The thought police, II

I know I’m old and curious and stuff, but I’m disappointed by how little class discussion there is during our Russian class’ weekly “culture” lecture, a welcome break from all those goddamn verbs.

Yesterday our native-Muscovite professor gave us an overview of the Russian educational experience, with a short detour to a village most students have great familiarity with — cheating.

Cheating, she explained, has its own moral code. In her time (I’d estimate she’s roughly my age), it was considered wrong to cheat on any important subject, but a badge of honor to cheat on the obligatory Marxist-Leninist dogma classes everybody had to take. All Russian students of that time are well-versed in crib sheet techniques, the better to pass exams in which they were required to memorize the dates of specific party congresses in which resolution 101.342.(f) was adopted, not to mention rote mastery of long chunks of the speeches of Leonid Brezhnev. You know, Brezhnev, that dynamic, easily quotable speaker.

Girls had an advantage in these things, she said; they used their thighs as canvases, raising their skirts to reveal the answers. Boys favored accordian-fold notes slipped into sleeves.

The Russians have a great respect for higher learning, but these classes, she estimated, is why a university degree there takes five years, rather than our four.

Posted at 11:03 am in Uncategorized |

3 responses to “The thought police, II”

  1. Dan McAfee said on November 4, 2003 at 3:15 pm

    We had a summer intern one year who was born and lived until his late teens in Kiev. He treated Right and Wrong like that old question about “If no one hears a tree fall, does it make any sound?” He said that nothing is Wrong unless you get caught… like a tree doesn’t make a sound unless someone’s there to hear it fall.

    Whether we’re religious now or not, most of us (I think) were raised to believe Right and Wrong exist independently of being caught. The official atheism in Russia could not have helped their society.

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  2. alex said on November 4, 2003 at 4:51 pm

    Lord knows you can’t have a conscience unless you’re certain God is watching you. No such thing as altruism unless you’re sure you’re scoring points in heaven for it, or avoiding punishment in hell. Some of those upright Christian kids I knew, well surely they must be closet atheists, ‘cuz the tree falling silent in the woods rationale was one of their faves when it came to stealing, and later, fornicating outside their marriages.

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  3. Bob said on November 5, 2003 at 10:56 am

    Alex, Dear, sarcasm becomes you.

    When I was still young and pretty, I was hit upon a couple of times by married men at church – one an elder. Maybe since their wives didn’t know, it didn’t happen.

    On another subject, speakers, Gorbachev was the exact opposite of some of his predecessors. He was articulate and had near-perfect diction and a pleasant voice. I liked listening to him whenever I could, to refresh my Russian. Most of the time, though, after a sentence or two his words were buried by the voice-over translations on the TV news.

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