Sunday, September 4, 2016

Russian Min. of Ed


Russian Min. of Education Olga Vasilieva

Moscow, Russia --  The new Minister of Education got off to a bumbling start with an inarticulate public statement raising a barrage of  questions about her level of Russian.

               When the new Minster of Education, Olga Vasilieva was asked by a journalist, "How do you see your appointment? What emotions did you experience?", she replied: "Concerning emotions - it was an unexpected divine calling, if you understand this. A calling concerning what you must do (irrespective of your will. " The Russian version of the answer goes : "В отношении  змоций божествование , если понимаете Божествование того, что Ты делаешь".

               When I first heard this statement I was stumped . The word 'boshestvovaniyi' confounded and bemused not only me but Russian journalists.

               Being a meticulous student of Russian I thought : "Great! A new expression to add to my notebook. I looked up my Russian dictionaries and asked around.

               My search was in vain! Maybe it was important to purchase a new dictionary!

               I later discovered that the reason I could not find such a word is that no such word existed in Russian. A Russian told me: "This new Minister of Education simply does not know Russian. It is not news . We always have ministers like this. Just look at the face of the New Minister of Education. It reminds you of an old authoritarian Soviet school director. A person without any real culture or literacy. This is not news for us."

               Funnily enough, the statement did not appear to merit even a scandal but just mild amusement from bloggers who regard her as an illiterate philistine. Attempting to correct the blunder, the Minister of Education stated: " I never said or meant this word. You journalists don't understand me and have misconstrued my statement . What I really meant was my appointment was a moral or spiritual position (dolzhestvovaniyi)           (Должествование) .

               The second statement was equally baffling! Again such a word does not exist in the Russian language! The second statement  only succeeded in reinforcing the first impression . So what you have is the Head of Education
does not really know Russian.... Or perhaps she is attempting to reinvent the Russian language or test its limits. In her defence you might claim that there is a wide discrepancy between the prescribed language defined
by teachers, professors and linguists and the actual  language people speak  on the streets which violates grammar rules and that her opponents are just intellectual snobs!  However, teachers of Russian in schools are often unforgiving perfectionists who expect better from a Minister. I mean it is not as if she is a trader at the market but is the Minister of Education who has to serve as an example to school students! If I was in her  shoes I would reply that I was experimenting with the language and trying to do a James Joyce. I might also reasonably claim that the poet  Pushkin made grammar mistakes in his Russian and had an editor! This editor turned out to be Nicolas the first! Unfortunately,
the Minister of Education is not Pushkin and does not have an editor like Nicholas the First. So Russian teachers  might not  be so forgiving! But she is already the butt  of  jokes. 'She wants our prayers not our votes ', declared one blogger.

               When Aleksi Venediktov, a famous journalist  learnt of her appointment , he immediately resigned from a social advisory body on education. He objects to her strong conservative Orthodox religious views. However, other people are not so anxious about her Russian or her religion but  views on Stalin and her rumored intolerance of other points of view.

               That is not the impression one attains from listening  to some  of her other public statements. For instance she has stated:

               "It is imperative to ponder, and analyse everything, that has happened , because those reforms which have been accepted, they demand deep thinking.

               We must take everything of the best: from the 19th century, from the 20th century and the 21st century." (statement to Kommerant FM)  and "I like the thought arising from a phrase of Einstein. It is clear that he had a complex enough attitude to education. He said ,that schools must
prepare harmonious personalities , and not narrow specialists."

               She is also on record  for warning parents not to push their children too hard in preparing for the Unitary state exams. It is evident she is aware of how many children are becoming stressed out over those exams . Parents can
easily forget that children should be allowed to be children. They need time to just play.

               However, most teachers are doubtful  whether the new Minister of Education will make much difference. The Ministry of Education has on many occasions promised to increase wages and cut the huge amount of red tape ensnaring teachers. According to Andrei Demidov, of the union, 'Teacher', the best they can expect from the new Minister of Education is to 'leave teachers alone' and put off  the on-going reforms in education. This is because 15 years of constant change has exhausted teachers. He stated: "School education really  requires peace and quiet. A pause in the reform of of the past 10-15 years, as was written by participants in a survey organised by the union Teacher in 2015.

               We would like to get used to all those changes! (see Novaya Gazeta, number  95, 29.08.2016, 'Оставьте Учителя в Покое', Андрей  Демидов.)

               This is an unlikely possibility if we take at face value the latest statements by the Minster of Education. Concerning the Unitary State Exam, she has stated: 'But I think that it is all the same, and we need to perfect those       exams.'  It looks like teachers won't be left in peace!

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