad to anyone — why can't I do this? Only a believer understands why it is impossible — you offend the presence of God.

Of course, the Soviet worldview was weak in the sense of thoroughness, which is why it gradually eroded and collapsed. But even having such a worldview is better than having a head full of information, but not having a clear idea of ​​good and evil.

Archpriest Iliya Shugaev

Source: (Russian)

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