Stepping Off the Path
Standing before her ‘children,’ she revealed a curious intensity, directing them with attentive, quizzical, scowling looks. She didn’t notice me. She appeared to be emulating a Soviet teacher’s demeanor. A deep sense of purpose. Devotion. Control. Parental posture. In charge. She’s acting as a surrogate parent for the State assuming full responsibility for the patriotic character of her students.
This Young Pioneer, a product of a conformist culture, was cloning the actions of her teachers. Yet, she was alone in this room in a glorious palace where other groups of Pioneers were wowing tourists. Maybe, just maybe, she was secretly nurturing her own seed, choosing what she wanted for her own satisfaction––and without pretense.
We were together, she unaware of me. We were separated by a picture window, this Young Pioneer and the observant American. I watched her taking responsibility for the dignity of her ‘pupils’ in their desks in rows. She cared that they learn what she was portraying, that she wanted them to internalize her truth. I imagined that she would want––as I wanted––students to become good people.
Her posturing showed that she was engaged in that purpose. I was witnessing a young person’s approach to her future path. Unlike her fellow Pioneers in front of throngs behind picture windows, she was alone with her cherubs sitting at miniature desks attending to her bidding. She did not looked up to see if anyone was watching. She was totally engaged, totally committed.
What I saw belongs in the books. A ten-year-old emulating her Soviet teachers, taking responsibility for the dignity of her ‘pupils’ at their desks. I imagined that she would want––as I wanted––students to become worthy citizens. Her posturing showed that she was engaged in that purpose.
We are lucky sometimes when we choose to step off the path and look to discover for ourselves.
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