September 7th, 2008


First print interview discovered...

While excavating around The Noctuary, I found this interesting little piece, which consists of the first "interview" I conducted for the school newspaper with a teacher who took a recent trip to cold-war Russia:

by 'Devin Black'

As many of you may know, Mrs. Hunt went on a trip to Russia representing the U.S. along with a group of other teachers. This was all part of an educational program sponsored by a university in Texas.

The conference was on Comparative Education, held in Moscow and Leningrad for three days each. There were thirty-seven educators in their group, representing thirteen states and twenty-five aspects of our educational system. They shared ideas and learned about our schools, as well as Soviet education and life.

Mrs. Hunt said that the weather was cold. It snowed the second day in Moscow. Moscow has one of the most efficient road clearing operations in the world. That, and many people chipping ice and shoveling snow kept traffic flowing. There were no traffic problems.

Many things that we take for granted are not possible in Russia, or at least much harder for the average citizen to do. For example, to buy a car, a person must save the full amount, and then go on a waiting list for delivery. It can take ten to fifteen years.

In Moscow, they visited the "Pioneer Palace" {an after-school program for productive students, not remedial work}. The program covers sports, art, dance, and academic achievement. Mrs. Hunt and the group had a general question-and-answer session with the principal after the presentation of the program. She was very attractive, articulate, friendly, and had the same sort of problems with kids we do. The current problem is glue-sniffing. She also said she wished there were more male teachers in the system.

In Leningrad, they visited a regular public school covering grades 1-11. The head mistress spoke excellent English, and translated for the principal who spoke no English.

There are pre-schools for children as young as one month who have working parents. They are not free; the cost is proportionate to income. Students who don't make it are put on the Labor Force {the government assigns students to work where needed. They are paid, but at a lower rate than if they had passed school and gotten a job that requires using the brain}. There is also an adult school, but is mainly through correspondence.

Mrs. Hunt remarked, "The school had a very familiar feeling to it - the hustle and bustle, noisy chattering students, etc. The main difference were the uniforms. The students and the faculty were friendly and curious. The students performed for the U.S. groups in classes and general assembly. They exchanged some gifts and even some names and addresses."

Mrs. Hunt mentioned she had no misconceptions. "I really had no idea what to expect. From reading I had done ahead of time, I came to realize that educationally, Russia has gone through many of the same changes we have. Swinging from academic emphasis to vocational, and back to academic.They have the same problems keeping workers trained for current labor labor needs as we do."

The group went sight-seeing every day and took many pictures. Unfortunately, Mrs. Hunt was unable to take as many as she would have liked, because her camera had a built-in flash which was unacceptable in many places they visited. There were lots of guards at the museums and public places, but it wasn't uncomfortable.

"Actually," she said, "it gave us a sense of security."

Next they visited The Armory, Lenin's Tomb, The Kremlin, the circus, the opera, and many national monuments, including the Space Pavilion, as well as several other historical points of interest.

Once she took a photo out of a window in The Hermitage of an archway across the square, when a guard came up immediately. She hadn't considered it an inside flash shot, but it was. She apologized and all was okay, even though they didn't understand each other's language.

As for food, they all ate very well. There were few fresh fruits and vegetables, but lots of fish, including generous servings of caviar {fish eggs}, the national treat. They served beef, chicken, and "fantastic" ice cream.

"Would I go back and/or recommend it for a vacation? Yes to both questions!" Mrs. Hunt said she would like to go back in the Spring or Summer, and take the Trans-Siberian train trip across Russia. It isn't possible to travel as an individual - one must travel through the In-Tourist program, but the accommodations and the general reception are great.