Quiz question: How does the contemporary American school system differ from that of 19th century Czarist Russia?

[This is actually a post I made at an education Facebook page]

Reading Avrahm Yarmolinsky’s Road to Revolution which deals with the rise of revolutionary sentiment in 19th century Russia. Good book. In it he discusses the educational reforms (among others) enacted by Nicholas 1.

A little background for those who may not be familiar with ol’ Nick: His father, Alexander1, was the Czar who defeated Napoleon (?) and tore west with his army all the way to Paris. He returned home a hero but his soldiers, nobles and peasants alike, had seen what the revolution had done in France and a good many became radicalized. Alex’ 1 implemented some reforms aimed at a) preventing another Napoleon-like invasion, and b) averting a revolution in Russia. These measures, not worth discussing here, had the opposite effect and when he died in December of 1825, and a succession dispute ensued, a group of officers and thousands of their follwers organized a rebellion on behalf of Nicholas, who was seen as the more progressive. The Decembrists were a mixed bag but in the main were bourgeois republicans who promised, sincerely or not, to liberate the serfs should they come to power.

As it turned out Nicholas didn’t need their support nor share their desire for a constitutional monarchy a la Great Britain. He ordered the regular troops to put down the revolt which they did, and some of the rebel leaders were hanged despite their having acted, nominally at least, on Nicholas’ behalf.

The new Czar then quite publicly enacted some of the reforms espoused by the Decembrists, but privately he and his advisers were making changes to avert another rebellion. His education minister, whom, oddly, Yarmolinsky does not identify, was astonishingly blunt about what he was trying to do. The Czar created a secret police whose “Third Division” was responsible for, among other things, checking the spread of subversive ideas, and the education system came under its jurisdiction. Yarmolinsky:

“The schools were subjected to rigid supervision, and an effort was made to confine education…to the privileged classes. The..sentiment, expressed by the Chief of the Third Division, was that…learning should be dispensed…by government prescription only. The head of the educational system stated that ‘the schools should be intellectual dams barring the influx of new ideas.’ He considered it his duty to retard the nation’s mental development…”

They introduced more religious instruction which included such useful things as classes in Old Church Slavonic.

Intellectual dams. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, but I am.

Quiz answer: Immaterially.

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