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Education Under a Stalinist Regime

By kingjab1 Apr 05, 2013 1163 Words
Jabari Brown
Alexis Mamaux
History C code
26/1/13

Education under a Stalinist Regime

Education is a force to be reckoned with in terms of making or breaking a country, especially a powerful country, like Russia. After Vladimir Lenin, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Soviet Union, died in1924, there were many challenges to succession by the party members, namely Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, and Josef Stalin. Josef Stalin was not seen as a threat, as a result, the other 3 politicians did not see what Stalin was capable of, which ended up in Stalin eliminating them and taking the seat of power for him. Josef Stalin had many plans for Russia. He had many stances and views on many things he saw that, in his opinion, needed changing. These included, but were not limited to feminist ideals, Religious beliefs, or lack thereof, and educational views. In this paper, Stalin’s educational views shall come into question, what were his plans for Russia’s education system, how heavily did he value education, what were it’s results.

“The Soviet state makes no attempt to claim credit for the advancement of truth, knowledge, and art for their own sake. Any effort to interpret those values as of inherent worth or of some significance independent of the needs of the Soviet state is branded as "bourgeois objectivism" or even, in certain cases, treason. The intent of the Soviet regime is not to educate, but to indoctrinate through a culturally totalitarian system of controls which produce, in the words of Stalin, a group of intellectuals who are "engineers of human minds," and for the rest, minds capable of being engineered. In this manner it is intended to create the "new Soviet man.” (Treadgold 1959)

Stalin wanted the USSR to modernize at such a fast rate that it could make up the 50-year gap in 10 years. The industry had to be developed so that the country, which had all along depended mostly on agriculture or farming, had to be changed so that it now depended on industry more. Even though Russia was recovering from war, its production from heavy industries was still low compared to other countries. Stalin felt that this needed to be improved if they were to survive any possible attack that might come from the capitalist West trying to destroy Communist Russia. The USSR needed to invest in materials like coal, iron, steel and power to defend itself properly. Fast industrialization was also needed for defense as the USSR was surrounded, as Stalin said, by governments that hated Communism, namely Romania, Iran, Finland and Poland.

Education was closely regulated. It was free and compulsory, and tended to be indoctrinated, as its goal was to to frame people into the Communist way of thinking. The secret police made certain that Communist ideology was taught. Education was vital to the success and growth of the new society planned for the USSR. Children were the future of the nation and were easier to influence about the ways of communism. Schools became much more strict and focused on courses necessary to develop skilled workers. Discipline was harsh for students in order to make them disciplined workers for the factories. The ultimate goal of the education system was to make a loyal Soviet citizen intensely proud of Russia's history, and capable of contributing to Stalin's new system. The enforcement of this educational policy was able to take a backward nation, where few people could read and write, and to push the literacy rate to 86 percent in rural areas.

Literacy rates in the Soviet Union were very low, especially in rural areas, but after the implementation of Stalin's education policies the literacy rate rose to 96% of the population just in rural areas. These policies yielded the nearly complete disappearance of illiteracy. This was beneficial for society, however it also enabled Stalin to reach more of the population through propaganda and media, promoting himself and party values.

"It is the duty of each school child to acquire knowledge persistently so as to become an educated and cultured citizen and to be of the greatest possible service to his country." (Stalin 1927-1935)

This means that students were beginning to be taught to live for and improve their country. By improving strictness and discipline, some areas of education began to increase dramatically. Illiteracy decreased substantially. Approximately down to 4% Bolshevik party values taught in schools/ classes and teachers were often watched by the secret police and the government strictly censored educational materials. The history of Russia and also Stalin's past were taught in schools to instill national pride. Schools became stricter- Education law in 1935 enabled stricter discipline methods by teachers. Outside of school, the youth was also targeted by youth organizations with the aim of teaching the younger generation to be good socialists/communists. Stalin again established a heavy focus on math and science, courses previously replaced by job-related training under Lenin's rule. Lenin implemented this in order to expand growth of society opposed to focusing on the personal advancement of individuals. He Also re-implemented examinations to place students in their future roles as Soviet citizens. Stalin's policies contradicted Lenin's actions, suggesting that Stalin's policies were not implemented with the pure intent of following Marxist values this is contradictory because of Marxist teachings in schools. Implementation of these traditional courses expanded the education of the individual. Stalin believed "Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." This relates to another quote by Stalin, which says, "Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas." -Joseph Stalin (Yvonne 2011)

Education was at the heart of Soviet attempts to create a new society. While children from the peasantry and working classes were given priority in the new educational system, the initial, child-centered system failed, and Stalin, after 1932, returned the system to a more traditional, disciplined and expectation-driven one. This system, while again stressing the importance of education to the children of the masses, was strongly technological and scientific.

While the study of Marxism-Leninism remained in the curriculum, technological education reined vital, although accompanied by the state's overwhelming urge to indoctrinate the students into the benefits of communism. Throughout Stalin's era, the Soviet educational system was marked by an emphasis on engineering and related topics, and a concerted drive to eliminate illiteracy. (stalinproject.com n.d.)

In conclusion, Stalin’s views on education were weighed heavily with other important plans he had for Russia. With it he could mold the children’s minds to the communist beliefs, he could produce more workers for the industry, he could get more educated minds to join his party, and he could also speed up Russia’s modernization to a pace that allowed a quick, smooth transition to the rest of the world.

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