The New York Times reports today that a group of students calling themselves "OD" (that's their logo above) at Russia's version of Harvard, Moscow State University, is actively engaged in a protest against shoddy teaching standards and virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism at their college. According to the group's manifesto, published in English on their website:
The dean's office has distributed a brochure entitled "Why is the Russian Land being 'cleansed'?," whose authors blame Freemasons for "starting the world wars and initiating the creation of the atomic bomb" and claim that "the Zionist lobby . . . dictates US and British policy, is in charge of the global financial system (including the issuing of dollars), and practically controls all major mass media and telecommunications," calls Russia "the Righteous Country" and the USA "the Beast Country," and quote the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as a reliable source.
The Times quotes one student saying: "The quality of the education has become so low that it has become terrible. For the last two years all of my education has had to be self-education." It also states that, not suprisingly, the faculty are denying the substantive charges. However, even they admit that the students are living in conditions of intolerable squalor and pledge to address at least that issue. If they make this admission regarding Russia's most powerful academic institution, can you imagine how students are living at more mediocre schools? It really gives the lie to the idea that Russia is experiencing massive economic growth due to energy prices. And can you imagine Russia's reaction if an Harvard professor were found calling Russia "the Beast country"?
The contact information is given for the students at the link for their manifesto (above); they are asking for help and advice as to how to push forward in their grass-roots demcratic campaign. Efforts like this are so dangerous in Russia, and so few and far between, that we all should do what we can to help. They've clearly been successful in getting their story into the national press, and therefore are well worthy of support.
Here is an amusing YouTube purportedly made by an MGU student about the school's many unique features:
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I would be interested to see which departments these students come from. If it's from political or sociological ones, and the humanities, small wonder. It'd be a wonder that they were expecting an education, since much of what is taught in those fields is just opinion. It'd be very disturbing, though, if this were the crap they deal with in science and engineering. That'd mean that the gates of the city have fallen and the barbarians are now having their way with the peasantry.
Sadly, this rot is not confined to the social sciences. My wife showed me a video from her biology class at the State University of Tyumen. The students were jumping up and down, then measuring their blood pressure and heart rates.
Her younger brother just received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the same school. 100% of his education was done with computer software. He never actually built anything. Now he lives in Germany on the dole.
There are no links between State University and local industry that would allow students to get some actual work experience.
Lutas, there is no alumni association in Russia. LOL! They don't even usually have placement offices to help students find a job. A Russian would also never considerer giving money back to the University that they paid to receive an education from. From their point of view, they paid for the education, so why should they donate more money to the place later for nothing in return?
I taught at a Russian university for two years and my brother-in-law is currently studying at one of Moscow's more prestigious universities in the engineering department. Although some departments are probably like those described above (the history department comes to mind), the majority are not. There are some students who get by on bribery, but others work their tails off. My brother-in-law does not drink vodka because there is no time for it and he has already had one practical internship and is scheduled for another this summer. However, if I were to hire someone from a Russian university I would quiz them deeply on their knowledge of their topic of study to be certain that they were not one of the students who paid their way through school. There are most certainly doctors, lawyers, and engineers practicing in Russia who should not be.
Additionally, some professors in the US hold very unpopular opinions and are still kept on staff. Education can also vary widely from institution in other countries and the quality of education can also vary greatly from student to student in the same institution. It is not all as bad as they make it sound. Just because there are a couple (or maybe one?) nut job processors at a university does not mean that an entire educational system is falling apart. And as for the squalor living conditions, it has been that way for years as almost a rite of passage.
Low teaching standards?.. "The quality of education ... has become terrible..."? None of you, guys, are obviously in the field of postsecondary education. I teach at a North-American University (and used to teach at one of the Russia's top schools for a few years) - well, guess what - the quality of postsecondary education here, in North America, has gone down the drain just as much as it has in the Russian system. Let us be honest - neither of the two systems is producing Kurchatovs and Seaborgs anymore... All in all, I would say recent graduates from Russian universities fare favorably when compared to their American and Canadian peers. I would even go as far as to say "fare better" than the North-Americans. At least, the kids I taught back in Russia all knew who the Sumerians were (while not being in the History program) and what a colloid is (while not being in the Chemistry program)... Here across the "pond"... well, lets say, things are less rosy. It is, thus, no wonder to me why the two top-ranking (and best funded, and most published) PhD students in my Department came out of the Russian system - they know more, react faster and work harder than any of their North-American peers.
As to the Tyumen students jumping up and down - I do not understand how this is worse (or, come to think of it, less efficient) than running topical videos in 50% of your classes (as some of my colleagues here, in North America, do) and making your grad students work on your own research projects as a required "course work" (as 80% of my colleagues do). So, the next time you criticize the Russian educational system - take a look at what is going on in your own backyard!
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