Archive for December 5, 2007

“Holy Ruhnama” vs. “Basics of Scientific Atheism”

As I’m poring over the 58 education applications for those teachers from Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, I’m amazed that any learning goes on at all in Central Asia!!!  First of all, both economies are in the tank compared to oil rich Kazakhstan.  Bad economy means poor education.  The really good educators in Central Asia fled their newly independent countries years ago because as the old saying went during the communist period “Initiative is punitive.” This meant that teachers were punished if they deviated from the curriculum or took initiative in doing their lessons differently from the norm.

 The “norm” from what I am reading of these aspiring teachers’ transcripts was to take university courses in “History of Communist Party of the Soviet Union” or “Marx-Lenin Philosophy” or “Soviet Rights” or “Soviet Law.”  I thought the last two are oxymorons.  Another course was “Basics of Scientific Communism” and I realize that some of the teachers didn’t buy into what they were drilled to learn and know. 

I heard of one old professor who had an auditorium full of eager and expectant learners and he would drone in a low, monotone voice teaching about communism or atheism.  One student from the back piped up and said, “Speak up, we can’t hear you.”  To which he replied, “This is as loud as I get.”  Translation: it was understood he did not care for the material and he didn’t want to disseminate it to his students but he was going through the motions.  It goes with the old, care-worn expression known best in communist countries, “We pretend to teach, they pretend to learn.”  I first heard this in communist China where it was said, “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.” 

Back to the admirable teachers who want to better their situation in their respective countries by getting a masters degree in the U.S. and thus helping their own country.  Many of them don’t have a clue how to write a Project Statement or what to even expect of the curriculum once they are awarded this graduate fellowship grant.  Some DO know but that is because they have already been to the U.S. and don’t need this as badly as those teachers who are deep in the trenches trying to teach with very few or little to no resources.  I applaud those teachers who realize that the success of their country depends on what their students learn and right now they KNOW they need to learn computers and English in order to navigate successfully in a globalized world. 

I kept seeing a course on the transcripts for the applicants from Turkmenistan referring to “Ruhnama” or “Holy Rukhnam” and didn’t know what that meant.  Seems that the former dictator Saparmurat Niyazow had the educational system so changed that ALL Turkmen students had to read his book he authored about the history of Turkmenistan, etc.  something like Chairman Mao Zedung’s “Little Red Book” during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  Now they have a NEWLY elected president by the name of Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov who is trying to correct the errors of the former president.   

So, instead of studying the “religion of communism,” the deceased, Turkmen president had forced his young countrymen to study the old traditions of Turkmenistan.  I believe many of these present day teachers, who are working hard to eradicate ignorance, ALL deserve to go to the U.S. but the real possibility is that they would NOT return to their Motherland.  Life is just so difficult in a repressed place from Ashgabat and beyond.  Sure, we have our problems in higher education in the U.S. but NOTHING compared to what the Central Asians have gone through.  More later on this subject which is close to my heart!!!

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