CONSIDERATION1 of the role of Russian studies in secondary education illustrates rather forcefully the well-known estrangement between American academic specialists and the teaching of their subject in the schools. There is a significant and rapidly growing interest in Russia and the Communist orbit among educational leaders and organizations concerned with the secondary schools. Some efforts to introduce the study of Russia and of the Russian language are under way, but only in exceptional cases—Russian language instruction might require qualification of this generalization—are the recognized specialists in the field actively involved.
An examination of what is taught today in American secondary schools indicates that the amount of material on Russia and the Communist orbit generally available is not very extensive. Those familiar with the secondary-school program agree that the only part of the curriculum which is likely to include any significant content on Russia is that in the social studies. Social studies courses vary widely from state to state and from district to district within states, even where there is some centralization of standards by a state office of education. In general, however, probably more information on Russia appears than ever before.
The pattern of social studies requirements is in flux. The pre-1914 standard of a four-year secondary-school sequence in history, composed of ancient, medieval, modern, and American history, has long been discarded in the great majority of public schools. That abandoned sequence offered little or no material on Russia except in the diplomatic history of modern Europe. The social studies courses which supplanted the history sequence were intended to combine the approaches of a number of disciplines, but no appreciable change in the attention given to Eastern Europe marked the shift. Equally important, from the standpoint of introducing material on Russia in the schools today, the number of units in social studies required at varying times since the First World War has never equalled the four units of history cast out when the curriculum of the public secondary school ceased to center primarily around a college preparatory course and was transformed into universal general and vocational education.
In the present social studies program, all states require one unit (some form of American history and government). Many states require two units of social studies and some require three, but stipulate only one (American history and government) that is not open to individual election. A few schools may require four units of social studies; such a requirement is increasingly recommended for special programs for academically talented students, but specific courses are not stipulated. There are occasional exceptions, of course: Texas now has a state requirement that all secondary schools must give world history as well as American history.
Although the requirements vary, civics, world history, and world geography are generally offered in the ninth or tenth grades, and the first two are sometimes required. In the eleventh grade, American history is required. In the twelfth grade, problems of democracy, or a pair of semester courses (economics, government, sociology), or senior history, is sometimes required, but is usually elective. In addition to American history, required of all, approximately sixty per cent of secondary-school students take world history or some twelfth-grade variant of “problems.” Available figures do not show whether the same forty per cent which fails to elect world history when it is not required also fails to elect “problems.”
In so far as the secondary-school social studies program includes the study of Russia at all, such study generally forms part of the content of world history courses. In problems-of-democracy courses the problems taught vary, but they often include one on differing economic systems or one comparing the conditions of peoples who live under totalitarian and under democratic rule. In American history relatively little is studied about Russia, except in connection with World War I and World War II, and this is likely to be incidental. In civics, Russia is not likely to be studied other than as it appears for discussion in weekly current affairs. In world geography it may be studied, but relatively few pupils take this subject.
Immediately after World War II, Richard W. Burkhardt studied the question, “What is taught about the Soviet Union in American secondary schools?” through (1) a content analysis of social studies textbooks, (2) responses to a questionnaire sent to a sampling of teachers, and (3) the results of an information test on the Soviet Union given to sample groups of high school seniors.2 Since few teachers had had training in the language, literature, history, economics, or geography of Russia, study of Russia was heavily dependent upon textbooks, Burkhardt concluded. But students had little oportunity to learn about the Soviet Union from their textbooks, which devoted little attention to this topic. Furthermore, some material that was included was misleading and inaccurate, and a major problem was misplaced emphasis—too much attention to items of relatively little importance concerning the U.S.S.R. and inadequate presentation of significant material. Burkhardt’s analysis also suggested that full use was not being made of the opportunities available for effective textbook presentation of the Soviet Union. An analysis of the textbooks showed that much of the space given to less significant nations might have been used to present a more complete picture of the Soviet Union.
Even in schools reported to have superior social studies programs, students had little opportunity to study the Soviet Union. Interested teachers reported dissatisfaction with the presentation of Soviet affairs in textbooks and described their need to rely on pamphlets and other current materials to teach the most important information. Moreover, the little time devoted to study of the U.S.S.R. was not being used as efficiently as it might have been because there was no real agreement among teachers upon the most vital topics to be taught. Students’ knowledge of the Soviet Union, reflecting their learning opportunities, showed that they did not know the really important data about the Soviet Union.
An examination of a small selection of textbooks, made in 1958 by Beth Arveson, of the University of Wisconsin High School, showed little significant change in the space allotted to Russia. On the whole, problems-of-democracy textbooks still give scant attention to Russia, although the world history textbooks usually have one or more chapters on Russia. Progress in this respect, over a period of ten to fifteen years, seems discouragingly slow, since it is clear that much the same comments about texts can be made today that were made by Burkhardt. But the more encouraging side of recent developments is the increase in supplementary materials available. These are being provided by teacher organizations, as, for example, the National Council for the Social Studies, through its yearbooks and its journal Social Education, and by state and federal educational agencies. The department of public instruction of the state of Pennsylvania published a guide to materials after making a study of the problem of teaching about Communism in the public schools.
If, as some students of public education assert, there is a thirty-year lag between introduction of a subject and its widespread acceptance, Russian studies in the secondary schools are following the traditional pattern. If, however, specialists in Russian studies exhibit a greater concern for the introduction of this subject in the schools, this will encourage and assist the growing number of teachers and administrators who have already shown interest and some initiative in this regard.
Significant exceptions to the pattern of introducing Russian studies through world history and problems-of-democracy courses occur. At the University of Wisconsin High School a substantial section on Russia was included in the senior social problems course beginning in February, 1958. While part of the inspiration for this initiative undoubtedly stemmed from the success of Russian satellite experiments a few months before, much of it was due to the general curiosity of the students about Russia and to the enthusiasm and long-term interest of their teacher. A full semester course on Russian history was introduced in the fall of 1958 at the same school. The program at the University of Wisconsin High School has the advantage of close collaboration between the teacher, Beth Arveson, who had not previously had special training in Russian studies, and a professor of Russian history at the university, Michael B. Petrovich. Other members of the university staff cooperate in special subjects, and for 1958-59 the Russian course in the high school is coordinated with television lectures by Professor Petrovich in a further experimental program.
Resources such as those at the University of Wisconsin are not available to most secondary schools. The classic pattern, however, for introduction of a new subject in the secondary-school curriculum is through the success of just such special experimental courses as those at the Wisconsin school. Multiplying examples of a similar sort would undoubtedly lead, in a period of ten or fifteen years, to the production of standardized teaching materials for the subject and to the gradual absorption of the material in some part of the social studies program. Whether courses relating to Russian studies in the secondary schools incorporate the information that Russian specialists in the several academic disciplines consider important may well depend upon their initiative in cooperating with social studies teachers in the organization of pilot courses and the preparation of materials which will set the pace for the majority of schools.
The great majority of secondary-school social studies teachers today have not had any training in Russian studies. Teacher preparation programs have been recurrently under pressure to make provision for the special interest of some particular group—among parents, educational psychologists, specialists in one or another academic discipline, and many others. The large number of special pressures, however, has had relatively little effect on the prevailing pattern of social studies courses in the curriculum. Since the education of teachers is closely related to the demands made by the established curriculum, the introduction of special training in a particular area is likely to be exceptional and dependent upon individual choice, or even chance, as much as upon design.
The secondary-school general education program in the social studies, as already indicated, is decidedly limited so far as Russian studies are concerned. Teacher education is correspondingly restricted. The question, then, as in the case of Russian studies in the secondary-school curriculum, is where in the teacher preparation program the desirable training can be added, or how teachers already in service may acquire training in Russian studies.
Although the pattern of a five-year program for teacher preparation, and possibly a master’s degree, is now often recognized as desirable, the four-year program is still generally in effect. Because of the multiple demands upon student time, specialization in a particular field, such as Russian studies, is difficult of achievement in the four-year program. Certain requirements in professional education must be met, while the general education must provide all of the substantive needs of the student, including competence in the subject, or all the subjects, that he may be called upon to teach. A group major (i.e., social studies, science, humanities), as distinct from a single-subject major (i.e., history, economics, chemistry), corresponds more closely to existing curriculum patterns in the secondary school. For the social studies teacher in training, the subject possibilities are wide, and genuine mastery of all of them is impossible in the four-year course. How much the prospective teacher may learn about Russia depends upon the offerings available in his major subjects and upon his program requirements. Within these limitations, however, opportunities exist for students planning to become teachers to work out a program, by careful selection and with the assistance of their advisors, which will include some general preparation in the Russian area.
A related problem is that of certification and assignment to teach. Again, the practices vary widely from state to state, but certification to teach social studies usually means certification to teach any subject in that category, and may be acquired on the basis of considerably less than a major in any single subject. Teachers may be certified to teach social studies with a minor in that field, which may mean no preparation in depth in any particular subject in it. School administrators regularly assign teachers to courses in accord with these certification standards and regardless of whether the teachers have had special training in the subject assigned, or in other subjects. Therefore, whether or not opportunities are provided for majoring in Russian studies in teacher education programs, there is under present procedures no necessary correlation between such special preparation and teaching assignment. A recent study of social studies teachers in the secondary schools of Kansas showed that of the 315 social studies teachers assigned to teach world history, only 151 had had any college work in modern European history, and only 27 any college work in Far Eastern history.
Opportunity for the study of Russia can nevertheless be found in the teacher-training program. In states where the department of education, as certifying agency, does not dictate specific course requirements but rather approves college programs of teacher preparation individually, institutions can explore special interests such as Russian studies. And while the professional education part of teacher-preparation programs might appear to have little connection with the problem, the contrary is true. Potentialities for the study of other cultures and social systems, whether utilized or not, exist in this part of the curriculum, for example, in the subject commonly called “Foundations of Education.” Courses labelled “School and Society,” “Principles of Secondary Education,” and so on, are often unnecessarily provincial. They could well afford to give some consideration to comparative education. This would appear especially timely in view of the current interest in Russian education. The part of the professional education curriculum devoted to materials and methods also provides fruitful possibilities. Courses concerned with the teaching of social studies, in particular, offer excellent opportunity for a presentation of ways in which comparative Russian materials might be used in class. Student teaching presents still other opportunities. Some student teachers should be encouraged to prepare and teach Russian units.
The interrelationship between the teaching of secondary-school social studies courses and other levels of the American educational system, undergraduate and graduate, needs to be stressed. Most of the teachers being prepared today go to multipurpose institutions, not to “teachers colleges.” Those in charge of teacher training within liberal arts colleges could and should call upon the total resources of the institution. The scholar has the power and the responsibility to make an impact on the teacher in training. If the secondary schools are to give more attention to the study of Russia, the 1,300 or more liberal arts colleges involved in teacher training must provide prospective teachers with the necessary preparation.
In developing ways to equip teachers with some knowledge of Russian and Soviet developments, several additional problems arise. For example, in the multipurpose tax-supported institution, from which many teachers are drawn, it is often difficult to identify future teachers early enough to permit the inclusion of specialized preparation in their program. Furthermore, a great many American children are being taught in small schools, although educational leaders tend to think in terms of large schools. Teaching problems are different in each case; in a small school the teacher usually has to teach in at least two fields in which he has not been trained.
A program of teacher training in Russian studies probably has its best opportunity to achieve an immediate impact on the school program through what is generally known as “in-service education.” Several types are common: one is formal work for additional credit undertaken by the practicing teacher at night or in the summer; a second is the special conference, institute, or consultative use of specialists on a particular topic or problem; and a third is independent reading, travel, or participation in professional organizations of individual teachers. In all of these cases, concentration on Russian studies would enable teachers not previously prepared in this field to acquire the basis for including more attention to Russia in present courses, provided suitable teaching materials were made available. For example, the University of Michigan presented, in the summer of 1958, a special program of Russian studies. The program included an interdepartmental survey of the Soviet Union, as well as elective courses on Russia in the departments of economics, geography, history, political science, and Slavic languages and literature. An intensive Russian language program was also offered. A program of this type is of special value to teachers wishing to augment their teaching effectiveness by acquiring some competence in the field of Russian studies.
Although instructional materials are designed primarily for use by students, leaders in teacher education generally agree that nothing determines the nature of the curriculum so much as the textbook. Efforts to influence the curriculum may well take textbooks as a point of departure. World history textbooks are perhaps the most relevant for the study of Russia, but their treatment of Russia and other areas is limited by traditional considerations and course requirements. Publishers must produce volumes acceptable to the educational public. At present this means that a book must not be too long, or teachers cannot carry their students through it in a single year. Furthermore, as a world history, it will need to include Mayan, for example, as well as Russian civilization. At the same time, by careful selection and by giving Russia space and attention commensurate with its importance in history and in the modern world, it should be possbile to expand and improve the treatment of Russia in such textbooks, without making less effective their presentation of world history as a whole. Other reading materials besides textbooks should also be used, however, if any substantial teaching about Russia is to result.
In the effort to introduce and develop the study of Russia in American schools, it is essential that the alternatives available respecting the curriculum be carefully considered in the light of their utility and feasibility. One is a separate course in Russian studies, taught for a semester or even a year. Another is increased emphasis on Russian studies within existing curricular patterns. In either case, the introduction of Russian studies will probably be only an opening wedge leading to greater emphasis on non-Western studies in general in the secondary-school curriculum. Teacher education programs, therefore, may follow one of two alternatives: (1) the training of a small, select group of teachers with considerable preparation on Russia for those secondary schools, probably few in number, that wish to offer special courses or programs relating to the Russian area; such teachers might be students of Russian and Soviet society, or persons who combine this with ability to teach the Russian language; (2) emphasis on providing a general knowledge of Russian culture to a large number of secondary-school teachers, few of whom would become Russian specialists.
In teacher education and in the curriculum, the introduction of materials on Communism alone is not enough; concentration on the history, society, and culture of Russia, as well as on Communism, is essential. We need to know something of the area as a whole rather than merely the ideology of its government. This broader approach would also provide a more solid basis for the study of Russia than would emphasis on the present-day foreign and domestic policies of the U.S.S.R. For such an approach, study of the Russian language provides an immediate and, at the present time, increasingly popular complementary step.
The furor that followed the success of the Russian space satellite program brought forth a rash of proposals for introducing more study of science and foreign languages in American secondary schools. Dr. Marjorie Johnston, of the United States Office of Education, has posed the problem in this way: “We no longer live in an age in which knowledge of a foreign language can be considered more or less exclusively as either the hallmark of the literary scholar or the sign of the illiterate immigrant. Nor can it be any longer the sole domain of a handful of specialists who make their living by teaching, research, translating, or interpreting.”
In the past there has been little study of the Russian language in American secondary schools, or even in American colleges, and there is an urgent need to remedy this deficiency. Considerations of national, as well as of cultural and scientific, interest suggest that Russian should be the first of the languages not previously taught to be added to the secondary-school curriculum. Several conferences of foreign-language teachers in 1958 adopted resolutions stressing the urgent need for introducing Russian in the secondary schools. Public, as distinct from professional, reaction to the proposal to teach Russian can perhaps be gauged by the enthusiastic response to televised courses of Russian language instruction at unusual hours. Soviet scientific achievements, and the novelty of studying a language few Americans know and most Americans consider exotic, set a favorable stage for introducing Russian in the secondary schools.
The annual convention of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AAT-SEEL) at Madison, Wisconsin, in September, 1957, organized a Committee for Promoting the Study of Russian in American High Schools. Operating on the basis of regional representation, the committee encouraged the introduction of pilot courses and cooperated in developing them. By the fall of 1958, over two hundred public and at least two dozen private secondary schools were teaching Russian. These were not all new programs. The Maine Township High School, Des Plaines, Illinois, for example, has been teaching Russian for about four years, using the traditional instructional methods based on a grammar text. In Portland, Oregon, Russian has been taught since 1944; the methods used are somewhat less traditional, and the teachers all teach other courses as well as Russian language. In some school systems (e.g., Stuyvesant, Erasmus Hall High School, and the Bronx School of Science, in the New York City system) Russian has been offered outside the regular curriculum as a special club activity. A number of private secondary schools have also been teaching Russian for some time. St. Alban’s (Washington, D. C.) follows the traditional grammar-reading-conversation approach, while Choate (Wallingford, Connecticut) uses the oral-aural approach. Chatham Hall (Chatham, Virginia) has for some fifteen years offered a combined course in elementary Russian language and Russian culture.
Since 1944 the University of Minnesota High School has offered a Russian language and civilization course similar to its German, French, and Spanish language and civilization courses. When instruction in a language is introduced, lectures on the literature are added to the English class on world literature, folk songs and music by national composers are included in the music appreciation class, and folk dances become part of the physical education class.
The great variation in approach of the small number of Russian language programs among the approximately 28,000 public and private secondary schools in the United States, and the highly selected group of students usually involved, make difficult an evaluation of their effectiveness and their suitability as general models. By and large, the most successful programs have been characterized by strong support from the administration and the community, as well as the students and teachers, by careful recruitment of qualified teachers, and by painstaking selection of materials, with well-planned syllabi.
Conferences sponsored in 1958 by the Modem Language Association and by AATSEEL on teaching Russian language did not reflect unanimity on the proper method of instruction. The oral-aural approach and the so-called traditional reading-writing-conversation approach both have strong advocates. In regard to teachers, there was a broader range of agreement that the ideal qualifications of a Russian language teacher for American secondary-school classrooms are complete oral-aural facility, thorough knowledge of the historical and cultural background of Russia, an understanding of the theory of languages, and a familiarity with classroom procedures. It is clear, however, that only a few teachers with these qualifications are now available; consequently, every effort must be made to find and prepare Russian language teachers who can quickly meet modified standards designed to ensure that reasonably competent instruction in Russian is offered.
Emergency qualification of teachers for Russian language instruction is taking place. In-service training courses for teachers are available in some areas, as in New York City. In some states, Connecticut for example, teachers have been accepted on a temporary basis, without the usual certification requirements, after meeting a test of proficiency and cultural background supervised by a competent non-state authority, in this case, Yale. During the summers teacher training courses are being offered by such institutions as Middlebury College, Columbia Teachers College, Indiana University, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Brooklyn College, and the University of Minnesota.
Although such emergency measures may be able temporarily to alleviate the shortage of teachers, a large-scale growth of Russian language instruction in the secondary schools will require a systematic and long-range effort in teacher education, and a rapid expansion of Russian language study in institutions of higher education. For example, in 1956-57, of 340,000 bachelor’s degrees granted, only 107 were majors in Russian; of 61,955 master’s degrees, only 33 were majors in Russian; of 8,756 persons awarded doctor’s degrees, 10 were Russian language specialists. These students are not the only possible source for teachers of Russian in American secondary schools, to be sure, but the figures above suggest the paucity of individuals being prepared in the customary teacher-training programs upon which certification authorities draw for public school teachers.
Procedural techniques in language teaching have changed in the past twenty years by a margin not duplicated in any other subject matter, largely because of developments in the science of linguistics and the growing availability of technical aids. Although there is disagreement as to the relative merit of using native Americans to teach foreign languages, or of utilizing in American classrooms recent refugees, neither group should be automatically excluded, and both can be assisted by modern language methods and aids. Certainly there are not enough native speakers to supply the needs of the secondary schools even if they met other requirements for language teachers; at the same time the skills of the best native speakers can be made more widely available through recordings and tapes and can supplement teaching by native Americans. In addition, a number of teachers of Latin, French, German, and Spanish can be prepared, through special training programs, to teach Russian as well.
Any knowledge of Russia introduced at the secondary-school level should be for purposes of general education. In some fields the secondary-school student normally expects to use the training he receives directly and immediately in his vocation. For other skills in which the secondary school offers training—mathematics, foreign languages, social studies—general rather than vocational education is the end. A general education course may serve as preparation for college work or may introduce a student to knowledge of himself and society basic to good citizenship and future intellectual and cultural growth. The study of Russia in the secondary schools should be directed toward giving the student an understanding of the concepts and principles that are basic in Russian history, society, and language. Even there, the very few students who later embark upon a career of specialization in Russian area studies would benefit by learning these subjects at the secondary-school level almost exclusively as cultural subjects designed to enhance their intellectual breadth. This means that the study of Russia does not have to be tied to their own immediate daily experience.
What we need to learn about the peoples and societies of Russia and the Communist orbit is an awareness of the ways in which their problems, traditions, and points of view compare with ours. It is now generally recognized that the Soviet Union and its allies represent a major force in world affairs, and that the maintenance of peace in an era of vigorous competition will call for skill and understanding. Apart from contributing to a comprehension of the essential features of Russian society, the study of an important foreign area such as this should also contribute to a deeper appreciation of the American way of life. Such consideration of one’s own society in comparison with other cultures is vital to the educational process and should be an important by-product of foreign area study.
Given the time required for learning, no program is going to provide over night any general remedy for our present problem of inadequate knowledge of non-Western languages, history, institutions, and culture. “Crash” programs can meet the irreducible demand by concentrating on a few people and training them without regard to the cost. But public education, which is relatively inflexible, cannot be expected to convert en masse to any “crash” program. If Russian and other non-Western studies are to receive the serious attention in secondary education which the role of the United States in international affairs requires, this goal cannot be best achieved in the long run by scissors-and-paste curriculum-making, inserting a unit here or an elective for the academically talented there. We must instead divide the available time in such a way as to give due weight to these studies in relation to more traditional subject matter. Such a division, rather than interlarding special courses whenever their contemporary importance strikes us, will commit us to a long-range approach. One means of achieving this may be through broader use of a comparative and illustrative approach in the social studies units now offered to all, taught by teachers with some preparation in Russian studies, and expanded in special units designed to emphasize the integral role of foreign-area studies in any general education program.
At present it does not appear feasible to attempt to coordinate language study with area study in the secondary-school curriculum. This is especially true if language study is looked upon as primarily useful for those going on to college. In any event, not more than 14 per cent of those enrolled in secondary schools take any foreign language at all (in the state of Indiana, which is not atypical, the figure is nearer 5 per cent), even though over 30 per cent of college-age young people enter colleges.
Our objective for the next five years might well be to double the percentage of those enrolled in secondary schools who study a foreign language. Without affecting the number of those now taking French and Spanish, this would permit more adequate attention to other languages of great significance for the twentieth-century world. Then, instead of 92 per cent of those who study a foreign language in secondary school at all studying Spanish and French, a significant proportion of the increased total number of language students would be studying Russian. There would still be some three-quarters of a million secondary-school enrollments in Spanish and French, but we should be adding to them a substantial enrollment in Russian and in other languages now neglected. There would still be only some 30 per cent of secondary-school students in any foreign-language program, but an effort should be made to include all those who are likely to continue formal study beyond the twelfth grade.
Effective planning for the future requires that the possible, as well as the desirable, be taken into account. With this in mind, what, then, are the practical steps that can be taken to encourage greater attention to Russia in secondary education, with the eventual goal of having every secondary-school graduate know some basic information about Russia and the Communist system?
In considering curricular problems, certain basic assumptions must be taken into account. The most important is, that in taking measures to include more attention to Russia and other non-Western areas, major emphasis should be on alterations within the existing course structure rather than on the addition of special area courses. The former is the more feasible approach and also ensures reaching the largest number of students. Social studies are already a part of all programs, and through present social studies a wide cross-section of the secondary-school population can be informed about Russia. Since these courses are already crowded with subject matter, some re-allocation of the time devoted to various topics and greater stress on comparative and illustrative material relating to Russia will be necessary. The goal should be a reconsideration of content in the social studies program to provide an emphasis on Russia and other non-Western areas proportionate to their importance in the modern world, and to give the study of these areas an organic connection with the general education program.
Special projects like that in Russian history at the University of Wisconsin High School are excellent in that they stand on their own merits as study in a foreign area. The difficulty is that they reach only a fraction of those in social studies programs and must compete for attention with other subjects aimed at the same fraction. They are also difficult to prepare and arrange and are not likely to be widely adopted in the immediate future. They are nevertheless of great value in encouraging interest in Russian studies and as experimental pilot programs which may show the way to a number of other schools.
It is apparent that curriculum modification can be effective only if there is close and continuing cooperation among scholars, teachers, and secondary-school administrators. Another assumption is that in handling Russian materials in the curriculum a broad fields approach, including sociology, economics, anthropology, and other disciplines, should be adopted.
A final postulate is the necessity for a carefully planned expansion of instruction in the Russian language as a complement to study of the languages traditionally taught in secondary schools. Where possible, the teaching of Russian should be initiated in the elementary schools as well. At whatever level it is taught, a minimum of two years’ study of Russian should be offered, and in most cases it would be desirable for secondary schools to offer a three or four-year sequence in Russian.
A vital problem in teaching about Russia in the secondary schools is how to present the findings of American and other Western research in such a way as to give students a mature and balanced understanding of a very different historical experience and way of life. The judicious adaptation of these findings to secondary-school teaching will require further study and experimentation, and this paper can touch only briefly on some of the problems involved.
A basic general premise is that Russia—not merely the Soviet Union—is the topic. The origins of Russian institutions must be studied, and elements of continuity and change in Tsarist and Soviet development should be examined.
As noted above, much material on Russia can be initially introduced into existing social studies courses, as well as through special courses on the area. For example, fundamental to an understanding of Russia is a knowledge of its geography. Geography courses should therefore embrace not only location identification relating to Russia and an awareness of its main physical and climatological features, but also an appreciation of the influence of Russian geography on history and foreign policy, including the growth of the Russian empire. Important also is a recognition of the many nationalities and language families embraced in the area of the Soviet Union.
In world history courses, the presentation of Russian history should certainly be more than chronologically-arranged facts about strange and distant peoples. To integrate Russian history with the whole of a pupil’s education, the question of Russian origins and the relation of Russia to Europe should be raised. In its origins Russia was a fusion of Germanic tribal custom and Greek Christianity imposed on a Slavic population. Medieval Western civilization similarly grew out of the fusion of Germanic peoples and Latin Christianity. Students should also be reminded, in this age of Soviet anticlericalism, that Russia was a great Christian country throughout the centuries which witnessed the rise of the major Western European nation states. Consequently, due attention should be devoted to the Byzantine culture area and its great legacy, the Orthodox Church, and Russia should be identified as a principal heir of the Eastern Roman Empire.
A sound interpretation of Russian history should include an examination of whether we should regard Russia as part of the Western world or not. Students should be made aware of the fact that in the twelfth century Russia and Western Europe had much in common, but that the former did not experience the great events of the following centuries which affected Western Europe so greatly, e.g., the Renaissance and the Reformation. During the expansion of Western civilization other parts of the world borrowed, or were forced to adopt, aspects of Western civilization. Both America and Russia can be seen as extensions of Europe, America becoming a new center of Western civilization, Russia learning from Europe but holding to its own messianic vision, adapting what it learned in order to use the knowledge in combating European hegemony, and on occasion treating Europe as a corrupt deviant in the development of civilization. The thesis that Russia will replace Europe as the center of civilization has a long tradition in Russian history and should be one of the insights into Russian development acquired from a Russian-studies program.
Students should learn about the institutions of serfdom and autocracy in Russia and should recognize that the pattern of modernization in Russia was largely inspired by the West. This is true even of Marxism, which was born in the West, imported by Russia, and altered into its present Soviet manifestation. Conversely, it is useful to show the contributions that the great flowering of Russian culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made to Western literature, music, and other arts.
The periodization of Russian history can be used to illustrate some important universal principles in the history of other modern societies. The significance of 1861 as a turning point in Russian history is well recognized. What should be equally recognized is the continuity between pre-and post-1861 peasant life. As is always true in any major upheaval, the characteristics of the pre-revolutionary organization of society that are preserved may be quite as important as those which are changed. The same, in differing degree, is true of the problem of 1917 as a turning point in Russian history.
Ideally, study of Communism and the Soviet system in courses on problems of democracy should be based on a prior acquaintance with Russia’s past gained in world history courses. Attention should be given to the theory of Communism as developed by Marx and to the alterations it has undergone in the face of changing conditions and in practice. The existence of a number of varieties of Communism should also be noted, as well as the ways these differ from each other and from the theory. In the study of Soviet foreign policy, it is important that students recognize that Communist plans to dominate the world are not all military in nature, and that political and economic tactics form an important part of Communist strategy.
In broad outline, students should learn about the growth of Soviet industrial, economic, and technological power, as well as the very heavy human and material costs of this achievement. The significance of Soviet methods of economic development for the underdeveloped nations of Asia and Africa should also be pointed out. In addition, so far as this is possible at the secondary-school level, the Soviet system could be used to illustrate the relationship between economic development and political and social structure in modernizing society.
In short, it is a question of understanding the problems and nature of a society and way of life that are very different from ours in many respects. Soviet society is a closed society and offers to the student an example of a totalitarian regime embracing the family, the school system, and art and culture, as well as political and economic life. Like all societies it is constantly changing, but in whatever direction it may evolve it represents a continuing force in international relations about which all Americans should be informed and concerned.
American history provides a less effective vehicle for references to Russia except for the most recent period, although there are a number of historical examples of American-Russian relations in earlier years. There is the possibility as well of developing analogies between the expansion of the American frontier and Russian expansion into Siberia, and between American slavery and Russian serfdom, as well as emphasizing comparisons in matters relating to civil liberties, free enterprise, and living standards. American history courses also present the opportunity to consider lessons which may be learned from Western intervention in Russia, and an evaluation of the United States image of the Soviet Union.
In world literature courses some attention may well be devoted to popular Russian authors of the nineteenth century, such as Tolstoy and Chekhov, and to a few Soviet writers. In activities inside or outside the classroom relating to music, drama, and the dance, Russian and Soviet contributions to these art forms could readily be made clear.
In conclusion, attention should be drawn to the related questions of training teachers and of providing materials and other assistance to schools that wish to develop the teaching of Russia and of other non-Western areas. An essential step is the education of teachers interested in and equipped to teach about these areas. In the pre-service preparation of teachers at all levels, there should be continuing emphasis on the general education and liberal arts approaches, and such preparation should permit of both breadth and depth. Within this broader framework, opportunities should be provided, wherever possible, for teachers to include a major or minor in area studies in their pre-service preparation. If this is to be done, institutions preparing teachers will have to make available more offerings in the social sciences relating to the Russian area. These approaches to the pre-service preparation of teachers in Russian studies should benefit from efforts in teacher education to place expanded emphasis on subject-matter courses.
A number of important ways exist for encouraging and assisting the study of Russia by teachers who have already been trained. A most useful aid would be selected and annotated book lists on the Russian area for teachers and school librarians. Such lists could be prepared by specialists in Russian studies in consultation with social studies teachers in the secondary schools. Also of great value would be short studies for the teacher or the student dealing with various aspects of Russian affairs—for example, brief treatments of Soviet economic growth and organization, of the origins of Bolshevism and the revolutions of 1917, of Soviet social structure, of major problems in Russian and Soviet foreign policy. Studies of this type should also be prepared through the cooperative efforts of specialists in the field and secondary-school teachers and administrators. A number of such studies might later be combined and issued in book form. Other helpful materials for teachers would be various audio-visual aids, ranging from television programs and films to slides and film strips. The latter could often be prepared from photographs or movies taken by recent visitors to Russia. A list of audio-visual devices and of their availability might usefully accompany the book lists mentioned above when they are circulated to schools and teachers.
A substantial contribution to the stimulation of institutional and teacher interest and to the in-service preparation of teachers could be made through the establishment of regional or state consulting services in Russian studies. Such services should be supervised and staffed by area specialists, in conjunction with schools and departments of education. Included in the services made available might be the preparation and distribution of the materials discussed in the preceding paragraph, guidance on problems of curriculum and content for school administrators and teachers anxious to initiate instruction in the Russian language or area, and frequent visits to and close cooperation with schools and teachers in the region. Direct contact with teachers in their schools and occasionally with students would be very desirable, although this would require a large amount of the university teachers’ time.
A most important step would be the offering of special summer programs on Russia for secondary-school teachers. These might take the form of an institute or workshop bringing together teachers who had developed resource units. Such brief efforts, whether in the summer or during the course of the school year, are most effective, however, when they are combined with a program of regular course offerings relating to the Russian area. It is essential, therefore, that universities with resources in Russian studies develop and offer substantive programs in the Russian language and the area designed to meet the needs and objectives of secondary-school teachers.
To ensure continuing attention to the problem of developing the study of Russia in American secondary education and to promote the necessary cooperation in this effort between scholars in Russian studies and secondary-school teachers and administrators, a national joint committee of representatives of the two groups should be established. The functions of this committee would be to consider immediate and long-range projects and the needs and desires of the schools and teachers, and to act as a clearinghouse of information on the subject. It could provide limited guidance and an indication of what others interested in the problem were doing.
Such a committee should be small, but knowledgeable about personnel, sources of financial support, and other resources. Its long-run goal would be to help with conferences, advise textbook authors and publishers, counsel on the education of teachers, assist in experimentation at the local level, and make other suggestions upon request. In short, its role would be one of guiding and servicing the growing number of scholars, teachers, and administrators who are convinced that some acquaintance with Russia, as well as with other non-Western areas, should become an integral and accepted part of the preparation of almost every secondary-school student.
1. This paper is based on a conference of leaders in secondary education and scholars and teachers in Russian studies held in Washington, D. C., on October 17-19, 1958, under the joint sponsorship of the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, and the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies. It summarizes the findings of the conference, as well as the substance of its working papers, which have been published in the Bulletin of the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, XLIII (March, 1959), 117-215. At a second conference held in Washington, D. C., on May 28-29, 1959, under the joint sponsorship of the National Council for Social Studies, the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, and the American Council of Learned Societies, the needs of the secondary schools in materials and assistance were further discussed. These conferences and this paper are based on the conviction that secondary-school students need to know more not only about Russia but also about the other non-Westem areas. Consequently, this consideration of the problem of devoting more attention to Russia in secondary education is viewed as a pilot study which, it is hoped, will also have pertinence for the development of the study of other non-Westem areas in the secondary schools.
2. Richard W. Burkhardt, “The Teaching of the Soviet Union in American Secondary School Social Studies,” doctoral dissertation, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, 1950; and “Report on a Test of Information about the Soviet Union in American Secondary Schools,” American Slavic and East European Review, V (November, 1946), 1-28.