ethics of children and teachers

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  • This article was downloaded by: [York University Libraries]On: 15 November 2014, At: 06:20Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Soviet StudiesPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ceas19

    Ethics of children and teachersPublished online: 06 Nov 2007.

    To cite this article: (1955) Ethics of children and teachers, Soviet Studies, 7:1, 115-116, DOI: 10.1080/09668135508409994

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09668135508409994

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  • ON THE NEW SITUATION 115

    guise of watchfulness! They blinded us and we believed them, oh how webelieved them!

    ANNA (quietly) They wounded us wounded us all, from the highest to thelowest. (With great feeling her voice rings out): Thanks, and thanks again tothe Central Committee! That nightmare is finished for ever!

    R. S.D. M.

    ETHICS OF CHILDREN AND TEACHERS

    The teacher came to take the next lesson and found the classroom doorlocked: the sixth form (12-13 Year l^s) had shut itself in. They had upset theink wells, emptied the waste paper basket all over the floor and were walkingon the desks. From outside great shrieks and shouts could be heard thechildren were obviously enjoying themselves. After an hour and a half of thispandemonium the classroom door was forced open.

    The staff were determined to find out who the ringleaders were. Every childin the form was called out separately and questioned. The boys were shoutedat furiously by one of the teachers, the girls were assured that nobody wouldknow if they chose to tell. When there was no response from the children, theparents were summoned and asked to find out from their children who theringleaders had been. Finally the staff obtained the names of a few childrenwho were said to have been the ringleaders, and these were solemnly deprivedof their red pioneers scarves and suspended from the pioneers (the onlygeneral organization for children).

    These events in a Moscow secondary school are described in an article byE. Ryss which appeared in Literaturnaya Gazeta, January 13, 1955. Ryssregards the whole thing as a prank. He has nothing but praise for the com-munity spirit of the children who refused to give one another away becausethey felt that there were no ringleaders, that 'everyone was equally guilty'.

    The author's attitude to the teaching staff is very different. His mainquarrel with them is over the methods used to try to find the culprits. Hemaintains that such methods will only undermine the child community which,according to him in this case had been firmly knit together, and that byencouraging the children to give away the culprits in secret 'Tell me whoit was, and nobody will know it was you who told me' the teachers areencouraging unethical behaviour.

    The first reaction to this article came a fortnight later (January 26, 1955) inthe shape of two indignant letters from teachers published in UchitelskayaGazeta ('The Teachers' Newspaper') which attacks Ryss for underratingthe gravity of the children's conduct in calling it a mere prank; for making afetish of the child community without looking into the elements underlyingit; and for completely ignoring the fact that the children were acting accordingto the well established but wrong children's principle that you must not giveaway your fellow pupils.

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  • ,f6 ETHICS OF CHILDREN AND TEACHERS

    Litprq.turnq.ya Gazeta took the matter up again in two long articles by F.Vigdorova (January 27, and February 3, 1955). She, too, attacks Ryss for notcriticizing the children's conduct sufficiently, b.ut feels that his article hasraised some very interesting problems pf education. What in fact should theteachers have done? she asks. It was important to establish responsibility forwhat happened, and she suggests that those children who were on duty on thatparticular day ought to have been made responsible. She feels sure that if thishad been done the real culprits would have owned up. She roundly condemnsthe methods used by the teachers in this case: The culprits should not havebeen shielded from the teacher by the pupils. But they should have beennamed openly:

    I cannot understand how the concept of 'giving away' can be regarded ashayjng a positive and even lofty meaning . . . Surely it cannot be said thatthe boy who secretly gave away the names of the ringleaders acted boldlyand bravely!

    Vigdorova reports that the newspaper has received many letters on thesubject. Some of these apparently object that public criticism of teachers willundermine their authority. Vigdorova insists that problems of educationinvolving the conduct of teachers need to be discussed and that the teachersthemselves will benefit greatly from such discussions.

    Litcraturnayq Gazeta (March 15, 1955) summed up the controversy in along, unsigned article. Here Uchitekftaya Gazeta is criticized for its hostilitytpwards the original article, although Lit. Gaz. goes on to admit that mostof the letters sent to the editors attacked the article. Some of the points madeby Vigdorova are again emphasized, and the whole affair is linked with thedifficulties of the first year of cp-educatipn in the schools.

    A week later the controversy was brought to an end fpr the time being by alpng letter in Frqvda (March 24,1955) by the headmaster pf another Moscowse.cpndary school. The letter accuses Ryss of exaggerating the incident, andtakes much the same line as the two letters published by Uchitelskaya Gazetahjcf done. Literaturnaya Gazeta is attacked fpr publishing an article onejjucatipn by a writer not qualified to deal with the pedagogical problems pf thechild community.

    It will be remembered that Lit. Gaz. had been very indignant that thechildren should have been asked to name the culprits secretly. It had re-garded such conduct as mean and unworthy of a Soviet citizen. The Prqvdqletter makes no specific comment on this. It confines itself to a general con-demnation pf Literqturtiqyq Gazeta for publishing the priginal article byRyss and tjie others which followed it up. The letter concludes by hopingthat the newspaper will publish articles by rnore capable authors in thefuture.

    D. M.

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