Teaching About the Russians
In the 70s, I focused on attitudes towards socialism and Communism. I opened with a survey to provoke conversation about the values of socialism and communism. I turned Parker Brothers’ capitalist Monopoly into socialist Co-opoly; to play to share equitably rather than to win. I was privileged to listen in on tantalizing discussions!
In the 80s, despite strong objections from parents and colleagues, my students and I explored in depth the US–Soviet nuclear threat. We read John Hersey’s Hiroshima; viewed the films Atomic Café and The Day After; hosted Soviet delegates visiting our community, and probed chapter-by-chapter George Orwell’s seminal Animal Farm.
In those years, I developed an affection for the Russians, for their mystifying ways, at once secretive and yet in plain site. My students and I tasted the richness of its culture. I learned from their insights, which contributed to my understanding of the Russian people. When Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party, it became time to go behind the Iron Curtain and meet the people on my own. And the day I saw the young girl in front of her doll pupils in the Palace of Pioneers, I understood her devotion to the motherland.
What happens when we decide to do it our way? To teach what we understand and travel to confirm it?
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