Soviet Punitive Pedagogy (Part II)

 I had learned while in Ukraine about “Initiative is Punitive,” I’ve found that according to Soviet pedagogy, it is true in Kazakhstan as well.  I learned from what Vladimir Sirotin wrote about Anton Makarenko and his Soviet punitive pedagogy.  It’s paraphrased from Johnson’s Russia List JRL 2009-219, posted on November 30, 2009

The following is a quote from someone who knew firsthand what life was like in Ukraine in the 1960s as a young boy growing up in an orphanage. Vladimir Sirotin called Makarenko, the bard of punitive pedagogy:   “Our official Soviet pedagogy is permeated through and through by the spirit of unfreedom and compulsion, It is a great tragedy that authoritarianism, punitive methods, and the belittling of human dignity should have become the norm in most of our schools, children’s institutions and indeed families…there existed the destroyer of children’s souls who sought to crush all that is human out of growing generations.”   

One of Makarenko’s many theories that were practiced by teachers was not to berate another teacher in front of the students, even if the other adult in the dispute was wrong. It was necessary to lie to cover it up when in front of the children.  While at the same time the children were expected to tell the truth.  Another practice was: “The united front system is thoroughly totalitarian, imbued with the spirit of the Domostroi, and highly convenient for a dictatorial regime like ours, based on the oppression of millions of people.”

The general rule of “unconditional obedience” has been set, the answer suggests itself compel obedience by any means…Although Makarenko appears to demonstrate that demands must be reasonable, comprehensible, and feasible, he still emphasized the necessity of obeying them without reservation or argument; there is no doubt about this. He envisions no right to refuse to carry out any instruction or demand, even one that is excessively onerous, humiliating, cruel, or whimsical.

One of the rules laid down in the Soviet armed forces is as follows:  “An order must be carried out precisely, unquestioningly, and promptly.” Makarenko himself often called his pedagogy “a pedagogy of command.”  He did all he could to stigmatize and pour dirt on the theory of free upbringing, which was displaced in our country at the end of 1920s and beginning of the 1930s.

The ideologue of Soviet pedagogy was essentially an ideologue of slavery! Makarenko wrote the sinister words: “The foundation of discipline is demands without theory.”  “I am an advocate of the demand without corrections and without mitigation.”

 Free upbringing, school democracy and real rights for students were crushed very quickly in our country by victorious Stalinism.  What about ‘pedagogical innovation” – the collective must bait and badger individual children, on instructions from the higher ups, the majority must persecute the minority.  And if you refuse to take part, then you will become a victim yourself!  I am convinced that in large degree this was the origin of the campaigns of persecution against ‘enemies of the people’.

For nothing arises in an empty place, and the habits learned in childhood persist into adult life.

 Fighting for their rights, for the complete abolition of the command pedagogy that suppresses the personality and belittles human dignity, for the free upbringing (above all, self-upbringing and self-management) of free people.

 Soviet system of ‘upbringing’ with all its despotism, coercion, encouragement of informing, crushing of dissidence, and instilling of the “heroism” of obedience!

 Suppression of the personality of students in the schools and educational institutions and the principle that “the young must obey their elders.”

We think that it is not so difficult to understand that no transition to democracy will succeed until there are changes in human psychology.  And human psychology cannot change for so long as the family and the school largely bring children up to be practically slaves, or at least to be citizens who provide fertile soil for dictatorship, for a repressive regime in society as a whole.

The official structures of our country, the leaders of the pedagogical profession and sometime the mass media do not regard children and adolescents as people.

All punishment suppresses the personality, oppresses the individual, and trains him to be a slave. It generates the fetishism of so-called parental power, the right of the strong over the weak.  It strengthens inequality of rights.

Punitive pedagogy

Authoritarian conservatism, the view that obedience and submission are the most important things and that disobedience must be crushed remained the basic principle of Soviet pedagogy.

A system that lacks feedback is doomed.  A pedagogy that is designed to suppress the personality, to destroy the human and cultivate the slave in a person, to treat the young generation as robots or inanimate objects…Active resistance of its victims, by their demonstrative rejection and disobedience…Domostroi ideology, by punitive pedagogy, by the power of elders over youngsters, in essence, strong over the weak

I’d welcome any feedback about this blog and what Vladimir Sirotin observed.  I think some of these pedagogical practices are still going on today throughout many of the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union.  As an American teacher, trained to be student-centered, I am saddened for those young Kazakh students who still suffer under punitive pedagogy.

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